Editor’s note: Gimme 5 is a five-question interview on a topic of local interest.
Since this is K Point Brewing’s second Bock Fest, that suggests the first one last January must have been a success. What was your assessment of the first one and why did you decide to do it again?
The customers seemed to have a lot of fun with our inaugural event and our turnout was larger than expected. We sold out of the doppelbock in about two hours, so Tom (the head brewer) brewed a bigger batch this year. After we ran out of the doppelbock, a lot of customers brought other beers out to be poked as it was so much fun.
I see “beer poking” is on the agenda. What exactly does that involve?
We’ll have a couple of wood fire pits on our patio. When someone comes up with their mug of doppelbock and asks to get poked, we’ll take the hot rod poker out of the fire and plunge it into the mug.
Where does the idea of beer poking come from and why are you bringing it to Eau Claire?
In homage to the Bock Fest that Schell’s Brewery has been putting on for over 30 years in Minnesota, we decided to bring our own version to Eau Claire starting in 2018.
Who knows the true genesis of beer poking? But in winter climates, gathering around a bonfire for a warm, poked beer revitalizes the spirit. It is a tradition that usually takes place when bock beers hit the market. The idea of warming a beer with a hot poker is likely a German creation and there are a handful of breweries in the United States keeping the tradition alive. As bizarre as the process sounds, these “beer fire poking” events show that there is a method to the madness.
The big unanswered question is how does a hot poker make the beer taste? Well, it turns out the change in flavor is part of the charm. First, using a bock is better than using a beer like an American lager because the bock has a higher sugar content to react with the heat. The bock fizzles and froths up a bit and changes composition. It develops depth of flavor, caramelizing the malt and imparting a smoky character while giving the beer a creamy mouthfeel. I had someone last year who described it as drinking a toasted marshmallow.
I see doppelbock is on the menu for the event. Can you explain what that is and what makes a bock beer unique?
Doppel meaning “double” is a style that is a bigger and stronger version of the traditional bock beers. Originally made by monks in Munich, doppelbock beer is copper colored and has notes of toasted bread. There is a malty, sweetness character that it takes on from the lightly toasted, Munich-style malt, which works perfect for the beer poking. Doppelbocks are full-bodied and strong, with ours coming in at 7 percent ABV (alcohol by volume).
January is an unusual time for an outdoor festival in Wisconsin. How many people do you expect to attend and how do you expect them to stay warm if the temperature drops?
First of all, dress warm if you want to be outside with Tom (the head brewer) and me. We’ll have two wood fire pits to stand around to help keep you warm. Some people just come outside to get their beer poked and then head back inside. It is a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the dead of winter. Last year we had over 100 people, so we are hoping to double that in 2019.
— Eric Lindquist