My once-per-year wait for a Samuel Adams offering has finally ended. A recent visit to Costco yielded the Winter Classics Variety Pack, the annual case (and twelve-pack) offering from Boston Beer Co. that combines six Samuel Adams beers in one convenient package.
Some of the beers only appear in this packaging, so it’s typically the only way to score some of the beers in the Sam lineup. I happen to enjoy most of the varieties on display, especially since the awful Cranberry Lambic was ejected. In its place various beers make an appearance, and this year, it’s the Chocolate Bock, normally a Valentine’s Day offering in a larger, wine-bottle-sized format.
Bockbier originated in Germany, and generally consists of a darker, breadier Munich or Vienna barley malt as the base grain, some more highly-roasted grains (though nothing that will taste roasty), very little in the way of hops, and a bit higher alcohol presence than the normal lagers. You can probably figure out what Samuel Adams did to this base style to create today’s beer. As the neck label notes, it “combines our carefully roasted malts with the robust flavor of premium dark nibs from Ecuador. We slowly age the beer on a bed of cocoa to impart bold flavors of rich chocolate and a smooth velvety finish.” So, the beer has been “dry-nibbed” instead of how some styles of beer might be “dry-hopped” to add hop aroma and flavor. Let’s see how this beer fares…
As you can see, Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock pours a deep, dark brown — dare I say chocolate brown? — with ruby highlights in the bright light. There’s virtually no head kicked up in the pour whatsoever; sure, the style doesn’t scream for a big frothy head, but something would be nice to capture the aromas in the glass. The way it coats the glass when I swirl is reminiscent of syrup, too, and I’m crossing my fingers it doesn’t also taste that way.
Well… yes and no. Yeah, this is alcoholic chocolate; bock was a good choice for the base beer to chocolatize. It’s a straight-up, non-subtle midrange dark chocolate flavor, with juuuust a slight, clean starchy maltiness to dry it out a little and prevent this from becoming alcoholic Yoo-Hoo. Though it’s moderately higher in alcohol (5.8%) than the average beer, the Chocolate Bock does manage to hide that behind the cocoa, for the most part. It’s a little oily, a little full in the mouthfeel, and it seems to smoothly make its chocolatey way through the finish; but then, after a few seconds, a strange alkaline, even chalky aftertaste manifests itself in with the obvious chocolate. It’s off-putting sure, and further sips tend to wipe it away, then let it back in. I think the key here is to keep the beer cold, closer to refrigerator temperature, rather than in the 50-55 degree range where I tend to enjoy bock.
At Costco in Queens, I dropped $28 for the case; $7 for a six-pack is a rather good deal these days for beer I’ll drink. Would I buy six Chocolate Bock for that price? I’m not a big enough fan of chocolate for that. If you or your significant other/umfriend/pal really gets into chocolate, I recommend picking up the Chocolate Bock, if it’s available by itself and isn’t terribly steep in price. To buy the case for four bottles might be a stretch, unless you’re willing to also drink the Holiday Porter, Winter Lager, Old Fezziwig ale, and the boring White Ale and flagship Boston Lager. On the other hand, if you want a better, dark, chocolate-infused beer, look no further than Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, available year-round in a surprising number of stores.