Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock
Tonight’s brew was selected randomly by my mother while she was in town last weekend, and I’m rather glad she picked the Blonde Bock by Gordon Biersch Brewing Company based out of San Jose, California. I didn’t even know such a thing as a “Bock” existed, and this is only my second lager reviewed, my first being the Oak Creek Gold Lager. I will try to make more of an effort to review more lagers – they deserve just as much attention as ales. I had to do a little bit of research into why the Blonde Bock (and all bocks) is represented by a goat and what its background is, and I have yet to be disappointed in any findings I come across in my search for knowledge on all things craft beer related. According to Beer Advocate:
The origins of Bock beer are quite uncharted. Back in medieval days German monasteries would brew a strong beer for sustenance during their Lenten fasts. Some believe the name Bock came from the shortening of Einbeck thus “beck” to “bock.” Others believe it is more of a pagan or old world influence that the beer was only to be brewed during the sign of the Capricorn goat, hence the goat being associated with Bock beers. Basically, this beer was a symbol of better times to come and moving away from winter.
As for the beer itself in modern day, it is a bottom fermenting lager that generally takes extra months of lagering (cold storage) to smooth out such a strong brew. Bock beer in general is stronger than your typical lager, more of a robust malt character with a dark amber to brown hue. Hop bitterness can be assertive enough to balance though must not get in the way of the malt flavor, most are only lightly hopped.
And found on the Blond Bock information page:
Bock beers are represented by a male goat, which in German lore symbolizes strength and virility. In accordance with the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law of 1516), bock beers must have a pre-fermentation malt sugar concentration of 16%, which converts over to at least 7% alcohol after fermentation. These strong beers were made popular in the early 1600s by monks in order to minimize their hunger during fasting periods.
Did I not say this was completely fascinating? I don’t think I’ve enjoyed history quite as much as I enjoy it when it revolves around beer. Okay, enough background. This beer pours a rich golden color with a strikingly orangey-amber glow in the light and is very clear with sparkling carbonation. It produces a white finger-thick head that dissipates almost in seconds, leaving nothing but a very sparse patchy island in the middle and no lacing. If the color wasn’t so brilliant, I might have been a bit more disappointed in the appearance. Apparently, most bocks lean on the darker side, appearing more brown, but because this is a blonde, it stands to reason that it’s lighter in complexion.
Any specific aromas were a bit hard to detect, and it wasn’t the most pleasant smelling beer I’ve ever stuck my nose in, but the Blond Bock certainly has a characteristic all its own. It has a cleaner nose with overtones of pale, grainy malts that are also lightly sweet, hidden mild hops that are barely noticeable, and definite hints of alcohol. Being at 7% ABV, it would be hard to hide in a lighter beer for sure. The hops that are used in this lager are Hallertau aroma hops, which essentially define an authentic European-style lager and are characterized with a mild spicy aroma and flavor.
Doing even more research, this time on the Hallertau hops, I found out that they are considered a “noble hop.” Noble hops are the most popular varieties of hops to use in brewing as they emit the lowest bitterness but are high in aroma. There are four globally recognized hops considered noble, all of them cultivars of the Central European region and named for the specific city or region they hail from: Hallertau Mittelfrüh, Tettnanger, Spalter, and Saaz. (Side note: some consider the Fuggle and Kent Golding hops to also be noble.)
While I didn’t get too much of the Hallertau spiciness in the nose, it immediately presented itself with the first sips of beer. Along with the spiciness, which was only exacerbated by the fine-bubbled carbonation, it had a bitterly sweet presence that intertwined with grainy malts and a zesty alcoholic bite that warmed me after each swallow. It holds a very solid medium mouthfeel that seemed to press the lighter bitterness into the roof of my mouth while the heavier alcohol and malts slid over my tongue. It was a curious sensation to say the least. My only complaint with this brew is that it leaves quite a sticky bitter, almost sour, aftertaste; but with 7% ABV, it proved itself to be remarkably quaffable once I got going.
In short, I rather enjoyed this beer and all of the knowledge that I gained from researching it, which may be affecting my feelings towards it, but so what? If a beer can get me thinking WHILE I’m drinking it, I’m totally game. Also, I’m sure my 75% German background has nothing to do with it. Consume this beer in the late summer/early fall with some duck – even duck soup! mmm – or venison steaks, and you’re good to go. If you find yourself with extras of either of these things, please send them my way. Arizona is freakishly devoid of the Wisconsin hunters I’m so used to.