27 April 2008

Sprecher Mai Bock/Black Bavarian (WIS)

I hadn't seen anything from this Milwaukee based brewer before, so I wonder if they just began distributing to Western New York. They are evidently more renowned for their soda than for their beer. The 16-ounce bottles ($8.50 a 4-pack) have twist off caps, unusual for a craft brewer, but unlike macro bottles, they're really hard to open.

Mai Bock: This is a seasonal brew, a robust pale lager. It pours a lightly hazy orange-yellow with a weak head. Overall, it's a bit more malty than hoppy, although there's definite bitterness along with the bready sweetness. The neck label claims a "distinctive flowery aroma and a crisp hop flavor," which is mostly correct, though I'm not sure if it comes across as entirely crisp. It has a rich body, nice soft carbonation, and a very long aftertaste. I like this beer a good deal, but it might not win over lager skeptics. It's probably more suitable for early, cool spring than for sunny May days.

Black Bavarian: Another lager, this appears to be one of their most respected offerings. I like schwarzbiers a lot, with Sam Adams providing my current favorite. Sprecher's take is smokier. It starts out sweet, has some spiciness and bitterness, but is quickly overtaken by pretty heavy roasted malts. It reminds me a bit of Saranac Chocolate Amber Lager in that respect, or perhaps some stouts I've had. I'm not enthralled with smokiness, which is a strike against Sprecher for me. On the plus side, it has the same appealing soft carbonation as the Mai Bock. Black Bavarian is a well-made beer, and I think it's a question of what you're looking for.

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