I’ve been trying to come up with a couple other hobbies to keep my sanity (since this whole engineering thing can be quite mundane at times) and today I decided to embrace part of my roots and start learning German. This pairs really well with the fact that I love beer, or Bier as the Germans say, so I figured why not post about a German style beer? Enter the Bock. In its various forms, this beer style is a winter-spring lager that boasts a higher alcohol content (a minimum of 6.5% ABV), heavier malt-forward flavor profiles and a smooth finish.
Bockbier is a lager which means the fermentation and rest period takes a while to bring out the smooth flavors. In fact, “lager” in German roughly translates to “rest”. Thought to have originated in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, the Southern German brewers knew a thing or two on how to keep people from freezing. Since winter and spring in Germany can be pretty darn cold, brewers understood the fact that light blond ales and lagers just wouldn’t do. They needed to amp up the malt factor and create a beer that would warm your insides and make you feel all nice and cozy. In order to have a sufficient amount of this hefty brew ready for the beginning of the winter months, brewers needed to start their process by mid October, sometimes even as early as Oktoberfest! Brewers would continue to make their variations throughout the winter and into early spring until they finished brewing their Maibocks. Maibocks are a springtime bockbier literally meaning “May bock”. It is lighter in color than all other bocks but still boasts a heavy flavor and ABV. The purpose of the Maibock was to have a beer that would help people transition from winter bocks to the opening of the summer biergartens while the weather was still on the cooler side in the spring. Genesee Brewing Company in Rochester, NY has been brewing their own version of a Maibock since 1951 that starts hitting the shelves right around this time. From the bright green can with flowers and a playful goat on it, to the light amber color and smooth flavors, this beer is perfect for knocking back a handful, without realizing it, and waiting for the snow to melt. If you don’t have any snow, well then drink it anyway and enjoy the sunshine! Fun fact: Bock in German means Billy goat or ram, hence the goat on the can!
There are about 12 different types of bockbier and a few are know by a couple of different names. So grab a beer and here we go!
Doppelbock – Literally meaning “double bock” this beer is the heftier of the bunch with a higher malt to water ratio meaning it has a higher ABV. (Science: more grains in the water means more sugar, more sugar means the more the yeast gets to break down to become gases and alcohol, thus creating a higher ABV).
Dunkelbock – A regular bockbier with some roasted malt added for an extra pop of color.
Eisbock – Take a doppelbock, and while it is lagering, bring down the temperature. Some of the water in the beer turns to slush and is subsequently pulled out to leave more alcohol than water in the beer. This freezing process also removes some of the tannins leaving the beer smooth and malt candy-like. Tannin is a biomolecule that attaches to proteins and amino acids and creates a hazy effect sometimes accompanied by an astringent, or harsh, flavor. Generally this is good in wine but can be undesirable in beer. Tannins are found in all beers and aren’t always bad, but the presence of them is determined by the pH and temperature of your sparge water and they can be removed if unwanted. Side note: sparging is the process of separating the wort from the grain, sparge water is the hot water you use to do this.
Fastenbock – This variation is special and brewed only during Lent.
G’frornes – Meaning “a frozen thing” this is a type of Eisbock originating from the city Kulmbach.
Maibock – since we already discussed this, the other names include Fruhlingsbock, and Heller or Helles bock depending on where you come from.
Urbock – “Ur” means original and this beer is thought to have been brewed in the city of Einbeck since at least the 13th century. However, in those days, it was brewed as an ale not a lager.
Weizenbock – Brewed with at least 50% malted wheat instead of malted barley, this beer is considered a wheat ale due to the type of yeast fermentation method used.
Weizendoppelbock – A strong wheat ale that is comparable to the regular barley-based Doppelbock lager.
Weizeneisbock – A Weizendoppelbock that goes through the same process as an Eisbock to remove about 6% of the water.
Weihnachtsbock – Otherwise known as a Christmas Bock, this variation is brewed with dark malts and, as the name would suggest, around Christmas time.
Winterbock – A winter special usually brewed at the Doppelbock strength.
Brewers would usually start out with Weihnachtsbocks for the early season, transition into Dunkelbocks and Winterbocks to start warming up, then into the Doppelbock variations around February to really bring on the heat, and finally into Maibocks around May to finish out the season. I don’t know about you but after all this German talk I feel like I need to grab a bratwurst and a pint of Weizenbock and live vicariously through my Duolingo app. Ich bin Sarah, und ich liebe Bier!