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Local Libations: Beer Gone Berserk

2011 March 18

by Lauren Wilson, Photos by Aaron Ekroth & Michael Harlan Turkell courtesy of Sixpoint Craft Ale. Others by the author.

Glass of Berserker BockLast week Brianna featured an equally unconventional and interesting wine: Habanero Passion Fruit from San Diego County. This lively flavor combination, coupled with the first signs of good weather here in Brooklyn, got me very excited for the coming summer months when wine will finally be enjoyed outdoors again.

But the kooky flavor combination also reminded me of a beer (or series of beers, actually) that I have been meaning to check out since their launch back in December. The brewers at Sixpoint Craft Ale in Brooklyn have decided to play Mad Scientists and are concocting a series of entirely unique and innovative brews, with a new offering being released every 2 months.

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The second offering in the Mad Scientists series (following the Spelt Wine released in December) is Berserker Bock, a beer inspired by the brewing tradition of a group of fierce Norse warriors who were known for entering battle in an uncontrollable, trance-like fury.

The Berserkers were also believed to bring their own brewers along on long voyages. The brewers would collaborate with local medicine men to acquire herbs, berries and mushrooms for making a brew of fermented grain that would provide them sustenance for battle.

Fast-forward to today, and a collaboration between modern day brewers (Sixpoint) and modern day medicine men (Stumptown Coffee) seems to make a lot of sense.

Rather than the traditional stouts and porters associated with coffee beers, Sixpoint decided to create a beer infused lager, in fact a German Bock – a style of beer that Sixpoint founder Shane Welch feels is under appreciated in the beer community. Since lagers are cold-fermented beers, Welch and Stumptown founder, Duane Sorenson, decided to cold-brew the coffee as well, which they hoped would result in a cleaner and far less acidic final product.

The beans used were the Guatemalan El Injerto variety, grown in the Huehuetenango region. According to Sorenson, they produce “undisputedly one of the best coffees in the world.”

Berserker Bock has been out for a few weeks now, and after lots of internet scouring and several phone calls I finally narrowed my search down to Washington Commons, a great spot in Prospect Heights and the only bar I have been able to track down that still has it on tap. I should mention, all beers in the Mad Scientists series are being released on draft only – the rationale being to get people out into bars to enjoy and discuss the brews in a social setting.

This beer is definitely unique – unlike any coffee beer I have had before. It has an earthy and (not surprisingly) light roasted coffee aroma, and an extremely clean tasting coffee flavor, with a nice sweetness that hits your tongue upfront but mellows out into a wonderfully crisp finish. While you might associate traditional coffee beers with a heavier drinking experience worthy of cold weather and December snow storms, Berserker was a refreshingly appropriate brew to usher in spring – its clean crisp flavor has just the right amount of weight for this transitional time of year, while the jolt you get from the caffeine mirrors the rush of renewal people are feeling as they emerge from winter doldrums.

Whether you are a seasoned brew-head or novice enthusiast, spending an evening at a fun little neighborhood haunt like Washington Commons with a glass or two of Berserker Bock is a great way to welcome spring. And like the season, you should enjoy Berserker before it’s gone!

Tall Berserker Pint

Lauren Wilson is a professional food lover.  After eating up all the good bits of Toronto, she followed a trail of crumbs to Brooklyn where she is cooking, writing, and eating happily.  Current fixations include Steve’s salted caramel ice cream, Mast Brother’s almond & sea salt chocolate, and welovejam’s Blenheim apricot jam.  Oh yeah, she’s got a wicked sweet tooth too.