Tag: lagunitas

Bock Story

Prohibition killed the bock. Bocks are rich, grainy, and worst of all, German. When breweries got running again 78 years ago today, they were making beer for drinkers used to Bevo, Vivo, and watery gin. The target market would not have appreciated a beer named after a goat.

A very few breweries resurrected it successfully. Shiner’s bock — brought to Texas by way of Cairo by a German brewer named Kosmos — is so popular today that Anheuser-Busch and Michelob are chasing its fame with their own versions. (Big fans of Rahr’s Bucking Bock, we were tricked into getting A-B’s ZiegenBock by a bartender bragging that it was “only available in Texas.” He didn’t tell us tourists that it’s brewed by Pabst.)

But for the most part, if a brewery made a bock — and most didn’t — they just poured a little caramel coloring in their regular amber ale. When craft breweries started bringing back forgotten styles like brown ales and wheat beers, they passed by the bock. Anchor’s Fritz Maytag vowed never to make one. “He said bocks were what breweries made when they cleaned off their floors once a year,” our friend and Anchor brewer Mark Carpenter said.

A hop grower friend of Fritz’s threw a bock party every spring in honor of his vines’ first sprouts. The beer he served was all imported — there were no American bocks worth drinking. When he died, Fritz brewed his first bock in his honor, and today it’s one of the best around.

Side note: That grower was John Segal. We met his son, John Segal, Jr., who took over the ranch, at Lagunitas a few weeks ago. He was wearing the family belt buckle: custom-made sterling silver emblazoned with two hop cones.

Hops, Stoopid

Hops come to brewers either as thumb-sized bundles of leaves called cones or flowers (the botanical term is strobilus, and they’re closer to pine cones than actual flowers), or ground up and packed into tiny, rabbit-food-like pellets. The cone-vs.-pellet debate is long and popular.

Lagunitas uses pellets. They have to, because whole cones won’t fit into the air cannon head brewer Jeremy Marshall uses to fire hops at 70 psi into the fermenters. That’s called dry hopping, and Lagunitas dry-hops a lot of their beers. We saw these boxes of hops last time we were up at the brewery. “Sum” is for Summit, a really bitter, grapefruity hop. Fill in the blank for the other one.

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SF Beer Week: Opening Gala

The Yerba Buena center was packed. The line to taste Russian River‘s very rare and very hoppy Pliny the Younger started at one wall and disappeared into the crowd, out of sight. It was almost as long as the line to the men’s room, where a guy wearing sunglasses declared, “Pliny is bullshit.” There was no line for the women’s room.

We had a good rye saison from Devil’s Canyon—the peppery saison yeast worked well with the rye’s natural spice—and a weird mugwort beer from Moonlight. It tasted a little like thyme, with a hint o’ mint at the end.

California is supposed to be laid back, but there was a lot of posturing going on, beers trying to out-sour, or out-hop each other. Lagunitas talked up their special release, Fusion: 280 IBUs, dry-hopped with four pounds of citras per barrel. It was OK; their stout was better. In the midst of the fray, I met a guy wearing a Great Lakes Brewing Company t-shirt and talked to him a little bit about Cleveland. He said Great Lakes’ beer is great, but he loves them even more because their food is just as good. That made me feel better. He reminded me of Magnolia Brewpub, home to an excellent pork sandwich and straight-forward, British beer, so we went there. They were pouring Pride of Branthill, a so-called “double ESB,” which sounds like big talk, but it tasted mild, full, and bready. As strong as the beer was, it was a nice respite from the more overdone offerings on tap.

A few tables poured “session beers,” lighter and easier to drink than their soured or dry-hopped cousins. There were no lines to try session beers. Anderson Valley‘s Wee Geech was delicious.

True relief came from North Coast, who were passing out Underbergs with each sip of bourbon-barrel-aged Old Rasputin. I predict a hangover-free morning.