Rating Kulmbacher Eisbock And Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball

Categories: Hophead
eisbock.jpg
Jesse Hughey
Kulmbacher Eisbock
Apologies for this week's post being both tardy and short, my fellow beer lovers, but kid-related circumstances have kept Lady Hophead and I housebound, and trying new brews was temporarily knocked down a few pegs on the priority list.

Good news is I managed to take some notes on a couple of recent purchases during the 20-percent off Sunday special at the Park Place Whole Foods. Bad news is I can't find the receipts, so the Party Factor rankings will be a rough estimate from my almost reliable short-term memory.

We picked out a sixer of Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball, made up a mixed six pack of a few old favorites and, after some price-related hemming and hawing, a six pack of Kulmbacher Eisbock. Kulmbacher claims theirs is the "Original Eisbock," with the origin story on the packaging (and on the website). Eisbock, German for "ice bock," is created by freezing the beer after brewing and removing the ice crystals. This removes some of the water, leaving behind a more highly alcoholic beer with a more concentrated flavor. According to "the chronicles of the Kulmbacher brewery," the beer style was an accidental discovery dating back to 1900 when a couple of kegs were inadvertently left out to freeze during the winter and discovered the following spring.

Fortunately, the end result has very little in common with Bud Ice, Icehouse or any of the other awful ice beers that came out during the '90s. After the jump, it gets the full Hophead Beer Ranking System treatment, as does Lagunitas winter seasonal, the strong ale Hairy Eyeball.

Kulmbacher Eisbock
Appearance: Dark ruby-brown and clear, with a big but short lived tan, creamy head. Very inviting, though the bottle design isn't nearly as cool as the foil-coated design I remember from a bottle I received in a beer-of-the-month club mailing a few years ago. 9/10
Nose: Not very intense. Alcohol definitely has a strong presence, as does a sweet maltiness characterized by dark fruits and caramel. 8/10
Taste: Tangy, sweet and alcoholic warmth. It's a very complex blend of dark fruits--dates, figs, raisins--and caramel/molasses sweetness. Hops are a faint afterthought. It tastes exactly like what it is: a distilled version of an excellent bock. 40/40
Body: Thick and creamy, almost syrupy. This is definitely a sipper. 9/10
Finish: Almost tangy, but I think that's more because of alcohol than any bittering agent. Sticky and lingers in a very pleasant way. 10/10
Style/Originality: This is the only eisbock I've ever had, so I don't have much to compare it to. But I love the origin story and the fact that Kulmbacher created the style or if nothing else has the gall to claim that it did. 10/10
Party Factor: I'm pretty sure this was originally marked at $16.99 for a six pack of 11.2 oz. bottles, but during the sale was reduced to $13.59. At 9.2 percent ABV, that comes out to 3.79, rounding up to 4.
Total: 90, which sounds right. Highly recommended, even for the price. An excellent special-occasion beer.  

Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball
Appearance: Dark reddish-brown, with ruby showing when held to light and a dense beige head that leaves behind plenty of lacing. 9/10
Nose: Sweet toffee and caramel malts with a hint of holiday spices. 10/10
Taste: Very malty but not overly sweet. Along with the expected toffee, caramel and molasses notes, there's some nuttiness and it's balanced with a little more citrus hop flavor than I anticipated. The high alcohol content is very well-hidden. The packaging makes a passing holiday reference, and indeed it reminds me of some of my favorite Christmas brews. 38/40
Body: Very thick, rich and smooth. 10/10
Finish: A bit dryer on the finish than expected for such a sweet beer, thanks to a great combination of hops and spiciness. 10/10
Style/Originality: A unique holiday beer that I wouldn't mind drinking any time of year. 10/10
Party Factor: I'm pretty sure the six pack of 12-oz. bottles was originally $8.99, coming to $7.19 during the sale. At 8.8 percent ABV, that comes to a strong Party Factor of 7.3, rounding to 7.
Total: Great all-around beer with a high party factor makes this a 94.

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