Batemans Brewery, B Bock
Inspired by a German dopplebock, it begs the question "Are beer definitions and categories really that important anymore?"
In 1874 George Bateman decided to sell his farm to rent a brewery in Wainfleet, Lincolnshire. He paid £505 and 10s (about £30,000 in today's money) for the kit and got cracking. His wife baked bread to supplement sales. By 1880 they had earned enough money to buy Salem House, a Georgian building some 200 yards from the original brewery, and a new brewery was built in its coach houses. The brewery is still based on the same site today.
Stuart and Jaclyn Bateman are at the helm nowadays and are the fourth generation of the family to run the brewery. It hasn't been without a struggle though. During the 80s the brewery was embroiled in a bitter family dispute. Half of them wanted to sell up, but George Bateman, his wife Pat and their children Stuart and Jaclyn saved up enough money to keep the brewery as an independent, family-owned operation.
There is no doubt that they are one of the biggest breweries we've featured. With 70 pubs across Lincolnshire, the Derbyshire Dales and Norfolk, excellent cask beers like XB, XXXB and Dark Mild have become British classics in the "real ale" world. Earlier this year Batemans caused a stir, wading in to the "craft beer" debate by going through a rebranding exercise, changing their tagline from "Good Honest Ales" to "Craft Brewers since 1874". Stuart Bateman proudly proclaimed that it was breweries like his that have kept the "craft beer" flame alive over the last centry and a half; age and size shouldn't have any bearing on whether Batemans are considered "craft" or not. It's an interesting argument that got tongues wagging at least.
That rebrand involved launching a range of more experimental beers that showcased their more creative side. A "Bohemian Brews" range includes beers infused with unusual ingredients and flavours including Mocha (winner of Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt), Mocha Amaretto, Orange Barley and Hazelnut Brownie.
B Bock is part of Batemans "World Classic range" and is an English interpretation of a famous German beer style. Bock is now known as a German strong lager brewed in several styles according to the season of the year; a Doppelbock (which B Bock is styled on) for the winter or a Maibock for the spring are our two favourite styles.
Bateman's interpretation isn't actually a lager at all. It is instead described as a "strong ale" and recreates the original versions of Bock drank in Germany as early as 1378, before lagering came in to force.
There is a complex mix of malts (Pilsner, Munich, cara, chocolate, crystal and black) which work with a single German hop (Hallertauer Tradition) to mould a rich and enticing aroma of raisins, prunes, fresh tobacco and just a hint of floral hops. Dark fruit comes through to the taste too with a bit of bread and caramel contributing to a sweet, almost sickly base that is just about balanced out by more floral hops and a slightly bitter finish.
Inspired by a German Dopplebock, but not even a lager. Part of a craft beer range, but described as a strong ale. It certainly begs the question; are styles/labels/categories/definitions that important in the beer world anymore? Or should we just judge each beer on its individual merits? If we just do the latter, B Bock will do just fine.