Okay, so I really am something of a traditionalist when it comes to beer. I’m not into flavored beers. Not that I’m at all a strict adherent to the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law that mandates, “the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities’ confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail.”
Notable that the Dutchy of Bavaria failed to mention yeast back in 1516, but it wouldn’t be until ole’ Lou Pasteur figured out a few hundred years later the role those cuddly little microorganisms played in fermentation. So technically, all beer violates the Reinheitsgebot. Additions, to a point, are always just a matter of style.
The world of beer has come a ways since 1516. With an astounding 2700 plus brewers in the country, a renaissance in beer not seen since the end of the 19th Century, there’s a lot of competition for a brewer to distinqgish their beer in the marketplace. In my opinion, that can be done one of two ways, by pandering to the least common taste denominator, or by being bold and creative and unique.
Writing this, I am pouring another of Hinterland’s seasonal, Maple Bock. I’ve had a few of their offering’s, the IPA, and on the radio show Brian and I reviewed their really pleasant Winterland. I have never once disappointed. It was no different for the Maple Bock, though I cheated a bit on that one by talking to this deep umber smoky Bock’s creator.
It poured to a half inch coffee colored head. as the head settled, and with each taste, the chaliced glass was adorned with a strong and elegant lacing in intricate and rhythmic rings within the glass. The aroma of chocolaty malt, and a hint of smoke arose from the glass. I took several deep breaths, and found a bit of the north woods, those great and unrelenting forests dominating northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s wild Upper Peninsula. Hinterland stakes its claims in Green Bay.
Back about a week and a half ago I was chatting up Hinterland’s founder, Bill Tressler. His dad taught him how to make Maple syrup the old fashioned way, over a smoky fire in the woods. Having tasted my share of homemade Maple syrup, one can taste the smoke of the fire, and to the keenest palettes, even the type of wood used for the fire. Tressler had always wanted to make a beer using that homespun recipe. Hinterland’s maple Bock is the culmination of that inspiration.
Consider this. First, the taste of Maple does not come across so much in the final rendition of the beer. The syrup is used in the fermentation process. Rich in sugars, Maple syrup would seem an obvious choice, and the balance here at first taste is sublime, and characteristically rich, but with a slight tart finish. But it is the inspiration and the expertise that distinguishes this beer, and brings me to an important point.
There has to be an effort to stop using the word “craft” for these specialty brews. Artistic is closer. Indeed, Tressler came to this beer like an artist, drawing upon his life experience, considering the canvas deliberately, and rendering the composition with intuition and expertise. A strong recommendation for this one, but get it while it lasts. Bock beers mark the transition from Winter to Spring, which when it comes to beer, is entirely too short.
So join me now. No longer will I use the word “craft” when it comes to beer, unless a middle-aged housewife at a shopping mall serves it to me in a marcrame pouch. I have used that word, but now realize that I was insulting the artistry brewers like Hinterland bring to their creations. Besides, Art Beer sounds cooler, doesn’t it?
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Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., http://www.glunzbeers.com