What happens when you take one of the smoothest, maltiest lager styles known to brewdom and give it an extended case of hypothermia? You get mouth watering beer and one that Redhook Brewery of Woodinville, WA calls their limited release Eisbock 28, a 2010 winter warmer that’s bound to become a regular on your holiday beer list.
So what in the hell is an eisbock (pronounced “ice bock”) anyway? Hold on, there’s some history here. For starters, a bock is a very traditional style of strong German lager that’s been around since sometime in the 1300’s. Bocks are typically copper-colored, malt forward, pleasantly on the sweet side and gently hopped. There are several styles of bock beer including the hoppier helles bock, the even maltier and stronger dopple (double) bock, and the ever-elusive eisbock.
The eisbock is basically what happens when you take a dopple bock, freeze it, and remove the ice. What’s left behind is nothing short of concentrated malt beauty with a punch. The water that’s removed adds a few percentage points to the ABV and further concentrates the malty essence so typified by the bock style. This is a case of making something great even better.
The eisbock style of beer is rarely brewed in the US (Redhook claims to be the only one) probably because of some deal with our liquor laws that deem eisbock a distilled spirit. Whatever the reason and however Redhook is getting it done, Eisbock 28 makes this beer drinker a happy guy. Eisbock 28, named at the time of the brewery’s 28th anniversary, pushes the bock style to its limits and does so without apology.
Redhook Brewery’s Eisbock 28, a hearty 11% ABV, is a brandy snifter beer. It pours a slightly thick crystal clear honey-amber color with a transient off-white head. Shoving your nose into the glass and breathing deeply fills the sinuses with malt and caramel sweetness. It’s hard to pick out any hops in this aroma but you get a hint of the alcohol to come. The first sip presents a filling mouthful of liquid bread, sweet but not cloying. There are hops there, just enough to get the job done without getting obnoxious. Upon swallowing, you can definitely tell that this one’s not a slamming beer. The throat gently warms. This one’s best enjoyed after a filling holiday meal with ass firmly planted on couch and feet warming in front of the fire. It’s a sipper.
Eisbock 28 is exactly why I love winter. Brewer’s tend to let their freak flags fly just a bit higher during the holidays and we get the benefits. Maybe it’s because the heavier beers like eisbocks and stout porters don’t marry so well with lawn mowing and hot summer days. Maybe it’s all that extra time indoors that gets the wheels turning; Idle hands, the devil and all that. Whatever the case, if you’re looking for a beer that showcases a nearly lost style and how a brewer with a clearly masterful plan to revive it has succeeded, get your hands on a 22-ounce bottle of Redhook Brewery’s Eisbock 28.