Different Types of Bock Beer
The name of this beer would seem to imply that it is an extension of the traditional Bock style but that is not the case. Dopplebock and it’s name sake (Bock) both hail from the town of Munich, but have completely separate histories of their own.
Munich, which means “Home of the Monks”, was home to the followers of St. Francis of Paula, a group of vegetarian monks from Italy who observed two fasts each year; one during Lent as well as the month leading up to Christmas. It has been told that the monks from this era brewed a particularly dark and heavy beer to carry them through the fasts, and the Paulaners were no exception. By using the best quality grains and special brewing techniques, they were able to produce a virtual “Liquid Bread” beer that was high in protein and carbohydrates, and could sustain them during the Lenten season, thus keeping in line with the doctrine that “liquida non frangunt ieunium” (liquids do not break the fast).
The Paulaners were well educated and kept meticulous records on every batch of beer noting any changes to the recipe or procedures and noting the results. In a real sense, these monks were some of the first professional brewers of the western world, and WOW what a wonderfully rich beer it was that they came up with. It’s odd since the Paulaners thought that food should be kept simple and that it’s only purpose was for sustenance. In practice, they weren’t supposed to treat anything they consumed as an indulgence, which makes me wonder if the Paulaners were cheating a little bit when they came up with such a wonderful brew.
As legend has it, the Holy See in Rome wanted to make sure the Paulaners weren’t getting too fancy and requested that a batch of this Bavarian Brew be shipped to Rome for inspection. And so a fresh barrel of this fine beer was prepared and sent via slow rumbling transport to Rome where hopefully the Pope would give it his stamp of approval. Now there’s no better way to ruin beer than to freeze it in the cold Alpine passes and then conversely to bake it on the hot dusty roads of Italy, and this certainly was the case for the Popes very first taste of Bavarian beer. But word has it that the Holy See was quite impressed, stating that any soul who willingly drinks this beverage during Lent certainly deserves to go to heaven. And so it was, that the Paulaners would go on to make brewing history with their holy approved beverage.
Eventually the Paulaners realized the popularity and money making potential of their product, and in 1780 came out with the first commercial release of their extra heavy beer they called Salvator. Now there are a number of different theories as to where the name came from. Some say it comes from the phrase “Saintly Father Beer” or Sankt-Vater-Beir from which Salvator is derived. Another theory states that it comes from a passage in the Paulaner’s benediction, “ad sanctum Salvatorem.” It also has been noted that Salvator means Savior in Latin.
At this point in time, the citizens of Munich were already familiar with their beloved Bock Beer, and it didn’t take much time for people to begin drawing comparisons between Bock and this new heavier beer. It tasted as if they had doubled everything from the flavor to the alcohol and so it must be a Double Bock. One can see how alcohol can spark creativity in people when trying to come up with a name for a new beer style.
Today, the Paulaner brewry has been secularized and is still operating producing their famous Salvator beer along with other styles of beer. Many brewers have followed in their footsteps naming their Dopplebock beers with the “ator” suffix like “Maximator”, “Triumphator”, and “Celabrator”.
The Brewing Revolution
During the 19th century science, finally caught up with brewing, thanks to Louis Pasteur, and brewers now knew that yeast was actually a small organism. In the 1840’s, the Carlsberg brewery was the first to isolate the lager yeast strain that had been developed over the centuries in Bavaria. This led to the availability of this yeast to brewers all over Europe, and a brewing revolution was on. Pilsner Urquell led the way with their light lager and soon everyone was copying this style. The spread of this new beer was accelerated by the large exodus of Germans from the fatherland, due to the many seemingly endless revolutions that went on in the later 1800’s.
Hellesbock and Maibock
With the popularity of the lighter lagers on the rise, it was time for a newer more modern Bock. Hellesbock (pronounced “Hell-ez bock” meaning bright one or light one) was the result. A lighter version of the original Bock, Hellesbock represents the mastery of German brewing as it walks the fine line between the lighter beers and the flavor of traditional Bocks. The decreased malt profile also gave German brewers the opportunity to introduce small amounts of noble hop flavor and bitterness, thus giving the beer another dimension not normally associated with Bock. The seasonal sister to this style is Maibock, which comes out in the spring and is usually a little spicier that the Hellesbock.
Don’t miss Church Street Brewing Company’s upcoming release of Magisterium Maibock! Coming March 30th to our Taproom! A Weyer-mann malted traditional that features subtle hints of toast and caramel from Carahell and Vienna malts. Featuring three different German hop varieties to ensure a complex, full character. A beer to make any monk happy.
Eisbock – the latest happy accident.
Eisbock , one of the latest iterations of the famous bock style from the land of Bavaria, has its beginnings with one of Germany’s oldest family owned breweries, Schneider & Sons. Like many other Bavarian brewers, Schneider & Sons are known for their famous Hefe-weissen, or unfiltered wheat beer. Their most famous product, however, has long been the wheat double-bock called Aventinus, a name which comes from the pseudonym used by Johannes Turmair in his fanciful tale of King Gambrinus. After its introduction in 1907, the popularity of Aventinus began to grow as beer-lovers everywhere were clamoring for this new brew. By the 1930’s they were shipping Aventinus in trucks with no temperature control and one of the shipments froze en route. They tapped the keg anyway and what came out was an amazing elixir of concentrated Aventinus that would knock your sox off. As it turned out, a layer of ice had formed a sleeve around the sides of the keg while the inside still had liquid beer. They tried to repeat this process both artificially and naturally but were never successful, and in a few years the whole ice Bock incident was forgotten. Well, almost forgotten.
In 2001, brewmaster Hans Peter Drexler began playing with several new processes, trying once again to repeat the famous Eisbock of the 1930’s. After a couple years of trial and error, he eventually came up with a repeatable process for freezing beer, and in 2003 came out with the first intentionally produced Eisbock beer. This was their Aventinus with the freezing process added, which took the alcohol from 8%ABV to 12%. The result is one of the biggest and smoothest beers you will ever taste.
The Boston Beer Company has taken Bock a step further by coming up with yeasts that have alcohol tolerances of up to 25%. Their resulting beer, called Triple Bock, is served flat and tastes more like a light whisky rather than beer. Where they will go from here is anyone’s guess, but with the support of home brewers and beer lovers all over the world, the future looks bright.
Bock is king
Ever since the first human tasted water from grain that accidentally got rained on and sat for a while, people have been continually modifying and trying to perfect the art of brewing. Of all the beers that have come since then, none are as richly steeped in history and folklore as is the style known as Bock. With all of its’ subsequent sub styles and incarnations, there is do doubt in my mind as to what the true king of beers is.
Live long and imbibe,
Charles E. Fort (Chuck), Brewer
Church Street Brewing Co.
Sources: Bryce Eddings, About.com
plumpjackwines.com – plumpjack beer club – Eisbock
beeradvocate.com – Horst Dornbusch