Happy Accidents!

by Jim Lundstrom

I often think of the first person to come up with an individual style, and I have come to the conclusion that more often than not, that person’s genius product was pure happenstance.

In short, I think many of the great things in life were created by accident.

Take, for example, eisbock. 

I believe this frozen bock beer was created by accident centuries ago, by a German homebrewer or small craft brewer. He brewed up his annual batch of bock beer for the spring, brewing it in the fall or early winter and letting it lager in whatever they used as a cellar in those ancient times (I have to imagine eisbock is an ancient style).

One unusually cold winter or early spring (much like the wintery springs we have around here), the brewer’s bock froze. After cursing himself for his bad luck, he pulled a sheet of ice from the barrel of beer. He was certain it was ruined (or at least that’s how I picture the scenario).

He didn’t know that he had just brewed the strongest bock on earth – eisbock, or ice bock.

I feel the brewer would have given up on the beer, but he mentioned the frozen beer to someone, maybe even his wife, and that person said, well, let’s give it a taste.

The brewer didn;t know exactly what he had skimmed off in his beer. Maybe what was left was poisonous.

So he found someone to sample his frozen bock, and a beatific smile appeared on the taster’s face with the first sip.

“You got something here, partner,” the taster said to the brewer.

So the brewer poured himself a portion. The taste was exceedingly good, with much more going on than the regular bock he had on tap at the time (not all the barrels froe).

An unstoppable smile spread across his face as he realized he had created a style that would endure through the ages, and, probably, due to its high alcohol content, can be aged through the ages. But who can wait?

The ice that forms on the beer, of course, is the water, not the alcohol, and because of that, bock beers are traditionally stronger than other lagers (yes, bock is a lager). Essentially, you make a water extraction that concentrates the flavors of the traditional malty style of bock beer.

You don’t see enough eisbocks, which makes them a real treat. I had the pleasure of finding one at an incredible price. There was no doubt that this ice bock in a 750 ml champagne-ish bottle was coming home with me. I only wish I could have left with some of its siblings as well.

Even though it’s in smaller type than the rest of the not-large label, my eyes immediately saw the word “eisbock,” which was followed by “aged in bourbon barrels.”

It’s a celebration beer, for the 30th anniversary of Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee. 

The label reads: “Here’s to 30 years on the job and 200 million beers for our mob.”

I love that story!

Also written on the label of the bottle I bought was that I now owned the 1,294th bottle of the 5,000 bottle limited release. Nice! I feel it was meant to be.

And that is how these eisbocks work, singing their siren song with each sip, upsetting your personal ship of state with its incredible beauty and softness and, yes, I’ll say it, femininity.

She seduces me!

And she is so good! 

So full of intense flavors dancing on the palate long after each sip – lively, peppery, intense, illuminating.

Eisbock is amazing, and this 11.16 percent is a lovely bruiser of a bock. She comes on just like a woman (to paraphrase Mr. Dylan), but she punches just like a large and angry transvestite.

Still, such a pleasure to enjoy because of the transvestite’s good humor about being a happy accident. 

I almost wish I would have shared this beer with one or three other of my beer-loving pals, but, then again, I’m glad I had her all to myself. 

This is a beer that should be shared, but when it comes to eisbock, I am a greedy and jealous bastard.