Saturday, July 28, 2012

036. JB Hoffbrau Bock

After the success I had with JB's Summer Brew last week, I decided to (virtually) visit California again and try one of their non-seasonal offerings. So, once again in The Woodlands, I went by Trader Joe's and picked up a six pack of JB's Hofbrau Bock. As you may recall, JB's is available only at Trader Joe's (but check out my note at the end of this review for some more info about how that plays out here in Texas).

If you pay attention to the blog labels (check out the right-hand column), you'll see I've tagged this as a "Bock" beer. Not much of a surprise, considering that "Bock" is part of the name. But there's a sub-title to this heady brew: "Golden Bock Beer." And, as sub-titles go, this one is quite apt.

JB's Hofbrau Bock is a bit lighter than many other bock's I've tried (specifically, one of my all-time faves, Shiner Bock). I'm not saying it's better than the other bocks, but it is lighter with a few brighter notes. To be honest, this is surprising when you consider that this has an ABV of 7%.

From the Label:
"Hofbrau" in German means "the brew of royalty." Trader Joe's Hof Brau Bock is a fine example of the regal brewing traditions still found in Germany today. This outstanding bock is golden in color, very rich and moderately hopped. Beer Stats: 7% Alcohol By Volume, 22 International Bitterness Units. Brewed with three types of imported malts, Hallertau aroma hops and lager yeasts.
I drank my first glass ice cold in my favorite flute glass, and the aroma definitely delivers the malt mentioned in the label (which, by the way, I read after I drank half the glass -- I don't like marketing blurbs to influence my initial reactions). The malt was there, but so were faint hints of hops and alcohol.

The color was a pleasing golden yellow (a bit cloudier than I expected, considering the light carbonation). The lace and head were disappointing but serviceable. A little aggression in your pour will yield a nice head that will scamper away leaving little lace to mark its passing, but it does release that pleasing aroma, so I guess it's all good.

Warming Up To It
Served ice cold, this is very smooth and the malt is definitely in charge, and even has hints of sweetness. As it warms up, though, the alcohol overtakes the malt, leaving the hops in the back seat. After a glass or two (or three), the alcohol bitterness builds upon itself to create an almost "pucker" response in my mouth. But with the pucker comes the alcohol, and it delivers a nice malty buzz after a few glasses. The alcohol does sneak up on you, so this is definitely not something to sip on if you plan to go near your car.

All in all, this is a pretty good beer. It's got the full body of a bock, but it also brings some bright notes that makes this a good beer to use as a transition from Summer to Fall. I'm definitely going to revisit this one in a few months when the temperatures finally start to cool off. In the meantime, though, I do have six of these and I don't see any reason to let them take up valuable refrigerator space until then.

Finally, if you're really into strong hops (and ya'll know I'm not), I suggest you give this beer a sip at around 55 degrees. The alcohol and hops really come alive at that point and, even though hops still won't be the star, I think you'll like it.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:

Type: Bock
Color: Clear golden brown
Aroma: Malty with hints of yeast and hops
Hops: Understated
Malt: Hiding behind the sugar
Head: White, medium thickness, but fades quickly
Lace: Surprising light considering the alcohol content
Carbonation: Light/Medium
Temprature Sweet Spot: Serve it cold (under 40 degrees)
ABV: 7%
My Rating: 7 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:

After finishing my review, I went out and read what other people are saying about this, and I was shocked. The reviewers at The Beer Advocate seem to each have tasted a different beer. The reviews use a variety of descriptions that I just didn't find applicable: flowery, sweet, spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, and so on. About the only thing we all agreed on was that the hops weren't the star and that it got bitter the more you drank. Check it out for yourself:

While doing my post-review reading, I came across this interesting article about Texas Beer Laws. It seems that stores cannot have exclusive distribution agreements with brewers. Verrrrry interesting. Check it out here:

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