What is “Bock” beer?

“Bock” beer is a dark, malty, lightly hopped ale, first brewed in the 14th century by German brewers in Einbeck, in Lower Saxony.

Traditional bock beer is a reasonably strong (6.3–7.6% abv), slightly sweet, lightly hopped lager. It is a clear beer with light copper to brown color and a thick off-white head of foam. It should have an aroma of toasty barley and a hint of alcohol warmth. There should be no detectable hops or fruitiness. The taste is rich and toasty, sometimes with a bit of caramel. The mouthfeel should be smooth, with low to moderate carbonation.

Commercial Examples of The Style

St. Nikolaus Bock (Pennsylvania Brewing Company, PA)

Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel (Einbecker Brauhaus, Germany)

Aass Bock (Aass Brewery, Norway)

How did “Bock” beer get its name?

When the style was adopted by the brewers in Munich, Bavaria, in the 17th century, they did adjust the fermenting process by using Lager Yeast. Of particular interest is the fact that the name “EinBeck,” when spoken in a Bavarian accent, sounds very much like “Ein Bock” (“a Billy goat”). The pun was reinforced when the breweries started putting pictures of a goat on the labels of their beers.

Who first brewed Bock beer?

Italian monks from the order of St. Francis, invited to Munich in 1624 during the Counter-Reformation period, led a rigorous existence. Their religious beliefs forbid the consumption of meat, butter, milk, and eggs and allowed only fish, bread, vegetables, and vegetarian liquids.

The Paulaner Monks learned to brew a special beer to supplement their poor nutrition. In 1627 Father Barnabas began brewing a dark beer rich in nutrients necessary for the continued survival of his order. 

What is Doppelbock?

Doppelbock or double bock is a more robust version of traditional bock. It was first brewed in Munich by the Paulaner Friars, a Franciscan order founded by St. Francis of Paula.

When the monks got permission from the local court to sell their beer in 1780, they produced a Doppelbock. This beer was similar to barleywine, except it was fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast. They called this brew Salvator (pronounced sal-vA-tor).

The tradition is commemorated on the label, showing Father Barnabas presenting a mug of Salvator to the Duke of Bavaria.

Today, doppelbock is still strong – ranging from 7% to 12% abv. It is a clear beer, ranging from dark gold to dark brown with ruby red highlights for the darker version. It has a large, creamy, persistent head (although head retention may be impaired by alcohol in the more potent versions). The aroma is intensely malty, with some toasty notes and alcohol presence; darker versions may have a chocolate-like or fruity fragrance. The flavor is vibrant and malty, with noticeable alcoholic strength and little or no detectable hops (16–26 IBUs).

Paler versions may have a drier finish. The monks who originally brewed doppelbock named their beer “Salvator” (literally “Savior,” but actually a malapropism for “Sankt Vater,” “St. Father”). It was originally brewed for the feast of St. Francis of Paola on 2 April, which often falls into Lent). Today the name is trademarked by Paulaner.

What is Eisbock?

Eisbock beer is made by removing ice from partially frozen barrels of beer, resulting in a higher alcohol content

Eisbock is a traditional specialty beer of the Kulmbach district of Bavaria, Germany. It is made by partially freezing a doppelbock and removing the frozen water to concentrate the flavor and alcohol content, ranging from 8.6% to 14.3% abv.

It is clear, with a color ranging from deep copper to dark brown, often with ruby highlights. Although it can pour with a thin off-white head, head retention is frequently impaired by the higher alcohol content. The aroma is intense, with no hop presence, but can often contain fruity notes, especially prunes, raisins, and plums.

 Mouthfeel is full and smooth, with significant alcohol, although this should not be hot or sharp. The flavor is rich and sweet, often with toasty notes and sometimes hints of chocolate, balanced by a significant alcohol presence.

What is the strongest beer in the world?

The strongest ice beer, Strength in Numbers, was a one-time collaboration in 2020 between Schorschbrau of Germany and BrewDog of Scotland. They had competed in the early years of the 21st century to produce the world’s strongest beer. Strength in Numbers was created using traditional ice distillation, reaching a final strength of 57.8% ABV.

What is a Maibock beer?   

Maibock is a Helles lager brewed to bock strength. It is still as strong as traditional bock but lighter color and has more hop presence.

It is a relatively recent development compared to other styles of bock beers, frequently associated with springtime and the month of May.

Color can range from deep gold to light amber with a large, creamy, persistent white head. It should have moderate to moderately high carbonation. Its alcohol content should range from 6.3% to 8.1% by volume. The flavor is typically less malty than a traditional bock, drier, hoppier, and more bitter, but still with a relatively low hop flavor, with a mild spicy or peppery quality from the hops, increased carbonation, and alcohol content.

What is a Weizenbock beer?

Weizenbock is a style of bock that replaces some of the barley in the grain bill with 40–60% wheat. It was first produced in Bavaria in 1907 by G. Schneider & Son. It was named Aventinus after a Bavarian historian. The style combines darker Munich malts and top-fermenting wheat beer yeast, brewed at the strength of a doppelbock. Darker versions should have a mild character of roasted malts. Carbonation is typically high.

How do professionals describe Bock beer?

The Brewers Association (US) offers the following style parameters:

Traditional German-Style Bock

“Traditional bocks are made with all malt and are strong, malty, medium- to full-bodied, bottom-fermented beers with moderate hop bitterness that should increase proportionately with the starting gravity. Hop flavor should be low and hop aroma should be very low. Bocks can range in color from deep copper to dark brown. Fruity esters should be minimal.”

Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.066-1.074 (16.5-18 ºPlato)

Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.018-1.024 (4.5-6 ºPlato)

Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 5-6% (6-7.5%)

Bitterness (IBU): 20-30

Color SRM (EBC): 20-30 (40-60 EBC)

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The BJCP offers the following style parameters:

5B. Traditional Bock

Aroma: “Strong malt aroma…  Virtually no hop aroma.  Some alcohol may be noticeable.”

Appearance: “Light copper to brown color, often with attractive garnet highlights.”

Flavor: “Complex maltiness is dominated by the rich flavors of Munich and Vienna malts, which contribute melanoidins and toasty flavors.  Some caramel notes may be present from decoction mashing and a long boil.”

Mouthfeel: “Medium to medium-full bodied.  Moderate to moderately low carbonation.  Some alcohol warmth may be found, but should never be hot.  Smooth, without harshness or astringency.”

Overall Impression: A dark, strong, malty lager beer.

History: “Originated in the Northern German city of Einbeck, which was a brewing center and popular exporter in the days of the Hanseatic League (14th to 17th century)…  The name “bock” is based on a corruption of the name “Einbeck” in the Bavarian dialect…”

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.064 – 1.072

IBUs:  20 – 27

FG:  1.013 – 1.019

SRM:  14 – 22

ABV:  6.3 – 7.2%

Commercial Examples:

Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel

Aass Bock

Great Lakes Rockefeller Bock

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