The problem with looking forward to the revival of something from your past is that you are not the same person you were in the past.

Such is the story of me and Narragansett Bock.

Bock is a lager, usually brewed in spring, and tradition says monks brewed it for extra sustenance during the Lenten fasts. The story when I was young — an urban myth, it turns out — was that breweries created bock when they cleaned their fermenting vessels, getting extra flavor from ingredients left at the bottom of the barrels.

I had my first Narragansett Bock while I was in college in the 1960s, and it was like a light had been turned on. Beer didn’t have to taste like Schlitz, Budweiser, Carling Black Label or even Narragansett Lager.

Beer could have a little bit of viscosity, the sweetness of malt, the bite of hops, some spice and other exciting flavors. I’d been drinking beer because that is what guys in college did. While I didn’t dislike it, the flavor was nothing I pondered in great detail. It was there, sort of like water, only it made me happier.

I had seen advertisements for Narragansett Bock on TV, and when I spotted some, I bought it. It was a revelation.


And, unfortunately, it was a seasonal and it went away, and I never found the original Narragansett Bock again. Getting drafted and being forced to leave New England for a couple of years might have had something to do with that.

But that Narragansett Bock started me searching for better beers, buying the European dark beers that occasionally showed up in Maine and, when I discovered it, spending too much time and money at the great beer hall that was the Wursthaus in Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Mass.

So when Mark Hellendrung bought the Narragansett brand from Falstaff, I was glad. The brand was being revived, and with it the seasonal beers. I have enjoyed the lager, the Fest for fall and the Porter for winter, but I was really looking forward to the Bock.

Nancy and I tasted it recently, and it poured a deep amber color with a firm, slightly off-white head. The aroma was a sweet malt with just a bit of spicy hops. With the first sip, it had the body that I remembered, a slightly silky mouth feel that showed this beer has something substantial to it. The flavor was rich and slightly sweet, with a complex malt flavor.

I liked this beer a lot, and will be buying more over the next couple of months.

But the taste didn’t match the memory. I don’t know whether the beer isn’t the same as the one I remember or whether the memory is off. It’s probably a little bit of both.


The Bock is definitely a quality craft beer. It, like the Porter, was brewed under the supervision of brewmaster Sean Larkin at Trinity Brew House in Providence, R.I., and Cottrell Brewery in Pawcatuck, Conn.

I have stopped at Trinity several times over the years, and I like their beers a lot. So it is not at all surprising that I like the ‘Gansett craft beers. But heck, I like the lager that is brewed in Latrobe, Pa., and Rochester, N.Y., too.

Back in December when I tasted the Porter, I wrote that “I have liked the Lager, found the Fest functional but not fantastic and been pleasantly pleased by the Porter,” and promised more alliteration for the Bock.

I guess the Bock is beautiful but a bit baffling, because I don’t know what has changed more — the beer, or me.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:


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