Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


Capital Brewery
Middleton, WI

Style: Eisbock
ABV: 9.8%

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

I’ve had two different eisbocks in my life. Eisbocks are, essentially, partially distilled dopplebocks. The finished beer is lowered below 32° so that some of the water freezes (alcohol having a much lower freezing point than water). This ice is then removed, leaving a much more potent brew behind. Eis is German for ice, hence the name.

The first eisbock I ever had was Aventinus Eisbock, a partially distilled version of the mind blowingly tasty Aventinus weizenstarkbier. The eisbock version seemed a little flat and harsh compared to the original, and I decided I’d much rather stick with the un-eis version.

The second eisbock I’ve had is the star of tonight’s review, Capital Eisphyre, an eisbock based on their own mind blowingly tasty dopplebock, Autumnal Fire. It’s actually not a semi-distilled version of the straight recipe, as the folks at Capital tweak the recipe slightly—such as adding extra hops—to compensate for the intense flavors brought out by the eising process.

(Anecdotally, I did have a chance to taste a “pre-glacial” version of Eisphyre—the beer before it was distilled—at a brewfest a few months ago. I tried it on something like the fifth or sixth tasting glass of the day, so my tastebuds were a little fatigued, but it was pretty gnarly taking a sip of Autumnal Fire and getting a big pop of Hallertau.)

Eisphyre pours a deep translucent ruby red—as gorgeous as its non-eised brethren. The head is muted, very off white (whatever that means), and sticky but short-lived. Immediately thick, caramel-rich aromas explode out of the glass. Closer sniffs are, unsurprisingly, dominated by potent, almost vinuous, malt aromas.

The taste is no less intense: a wave of massive sugary, syrupy maltiness fades to more subtle sherry- or liqueur-like notes. The finish is long, lush, and thickly sweet, but still lager-clean, culminating in a big, boozy finale, a denouement that only accentuates as the beer warms. Sharp stings of either CO2 or (more likely, it being nearly 10 percent ABV and all) alcohol numbs the tongue at the end of big sips.

Let this brew warm so you can savor every giant, complex drop Eisphyre has to offer. The only issue I have with this beer—good as it is—is that I can’t drink it without comparing it—unfavorably—to Autumnal Fire. Which is totally unfair, these being two different beers and all. And you shouldn’t let that little peculiarity of mine prevent you from grabbing a four pack while you can. Hell, I suggest grabbing two four packs and stashing one of them in the cellar for a year—or more. This is one of those brews that is only going to get more interesting with age.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on December 29, 2009.
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