New Glarus Brewing just released its latest beer, Back Forty Bock. It's a brew for those who enjoy seasonal bocks, with their malty tones of caramel and chocolate and their deep amber and bronze color. For local enthusiasts in the over-50 crowd, this beer will bring back memories of the winter releases of bock beers from breweries like Stevens Point, Potosi, Leinenkugel's, and Huber. Brewmaster Dan Carey's latest creation is in the spirit of those iconic Wisconsin bock beers.
What is it? Back Forty Bock from New Glarus Brewing Company.
Style: Bock beers are copper to dark brown in color. The traditional German bock has an emphasis on moderate to strong malty aroma and flavor. Light toasted tones are common. Hoppiness is evident but is generally low. These beers are medium-bodied, while the higher-alcohol versions may offer some warmth, ranging from 6.3% to 7.4% ABV. Bocks are historically associated with special occasions and religious festivals such as Christmas and Easter; in Wisconsin, they have been traditionally been released during the winter season between those holidays.
Background: Brewmaster Dan Carey calls Back Forty a Wisconsin or American bock. He considers it different from the German bock because of its lighter body, cleaner taste profile, and lighter alcohol content. Carey made about 700 barrels of Back Forty this fall. It started turning up in local stores in late October, and should be available through December. Back Forty is made with lager, caramel and roasted malts, and it gets its light hop character from Czech Saaz, Styrian Goldings and Slovenian hops. The beer takes about three weeks to ferment and finishes at 5.5% ABV. It sells for around $8/six-pack.
It remains to be seen if Back Forty will completely replace the brewery's well-known Uff-da Bock, which Carey didn't make this year. Uff-da is a darker, maltier and slightly higher alcohol version of the bock style and has captured a number of awards for the New Glarus brewery including a top-ten ranking in the U.S. Open Beer Championships.
- Aroma: Solid malty nose.
- Appearance: Hazy, deep bronze to brown color with a thick, soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: Smooth caramel maltiness with a light hint of chocolate malt in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A soft, malty ending, but overall a very clean beer.
Glassware: Perhaps because of its name and because it's a Wisconsin bock, I can't help but recommend a glass more typical of the local tavern, like the basic bar pilsner. It's a glass with a traditional look and an inward flare at the lip that helps focus the malty aromas of Back Forty.
Pairs well with: The slightly sweet, malty emphasis of Back Forty means great versatility, and pairing well with many dishes. Try something mildly sweet like stews, or even wild game. It offers some middle-of-the-road character, with overall balance and a clean finish. That makes it a good choice for holiday meals because it'll create compromise among the many different foods.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Back Forty has the firm malty aroma and deep bronze color that bock fans look for. Overall it's clean and well balanced, which makes it a wonderful beer to accompany food. New Glarus fans familiar Uff-da, the fuller-bodied German version with the Norwegian name, may find Back Forty a little milder, if not tame. While I may enjoy a more assertive bock, Back Forty is really intended to appeal to those who like the style but might be looking to consume more than one during an evening or with a meal. For that reason, Back Forty Bock seems almost worthy of the title "session beer." New Glarus brewmaster Dan Carey's interpretation of the Wisconsin bock in Back Forty is an easy drinking beer that's easy to appreciate.