It’s that time of year again. The time where I start to mentally berate Capetonian architects for their inability/failure to insulate houses in an appropriate manner. Yeah, yeah – the weather is warm for much of the year, but from May to August I sit shivering in my own home and in the absence of insulation, double glazing, central heating or indeed a fireplace, I turn to the answer of most of life’s little problems: beer.
So it’s out with the pilsner and in with the porter, the Russian imperials and in this case – the bocks. Specifically, a pair of dunkles bock (bocken?? Never been too sure with German plurals). I ended up with both of them in the fridge at the same time so we opened them side by side and tasted them blind. “Them” being La Trappe’s Bockbier – the only bock beer brewed by Trappist monks – and representing Africa, Urbock from Namibia Breweries. (During the tasting they were known as Beer A and Beer B).
Both were similar hues of mahogany (oh come on, there’s only a certain range of colours a beer can be and I can’t always say “reddish brown”), both with very pleasing ruby highlights. Both came topped with a tan-coloured head, though La Trappe picked up its tan from two weeks in Mauritius, while Urbock only spent a long weekend in the south of France.
On the nose, the La Trappe delivered a prominent dose of liquorice and a dash of bubblegum. Urbock at first seemed much more complex – treacle toffee, sweet liquorice and toasted brown bread. As the beers warmed a little (which takes a long time in my freezing cold house in winter), La Trappe began to exhibit a touch of toast and some caramel. On sipping, you’ll find treacle toffee, brown bread and plums, with a beautiful creme brulee-like bitterness and a drinkability that Urbock lacked a little.
In the end, the Trappist beer took the win, but our local lad did us pretty proud. Urbock has a marvellous aroma – it just isn’t quite echoed in the flavour. There’s bubblegum and toffee there, plus a definite alcohol warmth, but I would love a bit more toast and a bit more bitterness. Both very enjoyable beers though and for those interested I’d give La Trappe 4/5 and Urbock a 3.5.
La Trappe is available at select liquor stores in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, East London and Nelspruit. Urbock you’ll find all over the place right now – it is brewed just once a year, and the 2016 version is now in shops. Buy a six-pack, drink a couple and use one to make this awesome apple crumble – a delicious winter dish and one of the best food and beer pairings I’ve ever tasted.