Exploring the Bock

by: BeerAdvocate on 02-07-2001
The origins of Bock beer are quite uncharted. Back in medieval days German monasteries would brew a strong beer for sustenance during their Lenten fasts. Some believe the name Bock came from the shortening of Einbeck thus "beck" to "bock." Others believe it is more of a pagan or old world influence that the beer was only to be brewed during the sign of the Capricorn goat and that "bock" means goat in German. Illustrations of the goats related with Bock beer would produce some of the most whimsical and lively beer art ever fashioned. In Europe pictures of Knights fighting in wars or goats ready to ram would portray the strength of the beer. Before Prohibition in America many of the breweries turned out colorful poster art showing beer-drinking goats doing everything from bellying up to the bar to floating in a hot air balloon. Basically this beer was a symbol of better times to come and moving away from winter.

As for the beer itself in modern day, it is a bottom fermenting lager that generally takes extra months of lagering (cold storage) to smooth out such a strong brew. There are several different styles of bock beer; Bock, Maibock or Helles Bock, Double Bock and Eisbock. Bock beer in general is stronger than your typical lager, more of a robust malt character and higher alcohol somewhere between 6-7% alcohol by volume with an amber hue. The Maibock style of beer tends to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and often has a significant hop character with a noticeable alcohol around the same as a traditional Bock. Maibocks are customarily served in the spring and are oftentimes interrelated with spring festivals and celebrations more often in the month of May. Double Bocks or Doppelbocks are huge beers with enough malt packed in them to consider them a meal in its self. Generally having a very full-bodied flavour and darker than other bocks with a higher level of alcohol also, 6.5-8.5%. Eisbocks are basically a form of a Bock or a Double Bock that is concentrated to boost flavour and alcohol by freezing off some of the water. Some Eisbocks in Europe have been know to be in excess of 12% alcohol by volume.

Mercury Brewing (Ipswich, MA) will debut their Dornbusch Bock for the first time, this is a straight up bock and brewed to style in the true traditional Munich cloister way. Anheuser-Busch brews a sorry god forsaken-Christ Damn It-sorry excuse of a bock called Michelob Amber Bock. This is as far away to a bock bier as you can get, all in all its probably just regular Michelob with caramel colouring and flavouring.

Harpoon Maibock is one of our all time favourite seasonal brews, this it fifth year in the seasonal line up and the way Harpoon signals warmer days to come. Introduced in 1997, Harpoon Spring Maibock is a chestnut-colored, rich-tasting beer of extra malt and a subtle yet impressive hop character. Al Marzi, Harpoon Head Brewer, says, "Harpoon Spring Maibock is a well-balanced, 'big' beer with a lot of body. Its size is produced by using generous amounts of malts and a good dose of hops." Smuttynose Maibock will be returning after a two year absence in Smuttynose Brewing Company's "Big Beer" series. Look for those 22 oz bomber bottles of the sweet and balanced brew around March 1st. Merchant Du Vin should be importing a fresh batch of Ayinger Maibock soon, ultra smooth and balanced very well between sweetness and a spicy clean finish.

If you are looking for some real liquid lunch go for a big a chewy Double Bock. For the real authentic, true to style stuff its gotta be Celebrator from Brewery Ayinger (Imported by Merchant Du Vin). Its the "GIGANTOR" of Doppel Bocks, you nearly need a knife to cut through this thick chewy and malty brew, look for the cute little plastic goats hanging from each bottle they also double as X-mas ornaments. Spaten Optimator has a sturdy malt backbone, a true strong armed beer that has held strong as a cult classic German import. Then there is Paulaner Salavator Double Bock with its rough edges going for more of an old world Doppel, yet an other classic brew to grace our country from generous importers. Look to dish out around $8-10 a six pack for these three.

As for domestic Doppel Bocks Boston Beer Co. incorporates a different method of brewing for their legendary Sam Adams Double Bock, they use only the first runnings of two different mashes meaning that they don't water down the grain to pull off trace sugars left in the mash. This makes for a gigantic beer that the faint of heart should stay away from. Another domestic in the area is Z Street Brewing Company's (Fitchburg, MA) Procreator Double Bock which is a first for them. Look for it sometime this spring.
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