If you are at all familiar with Middleton's Capital Brewery and brewmaster Kirby Nelson's ability to make a good bock beer, you likely won't be too surprised to learn he's pushing the horizon of the style.
Nelson is out with a trial batch of Barbara, a beer he calls an Imperial Doppelbock. This is perfect for the winter season, a ramped up brew with characteristics shared by his well-known Blonde Doppelbock and Baltic Porter. Only this beer, while big and malty, has a smoothness and complexity that makes for a more refined flavor profile. Maybe that's why Nelson named it after his wife?
What is it? Barbara Imperial Doppelbock from Capital Brewery
Style: The doppelbock is a full-bodied, deep amber to dark brown lager. Its flavor features malty sweetness, especially a fresh and lightly toasted caramel character, while the hop bitterness is evident but not excessive. Fruity esters are also common but not overbearing. Dopplebocks have a strong alcohol strength, generally ranging from 6.5-8% ABV. The use of the term "imperial" is not commonly applied to the style, but in the case of this beer it refers to it strong malt characteristics, substantial mouth feel and high alcohol at 8.9% ABV.
Background: Kirby Nelson retired a dark doppelbock from Capital's lineup a few years back. While the imperial version is similar in appearance, it offers a stronger, more robust flavor. "I used some of the same candi sugar that is used to make our Baltic Porter which is 100% fermentable and it increases the beer's alcohol but not its mouth feel," explains the brewmaster. The candi sugar, along with some specialty malts that Nelson won't describe, are introduced late in boiling process.
Capital released a limited number of quarter barrels of his new Barbara Imperial Doppelbock in the Madison area about a month ago. This is an experiment for Nelson to see how local beer drinkers respond. It's a little tough to find, but well worth the search. Barbara Imperial Dopplebock is currently on tap at The Malt House, Restaurant Magnus, Alchemy, Brasserie V, Dexter's Pub and Quivey's Grove.
What's in the name? Nelson says he named this beer "Barbara" after his wife. "She has always wanted to know when I would name a beer after her, and I said I had yet to produce one worthy," he states. "Quite frankly this beer's overall personality reminds me of my wife's personality in nothing but a positive way." In a loving, yet joking manner that only Kirby can pull off he explains the spelling translates to B-ig, A-ss, R-ich, A-llowing, R-amped, A-lcohol. "The beer had to be a great beer to be named Barbra," he adds, "because if I ever tried to pass something bogus off with her name, my life would end -- not pleasantly!"
- Aroma: A firm malty nose.
- Appearance: Very dark, looks thick, with a light soft brown head.
- Texture: Medium to full-bodied, round to silky mouth feel, moderately carbonated and bubbly.
- Taste: Solid malty flavor that is smooth. The chocolate malt dominates.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Sweet and warm. A long lingering maltiness.
Glassware: A footed pilsner glass with a slight taper to the lip to focus its malty nose will serve this beer well. This aroma is firm, yet a bit timid next to its assertive sweet flavor. And with its bold black color, the pilsner glass will encourage appreciation by all the senses, so you can savor its character.
Pairs well with: An assertive doppelbock like this "Imperial" needs some strong food next to it. It'll stand up well to just about any sausage. No secret that this beer cries out for hearty German food, but an Italian entrée will work well too, especially raviolis.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: I really hope Barbara Imperial Doppelbock becomes part of the regular winter line up for Capital. It's a wonderful winter brew, and after one or more you'll have the appropriate image of a winter warmer! Moreover, if this becomes a regular ion the brewery's lineup, you might just look forward to a long snowy season.