Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Dopple Bock

Sprecher Brewing Co.
Glendale, WI

Style: Doppelbock
ABV: 7.9%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

When it comes to Sprecher Brewing Co., one thing is unequivocally clear: there is no finer root beer or cream soda in the state of Wisconsin. I dare anyone to debate this with me … it’s an argument you shall not win.

What is not as clear is where exactly the brewery itself stands in the hierarchy of Midwestern establishments. I always felt as though Sprecher was one of the better ones, but I’m not so sure anymore. My belief that Sprecher was among the best stemmed largely from the fact that I was weaned on their brews, particularly Wisconsin Amber and Hefe Weiss, as I made my transition from illiterate college drinker to craft beer connoisseur. The Amber and Hefe are nice, solid offerings for their respective styles, but I have yet to discover any Sprecher brew that would place them among the elite.

They do tease, however. Among the limited and seasonal releases, Barley Wine, Imperial Stout, Pipers Scotch Ale, Mai Bock, Oktoberfest, and Winter Brew are all tantalizingly close to elite, but ultimately fall short of making the top tier. For year round releases, Black Bavarian is probably in that top tier (IMO its Sprecher’s best brew), but outside of that and the Hefe, there isn’t much to write home about. Wisconsin Amber is decent and Pub Ale, an English brown, is fine. Sprecher gets a thumbs up for their attempt at two traditional African ales, Shakparo and Mbege, which aren’t necessarily that great, but are well-conceived and provide a unique alternative among craft beer styles.

Where Sprecher really loses points in my book is with a couple of the special-release Brewmaster’s Premium Reserve selections. Any brewery, regardless of their standing in the Nigel hierarchy, is going to have some misses; it’s only human (Nigel has been known to miss the occasional putt himself). Having some failures shows that a brewery is willing to experiment and take some chances. Sprecher is like any other craft brewer in this regard, though their misses seem to stand out a bit more. My biggest beef is with their IPA attempts, the first of which was the original IPA, which I sampled a couple of years back and found to be absolutely awful. Recently Sprecher came out with IPA², an imperial IPA under the Premium Reserve label that was as pathetic as the original attempt. Abbey Triple, another BPR release, was also a huge disappointment, though not as bad as the IPAs. Micro Light, a macro-brew knockoff, and the newest summer seasonal, Strawberry Wheat, were virtually undrinkable. When Sprecher misses, they seem to do it with a vengeance.

Ultimately, where does all of this leave Sprecher in the eyes o’ Nigel? I’d call them very good but not great—certainly not up to the initial lofty standards I once held them to. I now consider Lakefront Brewery to be slightly ahead of Sprecher on my list of the “best of Milwaukee,” but that can be debated. I definitely wouldn’t rate them in top 10 of the Midwest, like Eddie did a while back. I do love the trademark 16-ounce stubbies though.

I have to put Sprecher’s Dopple Bock, another Brewmaster’s Premium Reserve selection, squarely in the category of “tantalizingly close.” It’s a good dopplebock, but falls just short of being brilliant.

Dopple Bock pours as expected into my official Sprecher Weiss tall glass. Fairly lifeless as a dopplebock should be, it’s a clear, deep amber color with a slight fizzy head that dissipates quickly, leaving a marginal creamy trace that is virtually imperceptible by the end of the session. The aroma is disappointing. While it does pack a punch at nearly 8 percent ABV, there is too much alcohol detectable with each sniff. With the aromatic plethora of dark, sweet, roasted malt typical in dopplebocks, the pungent sting of alcohol should be better hidden. Some typical dopplebock aromas (caramel, roasted nuts, and smoke) are still present here, but not to the level they should be. A tinge of dark fruitiness, mainly black cherry and raisin, are also present.

The flavor trumps the aroma in this brew, which is a good thing. It’s hard to believe that the alcohol that was so pungent is virtually undetectable in the taste. Rich, sugary malt and roasted nuttiness are in full gear, with a hint of fruit to balance it all off. Flavors of caramel and molasses hit you right off the bat, quickly joined by a noticeable smokey flavor and balanced off nicely at the end with a fruity tinge, mainly raisin. Alcohol is still somewhat present, but not overwhelming. Medium to heavy in body, Dopple Bock goes down a tad bit rough due to a slight sting, but all in all is quite drinkable. Probably too strong to be considered a session brew, it’s still conceivable that you could drink two or three of these over the course of the evening (remember they’re 16 ounce rather than 12). It’s a very good dopplebock that’s nice and warming on a cold winter’s eve. I’d prefer this over Sprecher’s Winter Brew should you be forced to make a decision on what to drink on a snowy night.

While I wish this—much like many other of their selections that I’ve sampled—would elevate Sprecher to the next level, it still falls short. This is a high three mug rating, which is nothing to be ashamed of, much like the brewery itself. I don’t know what it is, but I keep expecting something more.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on December 13, 2007.
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