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Brew Blog: Indian Wells Lobotomy Bock

What's in a name? That which we call a Bock / By any other name would taste as malty.
What's in a name? That which we call a Bock / By any other name would taste as malty.

The other night, I attended a business dinner held at the downtown outpost of the House of Blues. The meal was mediocre, but that wasn't really the point. This was a meet-and-eat event designed to smooth over some intra-office politics over some bites and, more importantly, some beer.

I was drinking on the corporate dime, so I'm not going to complain too mightily, but the beer selection at HoB left a lot to be desired. Most of my colleagues were sucking down aluminum bottle-clad light beers; one of them went with a non-alcoholic brew. The dearth of other options sent me straight for a Shiner Bock. I used to really enjoy Shiner Bock, despite the frequently lobbed accusation that it is not, in fact, a Bock. That night, it tasted disappointingly thin and weak, faults that were surely there all along, but went relatively unnoticed by my less-informed taste buds. This whole Brew Blog thing is ruining me.

The disappointing experience reminded me that I had a six-pack of Indian Wells Brewing Co. Lobotomy Bock stashed in the fridge. I wanted to see how it would compare to the wimpy Bock from Spoetzl, so I pulled one out the other night, in the name of research. While I'm not about to come out swinging for the greatness or authenticity of Lobotomy Bock, it certainly toed a closer line to what I'd expect from a Bock, in general.

The beer is a deep, blackish brown with some ruddy, almost purplish tinting at the edges, and when held to the light, it certainly looks the part. It did seem a bit flat, with very little carbonation resulting in no head whatsoever. A thin and sudsy ring was the only after-effect of a vigorous pour, with no hint of lacing as I emptied the glass.

The aromas were deep and malty, with a slightly sweet and savory undertone, like dark caramel. Aromas of fresh-baked dark bread were also evident, along with subtle hints of plum and just a dusting of cocoa. These are all pretty characteristic aromas for Doppel Bock, so things seemed to be going smoothly.

The first sign of trouble appeared in the first sip. Rather than having a full and slightly rich texture, this beer felt thin on my tongue. Though they were light and diluted, there were hints of bitter chocolate, dark raisin bread, and a high, clear note of slightly concentrated grape. A slight metallic twinge leads the finish, which is surprisingly brief but nicely rounded with a pleasant mild bitterness to counteract the slightly aimless sweetness that is fairly dominant throughout.

It's been a while since I took a real stab at beer-nerd frippery, so I hope you'll indulge me this time. As a cook, I'm deeply enthralled by the science behind the stove. As I learn more about beer, I find myself becoming similarly fascinated with the chemistry of fermentation, and the myriad factors that affect the final outcome of a beer. Bock provides an interesting bridge (there are, of course, many) between the science of brewing and the science of cooking.

In the kitchen, we talk frequently of the Maillard Reaction(s), a series of non-enzymatic browning reactions that occur, in very simple terms, through a combination of heat, time, and sugar-amino acid interaction. Bock beer derives its characteristic malty flavor from Melanoidin, a compound whose effects are amplified through a Maillard-type process. Bock beers are typically brewed with a high proportion of Munich and Vienna malts, which contain higher and more concentrated levels of the compounds, and the brewing method amplifies and brings these characteristics to the fore through specific temperatures and timing employed in the mashing process.

While an understanding of what, in large part, makes "Bock" Bock may not make up for the fact that this one ended up being a bit weak, I do find that my enjoyment of beer increases with my understanding of its mysterious inner-workings. I don't intend to make a habit of spouting off about my self-education in beer chemistry, but from time to time, I just can't help it. I find this stuff fascinating. It's just too bad I couldn't quite say the same thing about the beer that launched the investigation.



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