Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Beer Week(s) - Capital Imperial Doppelbock

OK, back on track, finally. I think. It's been a busy few weeks, but I hope you'll bear with me.

The nice thing about these big beers is that they do keep well. In a previous post we covered aging in pretty gory detail. What we discovered in that article are that the two biggest factors in aging are yeast and alcohol. In both cases, more is better. For yeast you are looking for sediment in the bottom (the yeast) that is active. High alcohol means a lot of sugars. A lot of sugars means that if there is yeast, there is something for the yeast to act on. A lot of sugars also means a lot of flavor, malt flavor to be precise. Over time these flavors will meld together and the flavors will mellow and combine to create greater complexities.

This beer hasn't really been aging that long: a few months to be precise - this is definitely from this year's batch, but I think I bought it in, maybe, December or so. So, it's got a few months on it. In a few years, the others in my cellar should be pretty interesting.

A final note: Imperial Doppelbocks are not typical. It's great to see Capital experimenting with these because, in my mind at least, doppelbocks and other lagers are what Kirby and Co. do best. I had this doppelbock straight out of the fermenter back in early December, so it'll be fun to taste it in a bottle to compare. The notes on the front of the bottle indicate amber candi sugar was used to increase fermentables and, therefore, the alcohol. That means, the body probably isn't a whole lot bigger, but the alcohol will be pretty high and there should be a little bit of hard-candy-like sweetness in the finish along with a long, esthery, finish.

Let's find out shall we?

Capital Imperial Doppelbock
BeerAdvocate (B+). RateBeer (78).
Appearance: a thin, wispy head that even an aggressive pour doesn't do much for; the alcohol clings to the side providing wine-like legs; more carbonated than I might have otherwise expected; the deep, deep caramel color is virtually impenetrable
Aroma: malt, malt and more malt; lots of big, malt complexity in the aroma; the candi sugar and alcohol are there at the front, but the caramel and munich(?) malts come in quickly; they all combine for a pretty amazing earthy fruity aroma, like caramel or sweet chocolate covered cherries or figs; a slight brandy aroma; if it seems like I'm writing a lot about the aroma, it's because, well, the aroma itself is pretty damn awesome
Flavor: thick-bodied with alcohol present in the front, middle and finish; the candi sugar is present though the base malts really shine to provide a sophisticated, brandy-like flavor; as it warms up, the caramels and biscuits come out more in the finish
Body: coats the mouth like a syrup, without being syrupy, and the alcohol provides a continuity of flavor that really stands out
Drinkability: a four-pack goes a long way, one person really doesn't need more than a 1/2 bottle of this, but it would definitely pair well with most any sophisticated winter Wisconsin meal; I wouldn't feel bad serving or drinking this at any dinner instead of wine
Summary: very, very nice; I wish the flavors really popped more, as it is they are surprisingly subtle behind a pretty big wall of alcohol giving it more of a wine, as opposed to barleywine, character; I think this is because with beers like this, we are used to barleywine, and ale yeasts that provide big yeast esthers and flavors of their own that compete with, and add to, flavor complexities; in this case, the lager yeast finishes clean and somewhat dry, leaving the ale expectations unsatisfied; but, amazingly, the lager yeast allows the yeast to stay out of the way, really allowing the alcohol and malts to shine; moreover, also missing here are the big hop characters that we often find in barleywine; again, the lack of hops (many barleywines can be in excess of 80+ IBU!), really lets the malts and alcohol render this closer to a wine than an barleywine; this is a beer that really needs to be served at close to cellar temperatures, not refrigerator temps, so pull it out and let it sit on a counter for a good 20 to 30 minutes before you even serve it - the sweet spot for this thing is close to 55 or 60 degrees


  1. As a fairly new homebrewer (2 years) I recently began studying for the BJCP exam. For dopplebocks the OG can range from 1.072 - 1.112 and the alcohol can be 7 - 10%. I can't find a catagory called "Imperial Dopplebock". Like I said I'm rather new to this and still learning. Is this maybe a rather slick misleading marketing term to describe it as a potent high alcohol brew, i.e Malt liquour. In some states anything above 6% is all called malt liquor. Thanks for the website, byw the cheese/beer pairing you did was great at the Malt House.

  2. FWIW I haven't had this beer yet. Is it filtered/pasteurized??

    First: to pick nits "High alcohol means a lot of sugars" this is not always true. If there are few residual sugars in the high alcohol beer you're out of luck with the yeast continuing to work; they will contribute yeasty, bready flavors to the profile over time.

    Second: In my experience, malty lagers (bock/doppelbock) do not develop well with longer(3+yrs) time in the bottle. What little hop presence (which balances the malt in young beers) fades and the malt becomes pronounced and unbalanced. In higher alcohol styles of lager the alcohol becomes harsh and edgy.

    So, I hope to try this sometime as I've heard great things about it, but I won't age any.

    Other notes: the Belgian Barleywine that Capital and Great Dane did was really one dimensional to me - lots of apricot and marmalade sweetness and alcohol. The finish was really cloying after the third sip.

    When are we going to get a review of the new ThermoRefur???


  3. John--
    New to the "area?" Where? Capital is available in bottles all over this great Badger state; Dane's brews are at their three Madison-area locations, and a new spot up in Wausau, where the fantastic Red Eye is located. Dane brews are also featured on tap at many bars (look for the Great Dane handles). You can also find an amazing selection of beers on tap in Madison at such spots as the Malt House, Alchemy, the Old Fashioned. The list is far too numerous for details. In Madison, you are in beer nirvana.
    Cheers, and best of luck on your tasty brew quest.

  4. John - Welcome to the area, The Red Eye is brewpub located in Wausau. They are quite good. There pizza is baked in a wood fired oven. The Grumpy Troll is a brewpub located in Mt Horeb. There brews are award winning. My personal favorite right now is the "Grumpy Creek" Pale Ale. Like BBM stated the overrated Capital beer is all over, I would recommend other local favorites like New Glarus or Furthermore. Their beers are well made and diverse. We are blessed to have such wonderful breweries in our state.

    Cheers, JC.

  5. Wow! Thanks guys, as soon as I get things together here at work I am going to find some of these great Madison beers.


  6. Hey I am trying to get down to Dark Lord day at Three Floyds. I have not been there before, but I hear it ROCKS! Three Floyds, Bells and Founders are three of the best breweries in the world. I can wait to get KBS and CBS from Founders next month when we go to Indiana and Michigan. Oh yea Capital Dopplebock is good, but pales to the others that I mentioned.


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