As the holiday season approaches, some brewers begin to roll out their festive seasonal brews just in time for your celebrations. One of such brews is Bockbier, or simply Bock, which is the German translation for “strong beer.” The name Bock relates to the German city of Einbeck, from which this beer emerged in the fourteenth century. Bockbier became famous throughout (and beyond) Germany to a point where the neighbouring German states grew jealous of Bock’s success. In fact, the degree of jealousy was so strong that on one particular occasion a brewmaster from Einbeck was lured into Munich by Duke Ludwig X and forced to share the secret of producing this beer, thus, giving Bavaria the ability to recreate the delicious beer and end Einbeck’s hegemony.
Bock beers are traditionally brewed using high quality rich coloured malt, which gives Bock its copper and brownish colour. Bock beers are cold-aged, resulting in a smooth, malty brew usually between 6% and 7% ABV. Often the hop aroma is barely noticeable, giving way to an aroma of toasted malt and caramel. You can expect a full bodied and somewhat sweet flavour with overtones of caramel and toffee, offset by moderate bitterness. Traditionally bocks were brewed in time for Advent and stayed for some time after Christmas.
There are several Bockbier variations: one of the common variations is Dopplebock. The distinguishing characteristic of Dopplebock is that they are much darker and have a higher alcohol content than regular Bock. They are usually aged for a longer period and, thus, obtain a stronger and deeper taste. Dopplebocks are commonly brewed for early spring drinking. Dopplebock beers are the strongest among bocks packing 13-14% ABV that were traditionally brewed to be consumed during Lent.
Eisbock is another popular style of bock with an intriguing story behind its discovery. (Ironically, many fine beers have been discovered by accident.) The story has it, that a tavern keeper in Bavaria forgot to bring in a cask of Bock after it was delivered to the tavern. By the time he noticed the missing cask, the beer was already partially frozen. But, as many hardcore beer-lovers would, he served it anyway. Accordingly, much of the cask’s water content remained frozen while only the alcohol and unfrozen remains of beer were served to the tavern’s patrons. Much to everyone’s surprise, the beer was still delicious and tasted exceptionally strong. Hence the name, “Ice Strong Beer.”
In making Eisbock, brewers still follow this bock brewing process and freeze the brew towards its maturity date. And since alcohol has a much lower freezing temperature, it remains unfrozen while water turns to ice. Once the water has frozen, the brewers then drain the remains which become Eisbock. Due to this process, the beer loses much of its water content, increasing the alcohol concentration. Eisbock is often between Bock and Dopplebock in alcohol content, landing it at an average of 10% ABV.
Bockbier is served in a variety of glasses, most commonly goblets, snifters, tulip or flute pint glasses.
Recommended food pairings are:
Since the Germans are big meat eaters, venison and dark game meat will pair beautifully with stronger kinds of bock. Roasted pig, ham and pork schnitzel pair well with lower alcohol content bock. And finally, caramel cake and bock will make an excellent desert.