The “chew” in the beer of the month — Confluence’s ChewBOCKa — is the unintended but delicious result of a common brewing complication.
One of the problems that can vex brewers is what is known as a “stuck mash.” When separating the mash — a hot porridge of crushed grains and water — finely ground grain can create a clog that slows or stops the draining of liquid wort, which will become beer, through the false bottom of a mash tun and into a boil kettle.
It’s what frustrated John Martin, Confluence’s brewer, while making a batch of doppelbock a few years ago. A process that usually takes two hours turned into a 20-hour wait for wort to slowly drain through a densely packed layer of finely milled grain. As Martin patiently waited, the wort gradually collecting in the boil kettle was being heated to 208 degrees. After simmering at that temperature for nearly a day, the wort thickened much like a sauce and eventually turned into a beer that had a noticeably chewy mouthfeel.
To replicate the chewiness of that stuck mash batch under ideal conditions, Martin says he now boils ChewBOCKa’s wort longer than usual to make it deep and dark. It’s chewy, he says, but not as chewy as it was after the stuck mash.
Pour ChewBOCKa into a favorite pint glass. It is a light mahogany color that is more ruddy than brown. Two fingers of buttery, tight, tan head dissipates gradually and leaves a skim and thin ring around the edge. The aroma is sweet and nutty, with scents of toasted malt, caramel, toffee, cocoa, molasses and dark fruit. The mouthfeel is thick and, as promised, chewy — no doubt a fitting tribute to the “liquid bread” monks drank during their Lenten fast. The flavor is a pleasing blend of toasted malt, caramel, cocoa, molasses and dark fruit. Alcohol is noticeable in each sip, too, but it is not overpowering.
Alcohol Content: 7.1 percent ABV.
Food Pairings: Martin recommends German sausage, fish and chips and any kind of pork dish, including braised pork knuckles. In his book Tasting Beer, author Randy Mosher recommends rich, roasted foods and chocolate cake.
Where to Buy: ChewBOCKa can be found at most major beer retailers while supplies last. Martin said it is also on tap at 30hop, Sonny’s Northside Tap, Shakespeare’s and Twelve01 Kitchen and Tap.
Price: $10 for a 32-ounce bottle.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 214.