Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Pandora's Bock

Breckenridge Brewery
Denver, CO

Style: Bock
ABV: 7.5%

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

The latest stop on my spring ‘08 “Tour O’ Dark Beers” brings me back to Denver-based Breckenridge Brewing. My first Breckenridge experience was about a month ago, when I sampled and reviewed the supposedly limited-edition 471 Small Batch IPA. While 471 didn’t blow me away, it impressed me enough to try other selections from Breckenridge in the future. The very day I wrote that review I discovered a beer that I absolutely had to have, making that future a very short one.

Why did I “have to have it”, you ask?

Pandora’s Bock … enough said.

The quirky, creative naming of brews is by no means a new thing when it comes to craft beer. Being innovative and fun is a staple of the industry, and there are countless examples out there of wonderfully risqué and/or comical titles. Some craft brewers seem to spend more time naming their brews than making them, often with disastrous results, but even the most prestigious of brewers hits the low-brow button on occasion with the hopes that spontaneous chortles among consumers will lead to an increase in sales. Combining quality beer with unique, entertaining names can elevate a brewery from very good to cult status, so we should never underestimate the power of marketing (see: Surly, Three Floyds, Flying Dog, etc.).

Perhaps it’s due to my role as a historian, but Pandora’s Bock is one of those names that just doesn’t grow old; I still chuckle every time I see it. Add to that the label art featuring “Pandora,” looking suspiciously like the moon girl made famous by Miller High Life, opening a little box with a cheesy, cartoonish lightning bolt coming out of it. Comic gold, I say! Some people find sexual innuendo humorous; for Nigel, it’s Greek mythology.

Alright, enough about the damn name. Pandora’s Bock provides an opportunity to not only continue my dark beer tour, but to formulate a more well-rounded opinion of Breckenridge. As I stated in my 471 review, the brewing culture in Colorado intrigues me, as it strikes me as an oasis of good beer surrounded by a whole lotta tall rocks and desolate plains. Colorado may not rival craft brewing hubs like the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the Midwest as of yet, but they certainly can hold their own. If Nigel knew how to downhill ski or enjoyed the company of a mountain goats, perhaps I could experience it for myself. Since neither of those appeals to me, I’ll continue to critique Colorado brewing from a distance.

Pandora’s Bock has the following stats, as per the official Breckenridge web site: two row pale, Munich, Bolander, and caramel malts, Strisselspalt and Chinook hops, and Bavarian lager yeast. This leads me to believe that Pandora’s Bock combines a couple of traditional German styles (the bock and dunkel come to mind right off hand). Checking in at 16 IBU and 7.5 percent ABV, Pandora’s Bock packs a nice punch and seems to fall nicely into the parameters of the style. We shall see however, as stats mean nothing when compared to flavor.

Pandora’s Bock pours a bit atypical for a bock. A super-cloudy, apricot/caramel hue reveals about a quarter to half inch of thick, creamy foam that slowly dissipates, leaving a lively lace at the top throughout the drink and lots of stickiness on the sides. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you’d swear this was an IPA in the glass. The aromas are pretty standard for the style and somewhat stale. Malty aromas of caramel and candied fruit dominate, as does a noticeable grainy, earthy smell that is likely attributed to the Bavarian lager yeast. All in all, it’s a disappointing aroma for a strong bock.

The flavor is decent and mildly unique, but nothing spectacular. If you’re expecting the standard bock, or even a stronger doppel or maibock, this isn’t likely to satisfy. As expected, malt dominates in the form of sweet caramel and light brown sugar, with a hint of molasses. A grainy, earthy undertone is present throughout as well, likely a combination of the malt varieties and European hops and yeast. Dark fruits are present in small doses, but their tartness is often overwhelmed by the general sweetness and earthiness. The hop additions seem to aid the earthiness and do nothing in regards to bitterness, but at least they make an impression. A tinge of spiciness adds to the flavor, but it’s not enough to rescue Pandora’s Bock from the depths of average. Overall, I find it to be a tad lighter than I was expecting, and generally lacking the necessary characteristics to make it a premium craft bock. On the heavier end of the medium-bodied spectrum, Pandora’s Bock goes down smooth with a mild aftertaste. While there are a number of flavors present, they are subdued enough to make this tolerable as a session beer if so inclined, though the 7.5 percent ABV can sneak up on you if you’re not careful.

Ultimately, Pandora’s Bock was unable to live up to the brilliant name. It was good enough for me to be satisfied with the experience, but, much like the 471 IPA, it leaves a lot to be desired. Given my experiences thus far, I’m thinking that Breckenridge is an average brewery in a sea of competitors in Colorado, and they’ll need to do better for Nigel to make them a staple in his rotation.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on April 9, 2008.
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