Goats and beer have a strange affiliation, as I mentioned in a recent comment to Scott’s review of Ayinger Weizen Bock the word ‘bock’ appears in many European languages and means ‘billy-goat’. Where ‘bock’ isn’t in the language, such as the Czech Republic, they have a strong lager called ‘Kozel’ which too has a ‘billy-goat’ on the label.
Some people have attributed the name to the kick such as beer would have, while a more poetic origin is the fact that the original bock beers were brewed in the autumn for consumption at Christmastime, or during the zodiacal period of Capricorn – the goat.
Other bocks followed on including Mai Bocks, Double Bocks and even a few Triple Bocks, but the underlying premise of a bock is that it should be a strong (5-10% ABV), slightly sweet dark lager and should thus be bottom fermented. It’s the lager equivalent to ‘winter warmer’ ales and barley wines.
All very interesting, but why is Bob writing this? I hear you ask. Well, I was reviewing a pale lager recently and observed that it smelt slightly ‘soapy’ – I first experienced this when I reviewed Heineken for The Brew Club a while ago. Again I checked my glass, rinsed in clean water and poured another, still soapy, and even my wife could detect the smell.
I was intrigued, so I contacted Alex Barlow who is a Master Brewer and the UK’s leading beer presenter (he’s also the author of the excellent ‘All Beer Experience’) and he explained that what I describe as ‘soapy’ many people describe as ‘goaty’. It’s caused by the presence of Octanoic acid, sometimes known as Caprylic acid. It’s naturally produced during the maturation process and is more prominent in lagers that have been lagered for longer.
This ISN’T like ‘skunkiness’, it’s NOT a fault, it’s produced in small quantities in most lagered beers, but some people are more sensitive to the smell than others.
So there you go, we can have ‘goaty’ beer as well as skunked beer!