Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

01 March, 2016

The Cryptozoological Brew: Rasselbock by Goose Island Beer Company

Chicago's Goose Island is one of the elder statesmen of craft brewing having opened back in 1988 as a brewpub. So the uproar when the brewery became a subsidiary of A-B InBev back in 2011 was hardly surprising. Some people vowed never to buy their beer again as Goose Island had "sold out" to the enemy, it had abandoned its hometown. As far as I can tell today, very few people care about who owns Goose Island as long as there is Bourbon County Stout to be had. Never having been a big consumer of GI's beer, I can't say whether their brews have gotten worse since the sellout but I've heard commentary that beers no longer brewed in Chicago just don't taste as good, such as 312. On the other hand, the consensus is that the Bourbon County line remains top-notch.

And so, while I'm strictly unqualified to judge whether GI's beers have gotten better or worse since becoming a subsidiary of a Belgian mega-corporation, I am going to judge the latest release in their Fulton & Wood series.

Fulton & Wood beers are experiments. They are chances for GI folks to flex their creative muscles. From what I can tell the series began back in 2012 and has evolved into an exercise for everyone in the company. What may have begun as a chance for brewers to get away from the IPA routine has become something involving accountants, marketing people, and so on in addition to brewers. A bit like Lakefront's My Turn series, I suppose, but more collaborative, perhaps.

I recently purchased a six-pack of Rasselbock as the words "German style Dark, Rye, Wheat beer" caught my attention. Sehr interessant. A dunkel roggenbock, eh? I had to try it.

While rasselbock sounds like a long-lost style of bier, it is, in fact, the name of the rabbit-like creature out of German (Bavarian?) folklore on the label with horns, wings, and fangs. It's the bearded Spock of jackalopes.

I felt a bit like Benedict Arnold drinking this bier as I simply adore Vintage Brewing's Tippy Toboggan, the only other roggenbock of which I am aware. Tippy is one of my favorite biers of all-time so I am hoping that Vintage brewmaster Scott Manning never reads these words.

My bottle was filled last month on the 19th so it was reasonably fresh when the bier made its way into my glass. Rasselbock pours a deep, dark chestnut. Maneuvering my glass as best I could, it appeared to be clear. I also spied a goodly number of bubbles inside making their way up to a firm, tan head that stuck around for a good, long time.

The label didn't lie: the pungent aroma was full of banana as well as some clove. The yeast used here is from Weihenstephan, a Bavarian brewery known for its weissbiers. Rasselbock smells magnificent. Those phenolic/estery scents were prominent in the taste. Again, I found banana to be stronger with the clove in a more supporting role although clove moved towards the fore as the bier warmed. The carbonation added a touch of dryness as did the rye which added its usual tasty earthy/spiciness. I also tasted a little vanilla, just a smidgen of caramel sweetness, and a hint of roasted grain.

For the finish Rasselbock cleaned itself up and allowed some spicy/grassy hop bitterness and flavor through to end things on a rather dry note. My glass was left with some nice Schaumhaftvermoegen as broad streaks lined most of the interior.

As Darth Vader once said, impressive. The banana and clove flavors from the yeast are simply juicy and piquant yet allow plenty of room for the malty flavors, which range from earthy to sweet, to come through. Rasselbock uses Midnight Wheat which lends color to beer, but alas, it adds precious little roasted grain flavor, which I was hoping to taste. Can't have everything. The bier is 6.8% A.B.V. and has a medium body so it's got some heft yet it's not cloying or heavy.

Junk food pairing: I find that roggenbiers go very well with pretzels, especially pumpernickel pretzels. If you can't find any, go with warm soft pretzels dipped in a sharp processed cheese food sauce.

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|| Palmer, 7:43 AM


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