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Mad Scientists Series #2: Berserker Bock

All too often, one must decide between two beverages with favorable effects: coffee and beer. It happens during the mid-afternoon slump. It happens after dinner, or during lunch. It doesn’t have to be a stark choice anymore. The Mad Scientists at Sixpoint brewery have concocted a potion that represents the finest convergence of coffee and beer: the Berserker Bock.

Leaving aside the modern connotations of crazed or deranged, the brewers have dug at the root of the word, “berserk,” uncovering a fascinating class of Norse warrior-men, the Berserkers. These men went into battle under the influence of something potent. It is believed that Berserkers drank a curious brew prepared by knowing men of medicine of their age. The tonic was made with the intent to induce these Berserkers, clad in bear pelts for added effect, into a state so frighteningly focused on the task at hand that they would crush their enemies in swift time. Nowadays we might fight the nine-to-five drudgery with a similar — yet less severe, less costumed — approach.

Few other drugs have been as vastly embraced as caffeine and alcohol throughout the world. Coffee beans were regarded as “the magical fruit” in King Louis XVI’s time in France. The Mad Scientists of Red Hook certainly thought they still were, too, as they gathered to take breaks over a freshly brewed pot of Stumptown Coffee Roasters‘ beans at the brewhouse each day. (When choosing, of course, to go with that instead of beer.) And so it was through the camaraderie of these similarly creative-minded coffee roasters — Mad Coffee Scientists, you could call them — whose Brooklyn roasting plant was just down the street from the brewery, that the genesis for the coffee-infused Berserker Bock began.

There are many coffee-flavored beers, but the Mad Scientists were determined to give it a style anew. The first determination was cold-brewing the coffee, as recommended by many coffee experts. This would result in a much less acidic flavor, with the full, sweet, roasty profile of the beans taking spotlight. Next, Stumptown’s chief roaster and founder Duane Sorenson selected a coffee bean of rare and impeccable variety: Guatemalan El Injerto, sourced from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala himself. Of the particular variety, Sorenson had this to say: “No one in their right mind would dispute its being… totally radical.”

The perfect beer style in which to showcase these toasty, nutty and fruity flavors was the bock, the Mad Scientists agreed. Indeed, the oft-underappreciated style lends itself well to a great variety of traits. Because bocks, like all Lager-style beers, are cold-fermented, they lack the complex esters that usually accompany ale fermentation and are cleaner-tasting in profile. Sixpoint founder Shane Welch found this to be an ideal environment to let the El Injerto beans shine. The brewers employed a non-traditional process of infusing the cold-brewed coffee with the cold-fermented beer, resulting in the Berserker Bock. Unlike other “big”-tasting ales or stouts, this collaborative beer is nuanced and unobstructive on the palate. It is also extremely high in naturally-occurring caffeine and has an ABV of 6.5%.

“The result is a surprisingly light, refreshing lager, with slight caramel undertones and a taste not unlike a glass of iced coffee,” wrote Keith Wagstaff in the L Magazine, upon tasting the brew. He further warns: “It does provide a decent caffeine buzz, so save it for a big night out instead of for a nightcap.” The Mad Scientists are content to leave this decision to you.

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