6Pac June 2006 – Drinking Outside the Bocks

The weather in Syracuse, NY, in June of 2006 was worthy of actually being a month that took place in “Summer.” I scooped up a sixer at Glenville (N.Y.) Beverage in the Capital District whilst on a sojourn to visit our editor emeritus and Albany bureau chief.

Since the weather prospects at the time were iffy, I decided to split my selections into three dark and three lighter. Among the “yellow sticker” beers (the ones that were eligible to be included in a $8.99 six-pack), it was hard to find six I hadn’t tried before, but I was able to find a couple, even if some of them didn’t exactly blow my skirt up at first glance.

Ultimately, here is where I landed:

  1. Hook & Ladder Lighter
  2. Mendocino Bock Beer
  3. Erie Brewing Mad Anthony IPA
  4. Abita Bock
  5. Hook & Ladder Golden Ale

I know you’re just dying to know, so I’ll just dive right in.

  • #1: Hook & Ladder Lighter. I have been seeing these Hook & Ladder six-packs all over the place lately, and I didn’t quite know what the story was with them, so I haven’t really been that eager to try them.

    Upon reading up on Hook & Ladder, they are based in Silver Springs, Maryland, and they donate a small amount of money to burn centers in communities where their beer is sold. So at the very least, if I didn’t like the beer, I was giving money to a good cause.

    I was surprised by how much I actually liked this beer. It’s a pale ale with a lagery look and feel. The reviews on Beeradvocate.com for this beer were savage so maybe it’s that my expectations were so low, but it was surprisingly decent.

    The color is bright, brilliant gold. The heavy carbonation bubbles up like ginger ale. The finger of foamy head looks like Italian Ice. Looks like a light lager, but I won’t let that scare me off.

    The aroma is real barley, with a very nice biscuity sweetness in the malt. The hop is ever-so-slight, and reminiscient of a pilsner. Again, even though this is a pale ale, you coulda fooled me. The smell is surprisingly solid.

    The taste is where I really was caught off-guard. The malt in this beer is so biscuity sweet, with none of the adjuncty corn & rice flavors I expected. Amazing how real barley makes all the difference. This is a very good summer beer. It’s a little sweet and only a tad bitter.

    The feel of the beer is smooth to the touch. It’s got a tiny nibble of a bite on the way down. Not chunky, not watery: just right. It’s refreshing, and is a “respectable” summer brew. It’s not off-the-charts incredible, but it’s highly drinkable beverage, and one that didn’t make me feel guilty for foregoing other, craftier alternatives.

  • #2: Mendocino Bock Beer. One of my great joys is to visit the Saratoga Brewery, purveyor of the finest Mendocino products. This bock is one that I hadn’t tried before, but given their track record, I’d bet dollars to donuts that I was going to like it.

    The color is a honey-colored orange, shiny like polished glass. The lace is spotty and the head is minimal and slushy. To take a whiff is to inhale a pale malt aroma with a mild but spicy hop. The malt is a roasted concoction in the nose, with a naughty splash of liqueur-like alcohol stinging the nostrils slightly. The aroma overall is very hard to detect, but what is able to be picked up by the olfactory glands is pleasant enough.

    The intial taste I sensed was a hint of roasted toffee in the malt, with a very conspicuous layer of alcohol therein. As it warms up, it becomes more burnt and more bitter. That’s pretty much the story of the taste of this beer, other than the pale malt blooming toward the end as the clock runs out. Decent.

    The beer feels smooth and buttery; savory, for lack of a better word. There is a small sting on the way down. It’s a mild and roasted bock. Not too bitter, but strong otherwise. A solid choice.

  • #3. Erie Brewing Company, Mad Anthony APA. Although the idea of an “American Pale Ale” is becoming more and more popular, I rarely see beers that advertise themselves as such. Being a native Western New Yorker (yes, Rochester does count as WNY, Javen), I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the beers made west of the 315 area code.

    Erie Brewing has been one that I haven’t really been blown away by, mostly because their Railbender is decent enough, but I never seem to be able to get it fresh. Also, it always seems that the labels on their bottles are always peeling off, as if they are applied by a kindergarten glass with Elmer’s glue sticks.

    I was really nicely surprised by this beer — even moreso than the Hook & Ladder Lighter. The look is a bright, sunny yellow; it becomes light orange when held up to a lamp. The head is thick, but not long-lasting. There is some minor icy lace. Clear for the most part, but containing a light haze.

    The smell is mild, somewhat hard to detect like the aforementioned Mendocino Bock. The only thing I can really sense is pale malt. Again, the aroma doesn’t detract from the beer, but it’s hard to find a hint of what to expect.

    The taste provided a nice apology for the coyness of the aroma. The flavor is a terrific citrus that goes beautifully with the spicy pale malt flavor. The spice in the hop is almost reminiscient of a Belgian White/witbier. What sets this apart from most mediocre pale ales is that fantastic citrusy hop, which injects it with a refreshing, summery dynamic.

    The beer feels a little on the fizzy side, but you can feel the carbonation making the flavors of the beer burst out and come alive. There is a nice thickness that came as a surprise. Overall I was really impressed by the citrusy, fruit-tinged flavor that was balanced by the pale malts. It’s refreshing and easy to drink.

  • #4: Abita Bock. Apparently honey-tinged orange is a popular color this year, because this bock exhibits that very look. In the thinner spots of the glass, it is closer to a dark yellow. The head is short-lived, but otherwise this beer is awfully attractive.

    The aroma gives off some very nice flowery pale-ish malts. There are hops, of the German (Hallertauer-esque) variety. A couple citrusy notes here and there but it’s not altogether clear whether it’s the hops or actual citrus.

    The flavor has more of that pale malt flavor, as well as the sweet, puckery citrus that we all so dearly enjoy. They two flavors go together very very well. There is a dry, semi-sweet start and a tart finish.

    All told this is a pretty good summery bock, with lots of tree-fruits and with a nice thickness that doesn’t require choking down.

  • #5: Sam Adams Double Bock. Not to be confused with the Sam Adams Triple Bock, this lighter, distant cousin didn’t particularly tickle my fancy any more than the Triple Bock did.

    The color is a nice-enough ruby red with very little head. The look is hazy, but also shiny and glassy. It has the foreshadowing look of a winter ale. The aroma has the vague prsence of a mild barley, with some pale-ish malts. Moreso, however, there is the aroma of a sweetish berry or cherry; the smell is underwhelming, but the saccharine nature of the aroma comes through.

    The taste has the initial taste of sweet cherry at the initial sip, before turning to a darker and more burnt berry. It is dark overall, but has a Nutrasweet finish. Just as I don’t love winter ales, this one isn’t my cup of tea (figuratively speaking, of course). There is a slight Belgian ale spicy finish, but overall it’s a double Winter lager.

    The bite on the way down is mercifully controlled. It is somewhat spicy and bubbly like Coca-Cola, but that doesn’t quite salvage it for me. All told, the flavors skew far too much toward a puckery, cloying Winter ale sweetness. If you like that sorta things, be my guest.

  • #6: Hook & Ladder Golden Ale. This is the final beer of the sixer, and it’s a bookend of sorts, in that it’s another of the Hook & Ladder series. This one is a golden ale, so naturally it has a dark yellow color. The head is thin and watery, but there is a hint of icy lace on the glass like frost on a window.

    The aroma is consistent with a golden ale or lager. It has the properties of a pub ale, but to a weaker, more watered-down degree. It’s nothing unpleasant, just a tad wimpy. The taste is of a light English ale, a la Bass. The malt is actually of a decent sweet style; it’s bready and with just a dollop of molasses. It does leave a bit of a malted aftertaste.

    The beer feels watery and leaves a minor, bitter film that is more like a lager than a golden ale. This beer is okay, but not awesome. Didn’t hit me the right way like the Lighter at #1. It’s drinkable, but should be priced among the BudMillerCoors instead of the crafties.

I have quite a diverse selection for July, so hopefully I can find the strength to trudge through all of them.

~ by William H on July 12, 2008.

One Response to “6Pac June 2006 – Drinking Outside the Bocks”

  1. I don’t know why you’re always hatin’ on the bocks. You got something against goats or what?

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