For fans of the bock and doppelbock styles of beer, it's the best time of the year. These seasonal releases are in full swing, with Blonde Doppelbock at its late-winter Bockfest celebration this Saturday. Those who love the style look forward to that first fresh pull from the keg in Capital's outdoor Bier Garten -- no matter the weather conditions.
What is it? Blonde Doppelbock by Capital Brewery of Middleton.
Style: The doppelbock is a full-bodied, deep amber to dark brown lager beer. The term "blonde" as an adjective refers to a light color, often rich golden to copper. The flavor should feature malty sweetness, especially a fresh and lightly toasted caramel malt character. The doppelbock will have a strong alcoholic strength, ranging from 6.5% to 8% ABV. The hop bitterness is evident but not excessive. Fruity esters are also common, but not overwhelming.
Background: Capital Blonde Doppelbock takes about eight weeks from brew day to packaging to achieve its modest strength of around 8% ABV. It's a beer that is deceptively smooth, and its alcohol can sneak up on you. For that reason, in the brewery's Bier Garten, consumption is limited to one liter per person. Once it makes it to stores, expect it to sell for around $11-$12/six-pack.
The nationally recognized and independent Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) gave this beer a score of 98 out of 100 in 1998, and it scored 96 out of 100 in 2001. Capital brewmaster Kirby Nelson says those marks are among his proudest accomplishments.
Nelson emphasizes that this beer is all about the malt. He calls it "a pleasant and easy-to-drink malt bomb." His recipe for Blonde Doppelbock was inspired by a trip to Germany, where he spent a week sampling over 100 beers. Nelson first made it in 1995, and the beer's formula hasn't changed since. Capital Brewery is well known, if not notorious, for making and releasing this beer the last Saturday in February at an event it calls Bockfest.
- Aroma: Firm malty nose.
- Appearance: Deep, clear copper color with a thick, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Full-bodied and very smooth.
- Taste: Firm, soft caramel flavor throughout with a light spiciness in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty sweet with light warmth.
Glassware: I really enjoy doppelbock in the Willi Becher type of glass because it allows the brilliant color to stand out -- the inward taper in the upper third near the lip gently focuses the nose. However, as one who enjoys Bockfest, hoisting a fresh liter of Blonde Doppelbock in the commemorative event mug is also a special treat.
Pairs well with: A doppelbock of this quality goes well with the heartiest of German foods, like sausage, schnitzel and red cabbage.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: I'm a big fan of malty beers, so I am enamored by Capital Blonde Doppelbock, with its vivid light copper color, smooth body and solid malty flavor. The beer defines what I hope for from the style. This year's rendition is smooth with sweet caramel tones that gradually build to an alluring warm finish. Capital Brewery and Kirby Nelson won't mess around with how this beer is made from one year to the next, and based on what I sampled, it's as good as it has always been.
I also have to admit I'm one of those who look forward to the seasonal release of this beer, enough so that I'm planning to stand out in the cold at the Capital Bier Garten to get a glass with everyone else who appreciates the annual winter ritual of Bockfest. And yes, all that hoopla adds to why I like this beer so much.