Lager is the beer of choice for big American breweries because it's made with a bottom-fermenting yeast that requires cool temperatures. Ales dominate the craft brew scene, made with top-fermenting yeast that thrives at warmer temps. But there are exceptions. And while lagers are typically light in color, style and alcohol, again, there are exceptions. Originating in Germany, bocks are darker lagers that are richer in flavor and stronger in alcohol. Here are three American craft bocks:
Anchor Bock Beer, $1.59-$1.99, 12 ounce
This San Francisco beer pioneer's bock shows a deep ebony in the glass with a three-finger head that has exceptional retention. There's lots of dark malt on the nose along with spicy apple, date and raisin. It opens with buttery, toasted raisin bread flavors colored by molasses and fruity malt. There's a definite hop presence, but it lurks in the background. Raisin, soft earth, light licorice and toffee close things out.
Full Sail LTD Lager, Pale Bock, Recipe 4, $1.19-$1.59, 12 ounce
Helles bocks (aka maibock) are traditionally less dark than bocks, but this pale is even brighter and lighter in color. The aromas are an intriguing mix of flower blossoms, pine nuts, herb and wheatgrass. On the dry side, this brew's fruit flavors dominate the palate, opening with ripe grapes and pear, balanced by tart citrus. Touches of caramel and very soft hops round things out.
Sockeye Maibock Seasonal Lager, $1.99-$2.69, 16-ounce can
This beer pours a walnut-hued brown with a thin, mocha head that collapses quickly. Sweet and spicy bread dough aromas lead off, along with touches of roasted grain, licorice and fig. The sweetness carries through to the palate with flavors of caramel-laced, toasted malt balanced by lightly bitter hops (typical of the helles style) coming through on the finish.