It’s bock beer season, and one beer in particular, the Great Dane’s rauchbock, is standing out right now. It’s a smoky version of the traditional German style, yet the smoke doesn’t overshadow all the other good things about a bock.
What is it? Rauchbock from the Great Dane Pub and Brewery’s downtown location.
Style: Bock beers are copper to dark brown lagers, with a medium body. They usually range from 6 percent to 7.5 percent ABV, although there are higher-alcohol versions. The term “rauch” in German means smoke, and those qualities come from malt that is roasted using a wood fire.
Background: “A bock beer is all about the malt,” says Great Dane brewer Michael Fay. This rauchbock combines the characteristic caramel sweetness of a bock with the smokiness of German beechwood roasted malt. “It’s intended to be a subtle sweetness using smoke as an accent,” says Fay. If you’ve been fortunate enough to try the rauchbiers from Germany’s Aecht Schlenkerla Brewery, you might note that its smoked helles lager (not the more well-known and assertive Schlenkerla Urbock) is comparable to this beer in flavor and level of smoke. This one’s just darker in color. Fay credits Schlenkerla for inspiring his use of smoked malts.
Rauchbock is an early preview of many more bocks soon to come from the Great Dane. The pub will host its annual Bockfest February 11 at the Hilldale location. As in years past, the Great Dane will release more than a dozen takes on the style for that event.
Great Dane rauchbock appears seasonally, at this time of year. It sells for $6/pint, $8.50/crowler and $14/growler (refill). It’s currently available only at the Great Dane-downtown.
Aroma: Lightly malty with hints of caramel and smoky, bready, biscuity sweetness.
Appearance: Clear dark bronze with ruby highlights. A thick, soft, tan head.
Texture: Medium-bodied; round, with softness.
Taste: The caramel and chocolate tones from the malt are up front. There’s a wave of mild yet firm smokiness that comes in the background and becomes more evident in the finish.
Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, with a fruity hint of dark cherry alongside smooth sweet smokiness.
Glassware: The Great Dane serves this in an imperial pint glass. However, a footed pilsner with a slight taper near the lip will celebrate the beer’s bronze color while focusing the aromatic smoked malt.
Pairs well with: Stews from goulash to hearty chili, and soft and sweet cheeses like fontina. For a special treat, try it with Hook’s white cheddar made with black truffles.
The Verdict: This beer is a solid bock with layers of malt. It’s rich and flavorful while maintaining a medium-bodied mouthfeel. The smoke is an accent to this well-made bock, a welcome addition to the beer’s sweetness. There’s a depth to the caramel and bready tones that blends well with the level of smoke. This is especially evident in the finish, making it a seductive and luscious beer with which to kick off 2017.