Written by Ken Carman for The Professor
Sometimes I pause and think about all I write and wonder, am I telling the whole story? Reviewing beer is grand, but there’s more to beerdom than yea or nay.
For the first edition of A Beer-y Good Story we have Genesee Bock. I was introduced to Genny Bock when I first went to college. My drinking experience previous to college was using beer as a calm before the storm when I’d drink Stingers, Harvey Wallbangers and Tom Collins… I was an experimenter, as I have always been. Beer was, at best, boring, and sometimes merely tolerable.
My friend in college, Dave Rank, kept trying to get me to go drinking with him, and I kept saying “No” because he wanted to go drinking beer. I thought I hated beer: it something just to fill in the gaps. Plus I was from a small town, and had learned manners and some social skills: far too few I admit. And someone who cursed every five seconds was someone I thought I needed to steer clear of.
We’ve been great friends ever since; despite a few bumps, like once when a woman got between us. My fault. What do you do with someone who makes you dump your best friend, change everything about yourself for her, then dumps you and claims none of that ever happened?
Well, anyway, he introduced me to dark beer, and Genny Bock. It was enough of a change that I said, “Hey, maybe there’s more to this beer adventure than I thought!” That was 72. By 79 I was brewing my own.
Genesee was one of those small brewers that almost didn’t survive the onslaught of the mega brewers: Millers, InBev… though someone has always owned the brewery. Sometimes production was down to pretty much nil, during the darkest times. I can’t promise this is the same Genny Bock I had back then because now a craft brewing concern owns the Genny name, but I suspect it’s close.
Genesee Brewing actually started in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1800s and moved to Rochester. They moved to Rochester and I get the sense there were a few mergers, like with the Fred Koch Brewery. The brewery that started it all for Genny in the Rochester area was known as Rau & Reisky Brewery at first. I suspect, again, the Birmingham brewery: “Genesee,” and R&B merged. There have been more than a few buy outs and changes over the years, including the current owner, according to Wiki: “Cerveceria Costa Rica S.A a subsidiary of Florida Ice and Farm Company.” I base my comments about production being almost nil for a while on the fact when these changes were happening finding Genny was quite difficult if not impossible. That’s even when I’d stop in Batavia to shop: not far from Rochester. I’m guessing either production stopped, or was down for some time, between mergers, buy outs: or they stuck to very local distribution.
Caramel nose greets first pour: promising. I thought I’d be met by filler, like corn. There is a hint of corn as it warms. No hops noted.
Pillow head with some rock that’s big, but fades very fast. A bit hazy. I would think about 12 srm, a darkish amber. Fine bubble hangs at the edge of the glass.
Mouthfeel is quite light with an obvious corn sense as a filler. There are some darker malts and a lager sense, and by that I mean a hint of acidic and a whisper of sulfur. Light carbonation. Complexity is missing here, kind of a Bock on the very light side at best. The more malty sense one gets in a Traditional Bock really isn’t here.
Flavor: some caramel, some corn/DMS way in the background, malt focused, slight bitter at best. It’s lawnmower, if you like the term. (I don’t.) But nothing special compared to today’s market. The problem is, once this was popular during a market where Bud-like beer was pretty much all you could get. But this interpretation no longer stands out. Indeed, for those of us who enjoy the style and don’t know better, it could be perceived as a cheap knock off of a true traditional Bock: a style that usually has far more complexity and no fillers. But this brew was on the shelves long before true Bock could be found in America. Corn and rice were the norm back then, in America. But for most educated palates sensing either these days is often perceived a negative.
Not a good trend for Genny Bock, but it is what great craft beer, and more far important, many more true “Traditional” examples crossing the big pond have done to educate our palates. Especially German exports.
Honestly: this no longer fits the style of Traditional Bock: closer to American Dark Lager. But if all you can get is light… (Not “lite” lagers. My friend and I were drinking this before Miller Lite, not too long after Gablinger tried, and failed, to introduce the country to what Miller branded as “lite.”) Let’s put it in historical: American beer market, perspective: if the corn or rice infested American, rather thin and tasteless, lagers was pretty much all you could get, this was definitely a step up.
A Beer-y Good Story is a column by Ken Carman: BJCP judge, author of several columns an beer and Inspection, on social, political and religious issues first published in 1972. A Beer-y Good Story goes where beer reviews don’t: history and perception of a brand being reviewed, as well as personal anecdotes.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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