It doesn’t matter if you come late to the party, as long as you get there, right? North Carolina used to be a kind of stereotypical Deep South state, in terms of its attitude toward drinking. There are still dry counties and towns, and liquor can only be sold at state-run stores. However, they’ve managed to achieve progress when it comes to beer. Up until a few years ago, the alcohol level in beer was capped at 6% by volume, presumably under the “Think about the children!” mantra (though they turned their heads when asked about wine and hard liquor). Over time, with a lot of pushing from their constituents, legislators realized the hypocrisy of the restrictions on beer, and the laws were rewritten.
Once the “Pop the Cap” advocates succeeded in raising that cap to double that level in 2005, it paved the way for lots of new breweries to create a vast array of beers without running afoul of the law. The Duck-Rabbit Brewery, for example, reaped the benefits of the new law.
Based in Farmville, The Duck-Rabbit started life as a brewer of the basic dark beers: amber ale, porter, brown ale, and an exceptionally good milk stout. Indeed, they call themselves “The Dark Beer Specialist”, right on the bottles. After the alcohol limit was raised, less than a year after their founding, The Duck-Rabbit could begin making stronger, more flavorful, and even more interesting beers, and making them consistently well. Most of these were brewed in limited batches as seasonal releases, and have earned the brewery serious acclaim.
Typically, the brewery keeps several beers in year-round rotation (going big for those seasonals). Today’s beer, the Duck-Rabbator Doppelbock, is their Fall seasonal. It’s one of the more awkward attempts to stick an “-ator” suffix on a beer name to hew to tradition, but as long as the beer tastes good, I’m willing to overlook that. And at 8.5% alcohol by volume, The Duck-Rabbit would not have had the opportunity to sell the Duck-Rabbator a mere six years ago.
Doppelbock as a style is German in origin, as you probably figured out. Doppel meaning “double”, it’s probably also clear that the style tends to be stronger and richer than ordinary bock (which I’ve reviewed from time to time here). Bocks are lagers, so they tend to ferment fairly cleanly and avoid the inherent fruitiness of ale yeasts, resulting in a beer much more focused on the ingredients instead of what flavors the yeast can produce. Other than maibock, most bocks are cool-weather releases, with the stronger beer more amenable to keeping its drinkers feeling warmer on those rough fall and winter nights. They should typically be full-bodied, malty brews, but not sugary-sweet; the hops stay muted in all but the occasional maibock as well. Doppelbocks — yes, The Duck-Rabbit spells it differently — are just more of this.
The Duck-Rabbit Duck-Rabbator pours a nearly-clear garnet-brown — I’m trying to hyphenate everything possible, mind you — and only manages to kick up a thin tan head despite vigorous pouring; even this dissipated to a patchy skim quickly.
Sweet molasses and rich, cookie-doughish Munich malt aromas greet my nose initially, dominating all else and drowning virtually every trace of alcohol in this doppelbock. It bodes well when I move on to actually tasting this beer: considering the aroma, it’s actually rather dry. The malt again dominates, with a straightforward maltiness that at times turns a little grainy. The hops, as expected, all but disappear in the onslaught of bready malt and husky grain. The mouthfeel could be a bit fuller, but it’s indicative of all that residual malt sugar.
Finally, the beer disappears fairly dryly down my throat, warming as it does so — the alcohol makes a real appearance! — and contributes quite the meal in itself. It’s not tough to drink an entire bottle in one sitting, but it’s quite noticeably making me less hungry as I go along.
Overall? I’m biased in favor of The Duck-Rabbit already, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoy this beer, too. I paid $14 for a six-pack of the Duck-Rabbator, which is a fair price given the style and batch size. The year-round beers sell for considerably less. I’d suggest someone new to Duck-Rabbit grab the porter or milk stout as well for starters just to experience this solid brewery. The brewery has managed to distribute their beer rather widely on the East coast, so if you visit Philadelphia and the rest of southeastern Pennsylvania, most if not all the available Duck-Rabbit beers are yours for the purchasing. While there is no plan to distribute into New York City, travels to points south will be rewarded!