Bockfest is upon us once again, bringing with it the promise of Spring. Well, Spring, and delicious, sweet, malty Bock. I don't review a lot of lagers, but I like to get a good Bock in around Bockfest time each year, and this year is no exception. What's different this year is the beer. It's not fair to call today's beer just a plain ol' Bock. No, it's much, much more than that.
I'm really pleased to see that the Quaff Bros. line is continuing despite The Party Source opening their own brewery. The beers that Danny Gold and company have cranked out with local brewers are almost always unique and delicious, and I absolutely love sharing them with people. This one will mark the first time chilies have been used in a Quaff Bros. beer though, and their collaborator on this project makes perfect sense.
Brewed in conjunction with Blank Slate Brewing Co., Quaffanator is a Doppelbock. Since it was brewed with Blank Slate, the description doesn't really stop there, since staying "true to style" is something Blank Slate just doesn't do. In a move that would likely result in sales restrictions in Germany, Quaffanator is brewed with copious amounts of chilies, then aged in whiskey barrels. The result is something I can only describe as "super weird, yet incredibly balanced." Let's do this.
Quaffanator pours a fairly murky dark, dark brown into a dimpled mug (A vessel I've always equated with Bock). A little more violence during the pour adds some head to the beer, but the carbonation level is pretty low, which I've come to expect from a Doppelbock. A thin head etches itself around the edge of the glass in a faint mocha shade. The color of this beer is serious. It's a lot darker than I've come to expect from the style, and it's virtually opaque. I'd like to see what it looked like before entering those whiskey barrels, but something tells me that thought has flown the coop.
Sweet, burnt sugar and malt float around on the nose, met strongly by delicious aromas of chili pepper. I'm not sure of the chilies used in the construction of this beer, but there are several different twinges coming in on the nose. At the time of this review, there was no description available on Quaff Bros.' Web site, so I'm going from my personal experience (Edit: See note from the brewer below). The barrel-age character is mild in the smell, so I'm looking for more when I sip this beer.
Holy chili pepper, Batman! The chili flavor is off the charts in this beer. Far and away, it's chili city while drinking this brew, which is something I haven't experienced a lot in beers. Sweetness helps balance out the chili flavor on the end, and just a twinge of barrel character finishes things out. It's worth mentioning the heat level of Quaffanator is relatively low. For someone who eats a lot of spicy food (That's me, by the way), that might seem to be a weird statement, but even when I took a huge gulp of this beer, I just got a small hint of heat that dissipated quickly. It could be that the type of chilies used in Quaffanator were on the weak side, or the barrel-aging process took some of the burn out of the beer. The flavors are incredibly balanced though, and the lack of heat means even someone who isn't inclined to enjoy spiciness can appreciate this beer.
With a thick mouthfeel, the body of the beer matches its look. I definitely appreciate this, as it kept me from drinking the 8 percent ABV Doppelbock too quickly. I enjoyed the beer around the upper 40s in temperature, which I found pretty perfect. As it warmed up, I found the chili flavor becoming less enjoyable and more abrasive, and the alcohol character of the beer came through a lot more powerfully. Enjoy it in the mid-40s, and things will be just great.
Quaffanator continues the tradition Quaff Bros. has set, creating one-of-a-kind brews with an extremely high bar for quality. Like all of their beers, Quaffanator is a limited release – once they're gone, they're gone, so I highly recommend going out and buying a bottle (or two). Don't be afraid of the heat, either. It's mild. Share it with everyone so they get a taste, too!
Edit (Thanks Scott!): Scott LaFollette left a comment describing the "chili bill" that went into the beer: "The peppers used were (in no particular order): Habanero, Serrano, Poblano, Jalapeno, Italian Sweet (red, yellow, orange), Red Chili, and some other indiscriminate peppers from my garden. The idea was to have more pepper flavor and aroma with just enough heat to balance. Just enough to spice up that Bockwurst without melting your tongue off...."
Quaffanator was purchased in a 22oz bomber for $9.99 at the Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky. It was chilled to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit before pouring into a dimpled mug.