Tag Archives: doppelbock

Let’s do Lunch: Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub

15 Mar

Considering what seems like half of the search hits to this blog have come from queries related to my earlier posts on the impending opening of Sprecher’s Restaurant & Brewery, I figured it was high time I made an appearance to get the lay of the land.  Sunday lunch with Pops seemed like a good time to see what they’ve done with the former Houlihan’s space.  Now I’m not sure I ever went to that particular Houlihan’s but based on the Wisconsin Dells location I’m sure it was lots of booths and dark wood and lamps and appeteasers.

The location, on John Q. Hammonds Drive in Middleton, is pastoral meets office park and the building itself is your standard national chain-style box.  Inside, they’ve done a respectable job of creating a comfortable dining and drinking atmosphere with a mix of table and booth seating and display cases of German beer glassware flanking the large U-shaped bar.  Several flat-screen TVs in the bar area were showing typical Sunday afternoon sports fare, namely golf and World’s Strongest Man re-runs on The Deuce.  The walls of the bar area were adorned with impressionist-style “paintings” depicting scenes from around Madison including Camp Randall and the Memorial Union Terrace.  It’s a nice reminder that even though I’m in a bar/restaurant between a field and an office park that I’m still technically in Madison.

Their selection of Sprecher beers on-tap was surprisingly robust with 14 offerings including year-round, seasonal and special releases in addition to 4 draft sodas (even more beer and soda available by the bottle).  In my post-racquetball tournament body coma, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Doppelbock was my poison of choice today.  Served in a snifter, this doppelbock went down silky smooth thanks to the softness imparted by the oak and bourbon and finished with a vanillin’-laced malty sweetness.  I’m glad to see them really committing to carrying the entire Sprecher catalog.

The menu spans the familiar territory of soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches, with a selection of flatbreads and entrees ranging from steak and ribs to a “Thai Peanut Bowl”.  The eclectic menu evokes similar wide-ranging ethnic-fusion dishes present on the Great Dane’s menu which also includes a peanut stew and Ahi tuna salad.  The lightness of the latter dish appealed to my weary digestive system and overall “morning-after” disposition.  It mimicked the Dane’s rendition in the execution of its sesame-seared tuna, peanuts and crispy wonton strips, but veered from the Thai theme with the inclusion of a chile-lime dressing and jicama.  It was crisp and refreshing, if somewhat less inspired than some other versions I’ve had.  My dad opted for the Sunday brunch buffet which included a selection of standard breakfast meats and sides, prime rib and a design-your-own-omelet station.  He was feeling a little under-the-weather and didn’t end up indulging with his usual gusto, but said it was otherwise satisfactory and comparable to similar brunch buffets around town.

I think the place has potential to do great business with the built-in office park crowd and nearby lifestyle shopping centers and the Sprecher brand name certainly carries a certain caché among those who dabble in the craft beer scene.  It would certainly be a place I would stop in after work or drop by if I was in the area, though I doubt its location would land it on my regular nightlife rotation.  I can’t help but continue to think of Sprecher’s as a sort of Great Dane Lite for the Far West Set, which is certainly no major slight to Sprecher’s as they could pick far worse establishments from which to draw inspiration.  I foresee some post-shift Sprecher-sipping in the near future now that I have a decent beer spot between my two places of employment.


New(ish) Brew: Capital Imperial Doppelbock

16 Feb

It is well-known to any self-respecting Wisconsin beer-lover that Kirby Nelson of Capital Brewing is the local (in not national) king of doppelbocks.  From Blonde to Autumnal Fire to the once-a-half-decade top dog, Eisphyre. As Capital has branched out from its German roots (with debatable results), some old friends have been left by the wayside (Dark Doppelbock and Weizenbock among them).  The Dark was one of my favorites as I got into the rich German style and I was certainly sad to see it discontinued.  Needless to say, I was pleased when I took my first sip of Imperial Doppelbock (Codename: Barbara – Kirby’s wife’s name) only to recognize a lot of Dark’s smooth character.  I must say, the idea of an Imperial-Double-Bock (does that make it a quadruple bock?) seems comically extreme, even in today’s age of imperialized everything in the craft beer world.  This beer came out in bottles around the holidays (after a few test batches reached local tap lines last year), so it isn’t brand new, but should still be kicking around some area shelves.

Beer: Capital Imperial Doppelbock

Style: (Big) Doppelbock

Vitals: 9.0% abv, uses Belgian amber candi sugar as an adjunct

Company line: A Dark hued version of the style utilizing the addition of amber candi sugar to “Imperialize” the situation.  Although honoring our Brewmaster’s wife Barbara, its cleverly derived acronym was deemed unacceptably unacceptable”

My take: pours a deep, translucent mahogany in the glass under a finger of caramel-tinged foamy head.  Nose is full of molasses, caramel, biscuit and dark fruits.  Raisin and candied dates star on the palate with caramelized sugar and molases adding body without feeling cloying.  Mouthfeel is velvety smooth and left slightly coated after each sip though the overall impression is biscuity and dry.  An impressively rich-yet-smooth doppelbock that manages its 9.0% heft with grace and elegance – traits I’m sure the brewer had in mind when naming it after his better half.  Long live the king of doppelbocks.

Then and Now: Capital Eisphyre 2006 vs. 2009

17 Nov


Capital Brewery is world-renowned for it’s spot-on reproduction of German-style lager beers. Brewmaster Kirby Nelson has particularly nailed the robust doppelbock style with a number of impeccable variations including Dark Doppelbock, Weizenbock, and local favorites Blonde Doppelbock and Autumnal Fire.  The later is a rich fall seasonal built on an Oktoberfest base and can be found warming spirits this time of year all across the greater Madison area.  A few years ago, Kirby went one better by further enriching the Autumnal Fire through the eisbock method – that is chilling the fermented beer below freezing in order to skim off the ice that forms, thus concentrating the alcohol and malt flavors.  The result was an impressive beer with an impressive, if Dungeons and Dragons-esque name: EisPhyre.

EisPhyre was made in extremely-limited quantities as what appeared to be a one-time offering.  As such it disappeared quickly as people stocked their cellars for a beer that seemed suited to laying down.  To our surprise, the phoenix was reborn this month as EisPhyre returned to the shelves for an encore performance.  Luckily, I showed the patience and foresight to hold on to two bottles in hopes of just such an occasion.  Eisphyre showed promise for laying down over its first year-plus, but how has it held up after over three and a half years?  Let’s take a look at my review of the original, circa June 2006

Following the name, pours a fiery orange-red-amber with streams of carbonation and a short, foamy tan head in my vintage Schlitz goblet that vaporizes in mere seconds. Nose is subdued – bready malts with a metallic undertone, backed by some light fruit and alcoholic vapors. Taste jumps out from behind that meek nose with loads of doughy malt, sweet caramel, tropical fruits and an alcoholic kick that boxes you right on the temples. To know that Autumnaldave drank two 44oz mugs of this in succession at the brewery boggles my mind; a bottle under my belt and I am surely feeling the effects – though the drinability remains deceptively high and the mouthfeel is velvety and luxurious. Predictably, this is Autumnal Fire on steroids – but only the most refined and dignified prescription. A truly Wisconsin-made lager here, enough to make a Madison-born boy proud.

After a year or so, the booziness was definitely mellowed, and the malty complexity really came to shine.  Over three years later, the original batch has coalesced into a viscous malt concentrate.  Completely gone is any discernable hops presence to balance out the intense sweetness.  Coupled with a diminished carbonation level means this has become a kind of sippable malt liqueur.  The depth of malt is still there for sure, with rich caramels, brown sugar and gooey figs and dates.  While it may have lost some of the balance that made it a dangerously drinkable eisbock in the past, it has managed to stay defect free and avoided taking on any metallic or vegetal off-flavors that is common in beers of this age.  I’m glad I drank most of what I had every few months as it aged so I could track its maturation.   It’s safe to day it’s not getting any better at this point, but it has been a fun ride.  On to the fresh stuff.

Ahhhh, there it is.  A brisk, minty hops flourish to stand up to the sticky malts.  This is a case where I appreciate the rougher edges and crisp carbonation of the fresh beer that keep it from resembling a pancake topping.  The Autmnal Fire base is obvious here, with the main differences being a richer mouthfeel and warming alcohol presence.  Tasting the fresh next to the aged really accentuates the hops and their vital importance to making this a balanced and drinkable beer for its size.  If you’re a fan of big, malty German bockbier, EisPhyre embodies the style with a bit of American swagger for good measure.  Get it while you can, which won’t be long.  Somewhere in the area of 250 cases were produced for the area.

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