Samuel Adams Double Bock

Review Date 10/26/2000  Last Updated 3/14/2015 By John Staradumsky

Here we go again for a stroll down Beer Memory Lane. I have been drinking this beer for many, many years now, since it was first introduced in fact in 1988. This was the first seasonal beer I came across in the Samuel Adams line, I seem to recall it being the first beer to join Boston Lager on store shelves. When it was introduced it wasn't sold in traditional six pack holders; rather it came in elegant looking boxes that enclosed the bottles and gave it an air of class.

This beer is a lager, and if there's one thing Boston Beer has done it's give us a wide array of lagers at a time that most microbreweries offer mostly ales. Double Bock, Octoberfest, Boston Lager, Winter Lager, Golden Pilsner are all examples. There are reasons most breweries produce ales: they ferment and condition at warmer temperatures, and more importantly don't need to be aged as long as lagers. Lager is German for store, after all.

Samuel Adams Double Bock is released in January, and it's a perfect cold weather beer. Rich and satisfying, the beer has a potent alcohol kick (about 8.5% by volume) great for keeping you warm on the coldest nights. This beer will keep a long time too due to the heavy malt character. Boston Beer has advertised that it takes about a half pound of malt to make each bottle.

The brew pours to a dark ruby-brown color with minimal head formation. The nose is all sweet malt, and beckons you to take a sip. The palate is rich sweet malt all the way, sweet and sticky, slightly nutty, a little chocolatey. The finish is warm with alcohol. This brew is not decocted, nor is any Munich malt employed (two row Harrington and caramel 60 are used). You'll still be amazed at what a great double bock this is however. It's one of my favorite domestic examples of the style after Dock Street's Illuminator.

I rarely pair a beer this rich with food, though it is a good choice before or after a meal. Try glazing poultry or pork in it, however. The rich sweet malt sears onto the meat and is quite tasty.

In February of 1997 I wrote about Samuel Adams Double Bock:

Double Bock is back, with a vengeance. The beer is thick, rich, malty and sweet, just as one would expect a doppel to be. Reminds me a bit of Tucher
Bajuvator, though not quite as chocolatey as that brew can be. My only complaint is a slight diacetyl note that reminds me a bit of the tripel bock, but aside from that I think this year's version is an improvement on last year's. Boston Beer has extended the "Best By" date from September to
November, a logical move in my opinion since a beer as rich as this one is likely to age well if handled properly.

On September 13th of 1997 I wrote:

Samuel Adams Double Bock was the first specialty beer produced for mass marketing by Boston Beer, and I have always believed it to be their best beer. I recall tasting this beer for the first time back in the late eighties when it was sold in boxes of six. I was impressed with it then, and have yet to taste a domestic doppelbock to surpass it, though some have perhaps equaled it. Michael Jackson himself has given the beer high praise.

Sam Adams Double Bock is released in late January/early February as a warming brew for the cold winter months. I'm sipping a bottle in September, and the dark brown brew is still potent, thick, rich, sweet, and warming. Strong suggestions of chocolate, prune, and sweet malt blend with the warming alcohol to make this a special brew indeed. At 1.084 original gravity and 7.2% alcohol by volume, this isn't surprising. One would be hard pressed to believe this beer did not come from Germany.

Update 2005: Is it possible this beer has gotten even better? It may have. After moving to Georgia I went without Samuel Adams Double Bock for a few years, but when the beer law here changed to allow the sale of brews stronger than 6% alcohol by volume, Samuel Adams Double Bock graced local shelves for the first time.

And it's a wonderful treat. So rich and malty, packed with nutty melanodin rich Munich malt flavors, a touch of chocolate, caramel, and sweet delightful malty notes. A delightfully warming dose of alcohol in the finish. I'm reminded of some of the best German examples of the style. It's that good.

Update 2006
Here I am once again sipping a glass of Sam Adams Double Bock, and I have to tell you, this is a world-class brew. It stacks right up there with many German versions, and it's rich maltiness and luxuriant sweetness are as wonderful as ever.

They use a lot malt here, half a pound per bottle they say. That may make this one of the more expensive to make brews in the Sam Adams line, but I still bought a sixer for $5.99 here in 2006. What a bargain!

Sam Adams does need to update their website. It lists a number of states that you can't buy this beer in:

Due to legal restrictions, Samuel AdamsĀ® Double Bock can not be sold in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Obviously, the law now allows beers of this strength here in Georgia, and also now in Ohio and North Carolina. I've bought higher gravity beers in Tennessee, too, though only in liquor stores.

Update 2007
Tonight it's late January, and I am the proud owner of six (well five now) gleaming bottled of this year's Samuel Adams Double Bock. It's as good as ever, sweet and malty, a wonderfully rich and warming delight at almost 9% alcohol by volume. Reminds me of the best German doppels. And at the price I paid, just an amazing $6.29 a six-pack, a steal.

Update 3/14/2015: So a few years back in 2009, I wrote a review of  Samuel Adams Imperial Series Double Bock. It was in reality a follow up to this review, and marked the progression of Samuel Adams Double Bock over time. When I first reviewed this beer back in 2000, including notes from 1997, it was sold in 6-packs and had an alcohol content in the range of 8% or so. In or around 2009, though, Boston Beer changed up their Double Bock, ramping it up from 9% ABV I reported in 2007 to 9.5% for their "Imperial Series". The price shot up as well, from $6 to $7 a six-pack to $10 for a 4-pack.

Then a few years ago, Boston Beer re-introduced this beer again simply as Samuel Adams Double Bock, no longer an Imperial Series beer. The alcohol content remained the same at 9.5%, but the package size shrunk again, now sold in 22-ounce bomber bottles. At least the price per ounce only went up slightly, since I can get a bottle for $5.79 in my area.

From the bottle label:

Intense and warming, this indulgent lager is brewed with over a half-pound of malt in each bottle, almost enough for a loaf of bread. Brewed by monks since the 13th century, double bocks are one of the original "big beers." The bold malts create a deep mahogany color, rich caramel sweetness, and smooth body that's balanced by the subtle citrus of German Noble hops.

A few quibbles are in order here. I've always considered noble hops to be herbal, grassy, at times even minty, but not citrusy. quibble two would be that Boston Beer has always cited the "half pound of malt per bottle" line, but given a 22 ounce bomber holds almost twice as much beer as a 12-ounce one, shouldn't they be closer to a full pound per bottle by now?

My bottle is one of those rare Samuel Adams beers without a freshness date. It says instead you can enjoy now or age it to further develop rich and unique flavors.

I smelled those wonderful toasty nutty melanoidins as soon as I popped the cap, and they followed through right into the delightful thick Munich malty melanoidny palate that bursts with all that toasty nutty goodness the nose promised. I've been drinking this beer since it first launched in the mid to late 80s, and though I think I liked the lower strength version better (8.5% vs 9.5% today), this is still one of my favorite Sam Adams beers.

I am going to take it down a peg though. I used to give this beer 5 stars not just for its wonderful maltiness and fidelity to style, but because it was such a bargain, too. And yes, although it is still priced very favorably these days for bomber bottles, it's not quite the absolute steal it used to be in six-packs.

That said, it's not a beer to be missed, which is why I picked up a few bottles, one I'm drinking tonight, and some to age out.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.