Osburn On Tap: Time to Put Away Your Stouts and Porters

By: Chris Osburn
March 24, 2008

Spring may be a few days old, but for those of us living in the northeast, this doesn't necessarily mean warmer weather right away. To those of you living in more southern parts of the U.S., who have never lived here and therefore can't feel my pain and understand my cabin fever, you stink. Up north, late March and early April is more of a start of spring in mindset than in actual feeling. Most likely it will continue to snow for a few more weeks, and we will undoubtedly end up getting another blizzard. Even though it's supposedly spring, Mother Nature isn't really one for following rules.

I like to think that as long as we get in a warm weather mindset, we can will the environment to follow suit. If we think enough happy thoughts, maybe a warm front will shoot up from Mexico and we can sit on our front porches while enjoying a nice hefeweizen or two, right? Well, the fact of the matter is not all of us have nice porches to sit on, the weather is still rather cold and cloudy, and it is going to stay like this for a little while longer.

None of this matters to me though, because just as the Autumnal Equinox in September is a clue to us that it is time to start getting our fleece jackets and gloves out while starting to take a closer look at Oktoberfest style brews, after the Vernal Equinox takes place on March 20th, it's officially time to start putting away our darker brews and begin thinking about lighter fair.

We all enjoyed Guinness (and some of us Beamish) last week, but now that April is approaching, it's time to finish off our last pint and move on to something else. That something else is Bock. I didn't say we were going to drop darker beers cold turkey and jump right into see-through yellow beer, did I? Bock is the perfect brew to enjoy while the weather hasn't yet made it easy for us to decide whether to wear sandals or boots.

There are four kinds of Bock beers: Bock, Maibock, DoppelBock, and Eisbock. Bock, the traditional version of the style, is bottom fermented like the others, but this one contains a clashing of malt and hop presence. The malt wins out in the end and makes for a rich flavor without a lot of bitterness. Maibock is the lighter and paler cousin of traditional Bock and is usually a little more bitter than traditional Bock.

Catholic Monks in Germany originally brewed Doppelbock while they were fasting during lent. The darkest and most "bready" of the all the Bocks, this brew is much heavier and higher in nutrients than normal, lighter styles. Therefore, monks could throw back a few and still not break their heavenly vows. Eisbock, the last version, is simply bock that has been frozen during the fermentation process to make it the strongest, kick-you-in-the-butt version of them all. Weizenbock, a meshing of Doppelbock and wheat ale is sometimes added to the list as well.

Some brands available stateside include: Samuel Adam's Double Bock, Anchor Brewing Company's Anchor Bock, High Falls Brewing Company's Genesee Bock Beer (limited release), Spaten Brewery's Optimator, Harpoon Brewery's Maibock, and Brewery Ayinger's Celebrator among many others. I suggest taking a walk around your local beer store to take a look for yourself.

"And now for something completely different..."

I recently got a digital HD-DVR box for my High Definition television. One would assume that I also just purchased an HDTV. at this time. Sadly, I've had the TV for over two years and was too lazy to get an HD box until now. In fact, I didn't even go get the box myself; my brother did.

Upon reading the list of HD channels that were now available to me, I came across MojoHD. If Spike TV is the frat boy known for getting drunk and streaking in the quad to impress girls, Mojo is the Grad student who did that years ago, but has grown up and bought a CD to teach him how to play the guitar to impress women instead. (Don't worry; I don't know what that means either.) Although similar to Spike, Mojo is more high-brow and appears to cater mostly to adult males as opposed to the college set. There are tech, cooking, travel, music, and sports programs, as well as movies. Most of the content is original to the network.

What does this have to do with beer, you say? Well, it has everything to do with beer. Several years ago, when I was in college, one of my favorite TV shows was "Insomniac" on Comedy Central. Although it isn't on anymore, "Insomniac" was a weekly show where comedian Dave Attell would drunkenly tour various bars and eateries in different cities every week.

The show was very funny, but was more about getting hammered and making raunchy jokes than actually learning anything important about a certain city or neighborhood in the process. I feel I have grown up since then and the next step is the MojoHD show "Three Sheets."

This show has a similar overall description as the last show in that it is about traveling to different cities and imbibing in local brews and it is also hosted by a comedian, Zane Lamprey. While "Insomniac" rarely left the U.S., "Three Sheets" is more of a world travel show that just happens to contain quite a bit of recreational drinking. Each episode consists of the host trying a local cuisine which is usually supposed to make it possible for him to drink much more than he really should, an evening of drinking with locals, and a local hangover cure the next morning. Littered throughout each episode are random facts and historical information about the regions that are visited and the beverages they are most known for.

I don't advocate irresponsible drinking, and I really feel that below the surface this show doesn't either. The concept of the show is that every night, all over the world, people gather at pubs and restaurants to socialize and enjoy the company of friends. This is a universal concept and one that every society seems to agree upon.

In Mexico, Zane visited a tequila factory and we learn how tequila is made, from the fields of Blue Agave plants all the way to your glass. After trips to France and Italy, we learn the difference between Champagne and Prosecco. In Munich, Zane arrived during Oktoberfest and purchased a pair of Lederhosen before visiting a few of the six official beer "tents" in the Theresienwiese, or Therese's Meadow (or the fairgrounds to us silly Americans). The largest of the tents, the Spaten Tent, holds more than 10,000 jolly Bavarians and travelers from all over the world.

To see where Zane will visit next, check out the new season starting Thursday April 10th at 9PM eastern or visit www.mojohd.com.

"Osburn on Tap" appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, contact him at ChristopherOsburn@hotmail.com.