Recently, Gary over at LyricsLibationsandLife reviewed Samuel Adams’ Dark Depths, a Baltic IPA that is part of their Limited Release Series and it reminded me of a beer that I enjoyed from the series when I tried it Cinder Bock, a rauch bock beer.
I can’t really add anything more to what Gary said about this series and Samuel Adams over all. His opening statement that “Sam Adams is the brewery beer geeks don’t know what to do with.” is so true that it should be SA’s motto. Funny as the statement may seem, funnier still was watching it happen. I remember when SA first hit the scene and they were the new darlings of the fledgling craft beer movement. Not only did they put out a very good everyday line up, but their seasonal beers included a double bock that at the time was one of the best beers I’d ever tried (Sad sign of the times: You can still get it as part of their “Imperial Series”, but it costs twice as much as it used to and has two less beers in the container). We had a running joke that every Bud plant in America spilled more beer in one year than SA made. We laughed as we started seeing SA Lager show up on the “imports” side of beer lists because bars didn’t really know what to do with it, they just knew they wanted to charge more for it than a Coors or a Miller.
But somewhere along the way SA just got “uncool”, for lack of a better word. I’m not sure if it was just normal trending in tastes and increase in variety as other breweries came onto the scene that one day made SA not the buzz worthy brewery it once was. Or if their increase in the beers they offered made them lose perception as “one of the little guys.” Not sure. But lose it they did. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not suffering any from this lack of being the “cool” kids, and I certainly haven’t totally turned my back on them. I still love their lager. It’s just a flat out drinkable beer to me. And I feel comfort in knowing as I walk into unknown bars that chances are they’ll have at least a SA seasonal beer on tap.
But back to Cinder Bock, which I was really looking forward to tasting again.
Them: Cinder Bock is a rauch (smoke) german style bock lager. The grain bill consists of Two-row Harrington, Metcalf, Munich, Caramel 60, Munich, and Smoked Malt; mashed to an original gravity of 22.5 degrees plato (~1.094 SG). The beer is bittered with Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops (one of three hop varieties that are considered essential to brew traditional German lagers) and is fermented with SA lager yeast to a final ABV of 9.4%
Me: I was so looking forward to revisiting this beer. The first time I had it there was a lite hint of smoke that was more like flint than what you’d think of as smoke. It was like that smell of a cap gun going off and it rocked. I was so ready. And it didn’t happen. This time the beer was smokey, and not in a good way. The beer poured a deep copper red (in all fairness I have to state that to me the color of this beer is almost perfect) which finished in a light lace. The base beer is right on target as a bock; malty, sweet, nice. But this time the smoke just didn’t work. It combined with the toffee sweetness to be almost cloying. I wrestled with it for awhile and then it came to me, it tasted like someone had snuck up on my beer and tossed in a few shots of liquid smoke. Sometimes when a vision enters your head when you’re tasting beers or food it just shuts everything down (like the bartender recently that stated a local brewery’s pale ale tasted like ear wax. And then looked at me with a smile as he waited for me to take another sip of mine). And that was the case with this beer. Once I got the “liquid smoke” taste it was over. I was really looking forward to tasting this again. I was really looking forward to writing the review. And sadly all I got out of it was the disappointing knowledge that I may have gotten this beer totally wrong the first time I tasted it. Even sadder still – I’m not sure I want to try it again later to see which time I tasted it was the real Cinder Bock.
Time for another beer.