Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


Lakefront Brewery, Inc.
Milwaukee, WI

Style: Bock
ABV: 6.71%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

There have been countless times during Nigel’s craft beer adventures that his curiosity has been piqued. Numerous questions often arise regarding a number of topics, from the beer itself to the label art to geography to style. As a young lad with ADD, Nigel typically ponders these unknowns for about 3.2 seconds before moving on to the next thing, so I rarely get any answers. It’s hard to believe that I have a degree in history, which required oodles of research during my college years; apparently it didn’t stick.

This time, however, I’m going to get to the bottom of one of my biggest beer-related questions, something I’ve often wondered but until now had never taken the time to find the answer to.

What the hell do goats have to do with bocks?

I’m very familiar with bocks and the history of the style, but I have no idea how goats fit into the picture. The modern bock evolved from a brew that was unique to the northern German city of Einbeck and its origins can be traced as far back as the 14th century. By the 17th century, the Einbeck brew had traveled to what was becoming the hub of German brewing, Munich, where it continued to evolve (the chances that modern bocks taste anything like the original Einbeck brew are pretty slim). The style was dark, thick, and heavily malted (eventually utilizing almost exclusively Munich and Vienna barley malts … some brewing historians think some wheat malt was originally used in Einbeck) with a slight kiss of hops and a higher ABV than normal. This is why bocks found a niche in the cool late winter and spring months: they were thick and powerful, thus “warming” the drinker after a long, cold winter.

Over the years, the bock continued to evolve and sprouted some offshoots (maibocks, helles bocks, doppelbocks, eisbocks, etc.) that were minor tweaks of the original recipe. Their popularity also spread, as bocks soon found an audience in other parts of Europe and in ethnic German regions of America.

As for the name, many believe that “bock” ultimately was a shortened, distorted homage to Einbeck, the original home of the style. Perhaps this is true, but it still doesn’t explain why bocks and goats seem to go hand-in-hand.

Five seconds of research gave Nigel his answer: “bock” literally translates to “goat” in German.

Great … all that wondering, all sorts of theories, all of this research into the history and origins of the bock, and all I needed to do was learn a little bit of German (for the record, Nigel only speaks English and some Spanish, so don’t make fun … most of the German I know is related to sausage). At least now I can indulge in the latest seasonal release from Milwaukee-based Lakefront Brewery, simply called Bock, without wondering why there’s a damn goat … er, uh, bock staring me in the face.

Bock is one of Lakefront’s late winter/spring seasonal releases, a lineup that also includes Big Easy, a Mardi Gras-themed helles bock, and Snake Chaser Ale, an Irish-style stout. One of the stronger brews in the Lakefront lineup (Lakefront tends to keep the ABV in the five percent to six percent range; not counting the one-time only 20th Anniversary Ale, the only stronger ones that I’m aware of are Big Easy, Holiday Spice, and the rare Beer Line barley wine). I’ve long held the belief that Lakefront is a solid, fun brewery that creates balanced beers that don’t typically blow you away, but are far from offensive. Bock seems to fall nicely into that broad generalization.

Bock pours with a mild, quarter inch head that dissipates quickly, leaving a hint of lace at the top throughout the drink. A beautiful ruby red, Lakefront’s take on the style appears to be lighter in color than most and lacks any trace of sedimentation (typical of Lakefront brews). Not overly aromatic, there is still a nice hint of Munich malts, resulting in a slight nutty tinge with sweet, sugary aromas of caramel and toffee, as well as a slight chocolaty backdrop. Perhaps I’ve been to the brewery a few too many times, but there is a distinct grainy, earthy aroma that always seems present in Lakefront’s brews, regardless of style, and it’s present here as well. A slight zip of alcohol is also present, while hops are lacking as you would expect in a bock.

The taste is solid, but not spectacular. Standard bocks don’t tend to be as thick and flavorful as their cousins the maibock or doppelbock, but in my opinion, the flavors in Lakefront’s bock are more subdued than they should be. A grassy, earthy malt flavor hits first, quickly followed by a sugary sweetness of caramel and molasses and a noticeable bready flavor. Some dark fruit tinges are also present at various points, though nothing too distinct. Roasted nuts and coffee are detectable in the distant background, but much like the taste as a whole, they fail to step up enough to make this anything other than average. A very mild hoppy tinge and a hint of alcohol finish this off, making it a solid, tasty bock, though not as good as many of its craft counterparts (although if you’re only familiar with such popular shit “bocks” such as Huber Bock or Shiner Bock, this is a taste sensation second to none). Medium in body, Lakefront Bock is a bit lighter than many of its brethren. Mildly carbonated, it’s smooth on the palate and could be considered a session brew, though the 6.71 percent ABV can sneak up on you if you’re not careful.

Ultimately, Lakefront Bock epitomizes average. It’s a good beer, but one that may disappoint the diehard craft beer lover and the connoisseur of darker bocks. It has all the ingredients to be very good, but they just don’t seem to mesh enough to make it anything other than average. If you like standard bocks, give this a shot if you see it (Lakefront’s brews tend to be moderately priced at $7-8 a six-pack). If not, you can always stick with a nice, tall glass of bock milk or a salad sprinkled with bock cheese.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on March 12, 2008.
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