Sunday, December 21, 2008
Leinies Bock is back!!
During my holiday liquor mission yesterday I ran into one of my old hockey buddies who, conveniently, is the beer buyer at Surdyks, a very fine liquor venue in Northeast Minneapolis. When I asked him what was new he said that the original Leinenkugels Bock, renamed 1888 Bock, was back. Memories immediately popped into my head and a 12 pack immediately popped into my cart.
I grew up about 15 miles south of the Leninkugels brewery in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. It was the Old Man's favorite beer and two returnable cases were a permanent fixture next to the door that went from the garage to the house. Regular Leinie's was a small cut above the Schlitz/Pabst/Miller/Bud of the day, perhaps because Leinies continued to use leaf hops instead of hop pellets, a substance closely resembling rabbit dung or that bad 'natural' cereal they sell. It was the Leinies Bock however, that was different from other beers of the time. Rather than the pale yellow, over carbonated, and undrinkable above 40 degrees F 'American lagers', it was dark, flavorful, and actually had some character. It was produced in the spring, right around the start of Lent, and the rumor was they made it when they 'cleaned the tanks'. The tank thing was ridiculous, of course, but the timing got me in to the habit of giving up light beer for Lent. I do not believe I've violated my Lenten pledge for nearly two decades now. It was pretty much the first beer I ever tasted that pushed the envelope and I credit it with getting me on the trail of the good beer that's available today.
One of my fondest memories of Leinies Bock was when the Old Man, his buddy Hoot, and me headed up to our lake cottage early one spring to construct a storage shed. The cottage was not a current day 'lake home' but an uninsulated, oil burner heated frame building with an outhouse and a hand pump halfway down the hill to the lake. We headed up in early April, armed with our tools and a cooler full of sandwiches and Leinies Bock. I must have been about 17 years old at the time. As we built this structure we sipped on the Bock and carried out the instructions on my Keweenaw Brewing T-Shirt. Keweenaw is in Houghton, MI and was founded by Michigan Tech engineering grads. The instructions are, "Drink beer. Material balance. Iterate". The shed was right up next to the woods in back so the 'material balance part consisted of simply turning around on the platform and peeing off the back of the structure into the woods. After 3 or 4 hours of work the place was framed up and it was time to frame in the windows. When I asked Hoot where he wanted the window in the back he looked at it with a critical eye, thought for a moment, and told me, "Better put 'er about shvanz high".
The good bye party for Leinies Bock in the returnable case took place about 5 years ago, once again in the spring of the year on a weekend where there was work to be done. Pod and I headed out to camp to burn some brush before the woods dried out, and like that spring weekend many years before, brought a supply of Leinies Bock. Only this time we knew they were discontinuing the Bock to brew insipid crap like Berry Weiss and Summer Shandy. We got the pile going and then, to avoid any runaway forest fires, sat and watched it like hawks for several hours, leaving only for material balance. The photo above illustrates our vigilance perfectly. You can't see our fire fighting equipment in the photo but trust me, its there.
This beer isn't an assertive dark beer like a winter warmer or even a malty German style bock. Its a good 'session beer' as my English buddies say, one that you can have a few of and still be in pretty good shape. It actually reminds me more of a mild ale than a bock but what it really reminds me of is good times, good memories, and an very early glimpse of the outdoor beer drinking season.