Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Smoked Rye Bock

New Glarus Brewing Company
New Glarus, WI

Style: Smoked

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Pair With:
How complex can a beer get? Normally, craft brewers just pour on the gravity and the hops to pound your taste buds into submission, and if you can’t handle it, then, well, you should stick with your Bud Light, princess. And, me being a Beer Dork, I’m usually right there slamming a mug of Founders Devil Dancer in said complainer’s face, but sometimes I ask myself, whatever happened to the subtleness in brewing? Do we have to keep brewing bigger and bad-asser beers until we take one sip and just explode?

The answer is, no, we don’t. Because very skilled brewers can make an extremely complex beer that’s not 18.7 percent alcohol and glowing hop-green from 100-plus IBUs. And one of those extremely skilled brewers—arguably one of the best in the world right now—is a man named Dan Carey from New Glarus Brewing Company. With his limited-edition Smoked Rye Bock, he has created one of the most complex beers I have ever had the privilege to sample—all without blowing the top of my head off.

And it all starts out so innocent. The pour is a deep gold or light amber, take your pick, with a very average off-white head. But that’s where “average” and “innocent” end, folks. The beer is cloudy as all get-out (or as my college roommate would have said, there’s shit floatin’ in it), laying down a big hint for what’s about to come. First, the aroma. There’s enough going on right there to discombobulate Lassie’s smell-buds. It’s brewed with that virulent strain of Bavarian ale yeast that’d eat your family alive if it had the chance while giving off those wonderful clove- and banana-like notes indicative of classic weiss beers. That’s the first thing to tickle your nose hairs. Then comes the smoke. That’s right, with smoked beers, you can smell the smoke the maltsters used to dry the barley. It’s not huge in this beer, but right in the mix with the yeast’s fruitiness and, if you smell really, really carefully, that crisp breadiness from the rye. Folks, there is a lot going on in this beer.

And that’s just the nose! Before sipping, I was a little worried about the “smoke” in the title. In case you were wondering, not only can you smell the smoke but you can, indeed, taste it. I’ve had big-ass rauch beers, as the Germans call them (not big-ass, but rauch, which means smoke in Germanese) bearing descriptions along the lines of “beef jerky in a glass” or “bacon beer,” and I’ll be God-damned if those descriptions weren’t telling it how it is. The smokiness dominated the entire beer, almost to the point where you kept checking the glass to make sure there was actually beer in there. Not so here. The smoke is front and center, then the fruitiness of the weiss yeast washes over your tongue, throwing your poor, unsuspecting taste buds for a loop. And laying underneath it all is that oiliness/breadiness of the rye. You’d be drooling if you weren’t too busy drinking the damn thing.

And all that with an extremely subtle hop profile and a medium, very smooth body. It might be a tad bit too malty, but that’s the only nit you’re going to be able to pick. Dan Carey’s done it. He’s made a mind-bogglingly complex beer without resorting to monsterism. And I’ll have a drink to that.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on December 11, 2006.
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