Left behind with the trendiness of big hop-forward ales and wildly fermented sour beers are the styles driven by beer’s other key ingredient, malted barley. While these styles may be few and far between from American craft brewers these days, bock still makes its annual appearance as winter slowly melts into spring. With an Arctic chill that seems never-ending, Western New Yorkers can look to bock as a beer style to ease them through this seasonal shift.
No style focuses in on barley malt more than bock. Hops are a necessary ingredient, of course, but their only purpose here is to provide enough bitterness to provide a balance to the beer. Hop aroma and flavor are not desired in an authentic bock.
Front and center on your palate is malted barley, and more specifically, melanoidins that are formed through a chemical process known as Maillard reactions. This same process that browns your bread or sears your strip steak is responsible for the big flavor of Munich and Vienna malts found in your bock. These melanoidins can create toffee, nutty, toasty or caramel flavors through the malt. Not only do they add flavor, but they also help bulk up the body of the beer, producing a rich, fuller-bodied bock.
My favorite representation of the style in Western New York can be found at Resurgence Brewing Company, with its Ice Boom Bock. This seasonally appropriate bock clocks in at 7 percent ABV, and has a reddish-brown hue topped off with a small creamy white head. The beauty of a good bock lies in the brewer’s ability to harness the melanoidin flavors of the malts, without being cloyingly sweet, as well as executing a clean fermentation, where the yeast leaves behind no unneeded aroma or taste.
Resurgence nails it with these parameters. The beer smells slightly sweet, reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Caramel and toffee flavors meld with toasted bread crust. Ice Boom Bock isn’t thick and viscous, but its medium to full body is big enough to satisfy on a cold winter night, yet finishes remarkably smooth and balanced.
With a winter that’s lasted far too long, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming spring. What better way to do that than to sip on this old German-style lager, and peer out at the Resurgence Brewing Company biergarten, and dream of a pint in shorts and a t-shirt. That time is coming, but for now, let the rich maltiness of Ice Boom Bock warm you up these last days of winter.
Resurgence Brewing Company’s Ice Boom Bock, $6 for 16 oz. glass, 1250 Niagara St., 381-9868
Matt Kresconko also writes about beer as Buffalo Brewhound at wnycraftbeer.com. Follow him on Twitter @BfloBrewHound.