Dopplebocks. Along with the rauchbier and barleywine it is one of the most divisive styles. You either love 'em or hate 'em. It is the anti-IPA. No hops, practically all malt. Thick, chewy malts. We've already reviewed one of the world's finest here on this site. Typical of the style are chocolatey and roasted notes, thick body, and often subtle hints of cherry or even brandy-ish alcohol. But, like all styles, there's some room for movement. Of course, at some point the dopplebock becomes a vienna lager (lighter and lower alcohol). The ale version is often spiced and called a "christmas ale" or "holiday ale" or "celebration ale."
Capital is known for its dark lagers. They've been brewing them forever; or at least since 1984. Since 1997 the Autumnal Fire has been winning awards. It routinely receives rave reviews at RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. And it easy to see why. It is a supremely drinkable doppelbock; though, if you get too caught up in it, you might regret its 8.5% ABV.
Its ruddy complexion has a thin, wispy white head with very little lacing and little, as the wine folks might say, legs. While this atypical of the style (the thick, heavier beer tend to lace quite well), it is not so alarming as to really notice. In fact Augustiner's dopplebock (Maximator, which I promise I will write about soon) is similarly handicapped. The aroma of the Autumnal Fire is not quite similar to its Oktoberfest, a malty, caramel and sweet aroma; though this has a cherry brightness and a yeasty mellowness that makes it more complex than the Oktoberfest and lacks any of the hops. There isn't really chocolate on the aroma, so to find it in the taste is moderately surprising; it is quite sneaky. But, it is there, wedged between a strong roasty caramel sweetness and long finish of subtle alcohol notes. The body, as mentioned, is on the thin side for the style with none of the typical syrupy-ness that can be so difficult. Perhaps one of the few complaints would be that the tastes don't hold together, once the sharpness hits, the flavors are gone, leaving little residual flavor. It is a difficult beer to savor.
What is most interesting is that Capital insists on releasing the Autumnal Fire in a six-pack. The style, and even Capital's version, is a heavy (heavier) beer. While it is not a "special" beer, it is not available year-round. But the style is typically sold in single bottles. Where they are super-heavy (e.g., the Samiclaus) they are sold in the 12 ounce size, while the lighter ones might be sold in a 1.25 pint bottle. In America, we might package them in "bombers" (22 ounce). In any event, six of them seems a little much. And, truly, they could probably sell four at the same price they are currently selling six.
Personally, I rarely drink more than one of these at a time. Thus, it is a waste of space and money for me to buy 6 of them. I might be more inclined to purchase them more often in singles. Which, I suppose, is probably a request for the retailers out there. However, I might also be willing to buy a 4-pack, much like New Glarus packages its "unplugged" series. This would give me enough to drink, without wondering what I'm going to do with the other 5 bottles. In the meantime they will be dated and cellared.
Does anyone have experience with aging the Autumnal Fire? How does it hold up?