Rock Bottom Brewery: I Like Big Bocks
After finding a spot at the end of the crowded bar, I ordered a glass of the seasonal. “When in doubt, always go with the seasonal,” is my motto. The bartender then informed me that my first glass was free, since the keg had just been tapped. Even better. Finally, it was a traditional bock, one of my favorite styles.
Some beer people underrate Rock Bottom because it is a chain of several brewpubs, and chains don’t have the uniqueness of a solo enterprise. However, some pretty accomplished brewers have worked at the Minneapolis location, and each of them has brought their own unique stamp to their beers.
Yes, Rock Bottom is a chain, and the home office requires all breweries to make the four recipes (White, Red, Dark, IPA) that are available at all 33 locations. However, even these four vary from location to location. As head brewer Tim “Pio” Piotrowski explained, water chemistry varies from location to location, as does both the size and shape of the brewing vessels. Beyond the year-round selections, management also requires brewers to participate in certain seasonal programs (including Fire Chief Ale in the spring and Rocktoberfest in the fall). A recent innovation was to add four “beer events,” including a Spring Lager, according to the standard-issue promotional materials.
Beyond these requirements, corporate management allows the brewers freedom to choose all other seasonal offerings. Visitors can sometimes see a few barrels aging in the cellar, and festival guests will enjoy flavors that exemplify the chain’s image. Pio has brewed more than two dozen special-recipe beers during his two years at Rock Bottom, and has many more planned.
The requirement to make a Spring Lager was not very clear, so Pio chose a Bock. After a couple of false starts naming the beer (one name had just been chosen by another local brewery), Pio chose a simple declarative statement: I Like Big Bocks. Truth be told, this isn’t a doppelbock, but a solid example of a traditional-style bock. Pio explained that he doesn’t want to make his beers too big since many of the patrons either need to drive home from downtown or don’t want to get too full before their night on the town. Seasonal beers are just another great reason to get beer Straight from the Source.
Tasting Notes: I Like Big Bocks
ABV: 6.5%, IBU: 28, Original Gravity: 16.4 Plato
Pio used a generous portion of Munich malt from Weyerman in Bamberg, Germany, some mellonoidin malt, and 11 pounds of black malt (for a nine-barrel recipe) for a hint of roast. Hops include German Tradition, Mt. Hood, and Liberty
Color: Deep copper/mahogany with orange highlights
Head: Light tan, long-lasting with very fine bubbles and some Belgian lace (on nice clean glassware)
Aroma: As the beer warms, an enjoyable chocolate aroma emerges with a hint of caramel.
Flavor: The chocolate continues into the flavor, with a bit of bready malt flavor and a hint of caramel sweetness. No hop flavor, but bitterness is present enough to balance sweetness.
Other: Fully attenuated, not sticky. Very clean aftertaste, well-balanced.