I have been waiting to try this one for a while! While bocks are literally THE beer that started me drinking craft beer (nod to Granite City's "Brother Benedict's Bock"), weizens were not too far behind. So to combine the two should result in a beer that will be near and dear to my heart for the foreseeable future. Plus, to add an interesting new twist to a brew is something that I always appreciate. This beer has a lot going for it (AND it is made by Left Hand) before I even open the bottle and I am very excited. Let's pour!
|Picture is my own. Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.|
You can smell this as soon as you pry off the cap. Once in the glass there is dark roasted malt which borders on a coffee-ish aroma, and the smell of chaw (though it is really the Lapsang Suochong tea). This tea is apparently smoked and the smoke definitely lends a strong hand to the scent. There are some other scents at play here (blacked bananas, bits of caramel, etc), but they are so hard to elaborate on because this beer smells so much like Campbell's Bean & Bacon soup. The smokiness, the tea, and some sort of flavoring all come together to make an uncanny (no pun intended) resemblance to the universally known soup. While it does make one a bit nostalgic for childhood meals, it is not a very exciting prospect in a weizen doppelbock.
Pours like a melted root beer float into the glass. The color is also cola-esque, but has milky looking edges when held to light. Head is traditionally textured (not the thick, whipped creaminess one likes to see in a weizen), small, tan, and quickly disappears to barely a collar that leaves no lacing.
|Picture is my own.|
This beer has elements of weizen and doppelbock, but pretty much none of those elements are exampled in the flavor. First sips yield dark toasted malt and a hit of banana, yeasty goodness. Hopes and dreams are then dashed as the backbone resorts back to the tea (not bad), the bean and bacon soup (bad), and an overwhelming amount of smoke. Not just campfire smoke like a rauchbier, but a flavored artificial smoke that borders on mesquite, but lands closer to chaw (again, the tea). When one slurps like wine, some of the dark fruits and the sweet brown tea flavors can become more apparent, but they are fighting a losing battle. The finish does not change much from the backbone and the aftertaste is similar, although a bit more sour. Where is the weizen? The bock seems to be only present in name and roast.
Oddly enough, with all that is stylistically incorrect with other areas of this beer, the mouthfeel does score a bit better. It has a medium body, with tiny yet lasting carbonation, and a med-low level of creaminess. The only concern lies with a slickness that is left in the mouth.
Oveall Impression 5/10
This beer is grossly mislabeled. The flavor and aroma (some of the best parts) of the weizen are completely absent, but still show through in body. Only the roast and color of the doppelbock are present, but also at the expense of the flavor. The tea, nay, smoked tea, completely dominates this beer with both the flavors and aromas of the tea and the sweet smoke. Other technical merits abound, as one would expect from this brewer, but the flavor while grand in idea, leaves much to be desired in the results.
Sorry, Left Hand. I like you guys. I really do, but I leave a bit disappointed on this one. You promised me two of my favorite and most familiar styles and then left me waiting for them to show themselves. The idea of tea (or other various crazy ingredients) is an idea I will always respect. Else how will craft beer discover new styles, flavors, or varieties of those existing? However, there are certain things one expects when drinking a weizen, or a doppelbock, or any other beer. Those expectations should, and sometimes do, border on the stylistic requirements of the brew. This beer gave me bean and bacon soup when I wanted a big, dark, toasty, banana-laden, creamy, hazy, sweet treat. Kudos to Left Hand for not being satisfied with the status quo and trying new ingredients in their beers/styles. Keep them coming! Please! Just remember the styles off of which you are building (if utilizing existing styles at all), and to feature their best assets.