Vancouver Island Brewing’s annual release of Hermannator, a 9.5% ABV ice bock widely distributed in six-packs, has been perhaps the most cherished VIB annual release for quite a number of years now. Having been brewed since 1987, its winter consumption has become a longstanding tradition for many beer lovers. This year the beer has likely seen another boost in popularity from a recent award, Best in Show at the BC Beer Awards. As another option for the enthusiasts in the crowd, Hermannator is being bottled in 650mL “bombers” with waxed tops, date stamped and all. For cellarists such as myself, this is quite neat.
Ice bock is a German style lager – it is extra strong for a bock, due to the freezing process which is used to raise the strength of the beer. This is the same freezing process some breweries use to produce insanely strong barleywines and other ales. Onto my experience with the first 2013 bottle:
A: The beer pours nearly black, but in reality it is a deep, deep ruby red with brown tones. It’s like a slightly weak coffee but with a bit more red in it.
S: The smell is a mix of caramel and cocoa with just the slightest hint of vanilla. The Saaz hops are there too, providing a spicy kick.
T: Taking a sip, the mouth is coated in dark chocolate, toasted caramel, and a surprising kick of earthy, almost drying hops bitterness.
M: The carbonation and hops presence work to produce a surprisingly crisp mouthfeel. It is not a thick beer but does produce a nice creamy coat.
O: Hermannator lands between a few styles and really makes it work. Taking some cues from a big stout or porter, but combined with a pretty heavy duty hops force akin to something between an IPA and a pilsner. It has a warming finish suitable for this time of the year while retaining the agility to go down easy.