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Beer Reviews

Imperial Doppelbock

Capital Brewery
Middleton, WI

Style: Doppelbock

Jug’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

When I heard Kirby Nelson had released a beer worthy enough to be named after his wife, I figured it had to be something special. Hell, he even created a new subclass of beers by calling it an "imperial dopplebock." The term "imperial" is not traditionally used with bocks, or any German style beers for that matter. I’m sure Kirby Nelson is quite aware of this, so what was he trying to say about this newly crafted brew? Prefixing a beer with imperial generally implies a bigger, bolder, stronger version of the beer, so this must be the point Capital Brewery is trying to market. A bigger, bolder, stronger dopplebock! This is the attitude I approached this new beer with.

The Barbara was served to me in a snifter at a traditional bock temperature of 55-60 degrees. Serving at this temperature should pronounce the malt sweetness. Its appearance is very dark, and slightly hazy. Only holding it up to a light will reveal some ruby highlights. A small, but frothy tan head was pronounced by the snifter it was served in. No lacing.

The nose of the beer was filled with dark chocolate—not caramel—maltiness. It wasn’t as strong of a malt dominance that I would have suspected from our Bigger, Bolder, Stronger Dopplebock though. There was no hop bouquet, but there was more than a hint of alcohol.

First sip. The beer opens with hot alcohol warmth. In fact, it was so dominant that I had to regroup my taste buds before the second sip. After the warm opening, the beer reveals its malt base and a medium-big body. Dark, roasted malts dominate with barely a touch of crystal malt or any caramelization. It’s malty sweet, but not as much as even a traditional dopplebock. It has a long, velvety smooth finish with a roasted malt bitterness and slight astringency, which is not typical in any bock style beer at all. More alcohol warming is followed here by a more than slight Hallertau hop spiciness, which is also atypical for a bock style.

I had to sit and stare at this beer to decide what the Hell I had just witnessed. It certainly didn’t qualify as a traditional bock style, but this is probably what Kirby is telling us by calling it an imperial dopplebock. Is it big? Well, there is a lot of alcohol, but the use of candi sugar limit’s the body at medium-big. Tons of flavor? You bet, but not what you’d expect in a dopplebock. I suppose creating your own subclass of a beer style enables you the right to be creative and make the beer however you desire. It seems more like the bastard child of a baltic porter, imperial stout, dunkel, and an abbey ale. (Yes some beers have four parents!) If I were to classify this beer, I would have labeled it a sticke. It is definitely a creative and fun beer to drink. My advice is to approach it with an open mind. It is a good beer, but not a great one, yet it is a credit to Capital Brewery.

Reviewed by Jug Dunningan on January 20, 2009.
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