A traditional dobbelbock is a strong malty German-style lager made from only barley, hops, and water. In fact, since 1516 Duke Wilhelm IV's Beer Purity Law of 1516 those were the only ingredients allowed in any German beer (they didn't realize that they were also using yeast until Louis Pasteur discovered its role in 1857). Shmaltz Brewing Company, out of Brooklyn, New York, cheerfully treads all over this tradition by aging a supercharged doppelbock in a bourbon barrel.

Like most doppelbocks, Human Blockhead is a deep, powerful malt bomb. There are caramel and raisin notes with just enough underlying bitterness to maintain a steady balance. That's where German tradition ends and American inspiration begins. The beer clocks in at a hefty 10 percent alcohol – huge even by doppelbock standards. The barrel aging softens the flavor, though, and lends a vanilla note, but the bigger contribution comes from the bourbon that was the barrel's prior resident. It integrates nicely, and while there's some warmth from the alcohol there's none of the whiskey burn that can haunt beers of this style.

While a beer this unencumbered by tradition might inspire an imitation of the sideshow performer on the label (who, true to the Coney Island Show, is driving a nail into his face), we recommend a more measured approach. Split a 22-ounce bomber bottle with a friend and enjoy it with some proscuitto, gruyere cheese, and a nice hunk of bread. [shmaltzbrewing.com]