Although we have reviewed plenty of sub-categories of bock beers (like weizenbock, maibock, rauchbock, etc.), but we actually haven’t yet reviewed a straight-up traditional bockbier. Daisen G just released one, so we’ll take this opportunity to take a look at this still and review the Daisen G Bock together with the Mönchshof Bockbier from Germany.
Daisen G Bock (大山Gビール・ボック)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 30
Pour – Black, lots of creamy rich foam
Aroma – Caramel malts, also a bit of plum, more roast as it warms up
Flavor – Plum and cherries, malts, roast on the finish, as it warms up it becomes a great combination of roast, nuts, and cherries
For some reason the traditional bock isn’t a beer you see around as often, even though you’ll see quite a few weizenbocks and maibocks and such. Of course, all of those subcategories of bockbier are derived from the traditional bock, which originated as an ale in the 13th century in the town of Einbeck, Germany. Over time it evolved into a strong lager instead of an ale, and as it migrated to Munich the name of the beer (taken from the city of origin) mutated from “Einbeck” to “ein bock”, which actually translates as “one goat”. Hence the prevalence of goat imagery on bockbier labels!
Stylistically, the bock is a strong dark-ish lager. As such it can be expected to be rich, malty, and toasty. We shouldn’t see a lot of hop contribution here, and it may also be a bit boozy (typical ABV will be around 6% to 7%). That said, there’s a fair amount of variation within the style so our experience may not line up exactly with the BJCP definitions.
While Daisen G have of late been doing a lot with Belgian beers, they haven’t been doing as much of note with their German beers. In fact, they acknowledge as much in their brewer’s notes here, and there’s a few interesting tidbits in there about this beer. First off, although in the past they’ve made a few sub-types of bock beers (they mention their Weizen Bock, Rauch Bock, and Maibock), in their 20 years of brewing this was the first time they had brewed a straight-up standard bock. They brewed it first for their beer subscription club, and as it was well-received they decided to brew it again for a wider release. That makes this the first official bottle release of the Daisen G Bock. Perhaps the most interesting note there is that like the rest of the craft beer world they’ve regained an interest in the recently downtrodden lager, and are looking to brew more lager-based brews, which definitely should be interesting.
As for this beer, the Daisen G Bock is quite a good brew, with lots of different things going on there. First of all, it is appropriately malty, although certainly not too malt-heavy. It has a lot of plum and cherry flavor to it, and while initially I thought perhaps it was a bit much as it warmed up the roasted chocolate and nuttiness caught up to it and made for great balance. The finish is also strong on the roast, but comes back full circle to a bready maltiness. The only thing I would dock it for is that as it continues to warm up it begins to thin out, and the texture really fades to leave it a bit syrupy. It’s a noticeable minus, and perhaps leaves some room for improvement for what is otherwise a very nice and complex beer.
Package: 500mL bottle
Pour -Very clear dark red, good creamy foam
Aroma – Cherry candy quite strong, some malts as well
Flavor – Malty at first, sweet, develops into something kind of like flavored cough syrup, herbal/medicinal aftertaste, malts get more strong and sweetness less sickly as it warms up
Mönchshof is a very old brewery in the city of Kulmbach in Northern Bavaria that traces its history back to a monastery founded in 1349. The word “Mönchshof” actually means monastery, and with the establishment of that monastery the brewing tradition on Kulmbach was also established. In fact, Mönchshof is part of a brewing corporation called Kulmbacher Brauerei, which was formed by the well-known breweries in Kulmbach (EKU, Kapuziner, Kulmbacher, and Mönchshof) to strengthen their collective distribution muscle. Mönchshof’s original beer is a German pilsner, although they’re actually more known for their schwarzbier. Relative to the age of the brewery, their Bockbier is quite recent, having been first introduced in 1994.
The Mönchshof Bockbier is not a super-enjoyable beer in my opinion. Sure, there is a good amount of maltiness there, but the sweet aspects of the beer to me taste very artificial and render this beer somewhat unpleasant. If you were generous you could call this herbal, but personally I would use the word medicinal to describe it. It does improve as it warms up though, as the malts begin to overpower the sweetness and render it less cough-syrupy, but those aspects do still remain and make this not a great beer.
I may be being a bit harsh on it, but after the better balance of the Daisen G Bock this definitely feels far inferior. Whereas the Daisen G had lots of roast character to it, the Mönchshof had very little (although to be fair most bocks are not as black as the Daisen G and not as roasty), and while they both exhibited fruit characteristics the Mönchshof was somewhat artificial tasting and too sweet. In some ways the Daisen G is probably a bit out of character for a standard bock with its heavy roast, but it certainly made for a much better beer. If the Mönchshof had managed to keep its maltiness and not have that medicine-syrup feel to it it would have been more successful, but as it stand I wouldn’t really recommend this beer.
As part of the Kulmbacher Brauerei group they do get pretty good distribution, and I found the Bockbier at Bon Repas in Naka-meguro along with some other Kulmbacher products (I picked up a Kapuziner Weissbier as well). It isn’t a great beer, but at 550 yen for a 500mL bottle it isn’t a terrible deal, so if you’re curious by all means give it a go, although again I think you’d be much better off with the Daisen G Bock.
Daisen G are really proving themselves to be a top-notch brewer in Japan, with a pretty good run of limited beers, including this Bock, and their recent Belgian IPA and Dubbel. This Bock could use a bit of improvement especially in how it holds up over time, but it’s still a good beer, and we look forward to seeing what else Daisen G have up their sleeve.