Bock – a beer style built for the spring
As much as I appreciate the chilly months, the seasons that will always be close to my heart are the in-between ones: autumn and spring. It’s not too cold but not too hot either, and walking around the street with a light and cozy jacket just puts me in my comfort zone. There’s also the added optimism that spring brings, as the trees and flowers just begin to bloom in the cold as if looking forward to the warm times ahead.
It’s also the best time to have a Bock, a dark, sweet, and fairly strong (around six to seven percent ABV) beer that is perfect for the season.
Now, the style of Bock has a pretty deep history, dating back to 14th century brewers from the German town of Einbeck who created a style that was uniquely theirs. It was a fairly dark and very malty ale. The style was later adopted by Munich brewers who gave it some tweaks, primarily by making it a lager and, thanks to their Bavarian accent, butchering the name “Einbeck” and renaming the style “ein bock,” which means billy goat.
Bock beers were historically consumed for religious festivals, particularly the spring celebrations of Easter and Lent. In fact, because the bock was so dense and rich in nutrients, monks would often have a specially modified version of the beer as a food substitute when they were fasting for Lent. To this day there is still the odd news story now and then about someone who drinks a specially made bock during Lent.
Now, however, we have access to the beer whenever we want, though many breweries still make it just for the spring. There are also more substyles from the classic bock. The maibock is a common helles lager that’s brewed up to the alcohol strength of a common bock. The incredibly strong dopplebock is what the monks drank, going up to 12 percent, and is so dense it’s known as liquid bread. The eisbock is the strongest of the bocks, ranging from nine to 13 percent ABV, and incorporates the method of partially freezing a dopplebock and removing the concentrated ice. And for those that are more accustomed to German wheat beers, there’s the weizenbock which, as the name suggests, is made from wheat instead of barley.
Now, while many local breweries make some fantastic bocks for both seasonal and year-round release, in this case I would heartily suggest going to some of the historical sources. Paulaner Brewery, for instance, was founded in 1634 by the Minim friars of the Neudeck ob der Au cloister and actually made the doppelbock for its intended religious use. Another well-known brewery, G. Schneider & Sohn, was responsible for making Aventinus, the very first weizenbock in Bavarian history back in 1907 and incorporated the eisbock freezing method. It’s sure to get you in the mood for the arrival of spring!