Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 05 Bock

26 01 2010

Photo Credit: swanksalot creative commons

Today, we finish the lager portion of the BJCP style guide with category 05: bocks. Bocks are strange mysteries for the average American. A strong lager from Baveria, the bock has not received much attention from American breweries. Although there are some notable exceptions. And while Anhueser-Busch markets their Michelob Amber-Bock as “Rich and Smooth,” what exactly is a bock? And how does it differ from just a generic dark lager?

Bocks were first developed in the 14th Century CE in the Bavarian town of Einbeck. Originally brewed by Catholic Monks during the Christian fasting season of Lent, bocks tend to be higher in calories and vitamins to help ward off hunger pains. This is achieved by a step-decoction method. A decoction mash is made by slowly heating and reheating the mash in order to reach optimal mashing temperatures. This slower, longer method of brewing may take more time and resources but it has a higher efficiency rate of collecting malt sugars.

The term “bock” is a vulgarization of the place of origin (Einbeck/Einbock/Bock). They are known for their sweet maltiness, dark colors, and high levels of alcohol. A subcategory of the Bock is the Dopplebock (Double Bock). It is quite possible that the dopplebock holds the most traditions of any other beer style. Dopplebock names almost always end in an “-ator” in referrence to the original dopplebock, the Paulaner Salvator. And as the word “bock” also means “goat” in German, bocks will be decorated with goats. In fact, most bottles of Ayinger Celebrator come adorned with a goat shaped charm draped around their necks.

Maibock/Hellesbock were traditionally brewed in the spring and have a lighter color due to their lighter roast. Eisbocks (Ice Bocks) were traditionally brewed in the winter and left out in the ice and snow to freeze. The freezing temperatures would cause the water to separate from the alcohol (which has a lower freezing temperature) and concentrate the beer. This concentration would leave beer with stronger flavors, darker colors and higher alcohol levels.

BJCP Category 05- Bocks

Subcategories: Maibock/Hellesbock, Traditional Bock, Dopplebock, Eisbock

Aroma: Bocks should have moderate to strong malty sweet aromas. There should be no fruity aromas although some purple fruit (raisins, plum, grape, prune) is acceptable. A slight chocolate note should be found in darker dopplebocks but no roastiness, burnt, or coffee notes should be detected. A moderate “hot” alcohol nose is acceptable.

Appearance: Hellesbocks should be deep gold in color while bocks, dopplebocks, and eisbocks sould all be deep brown in color. Some garnet highlights are acceptable. A thick, rich, offwhite head should be present and persistent. The lagering should make the beer clear and bright despite its dark color.

Flavor: Complex sweet maltiness due to the continental malts (particularly Munich malts). Dark, rich, roastiness in the bigger beers. Subtle and slight hops due to Noble hops. Again, some purple fruits can be present in the darker beers but that is optional. Doppelbocks and Eisbocks have a strong, hot, booziness to them that should be apparent. The should be sweet but not worty. It should taste like it has been fermented.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full-bodied. Smooth without any astringency or boozy hotness. Slight carbonation.

Ingredients: Pils as base with some Vienna and Munich malts as specialty malts. Noble hops and a clean lager yeast.

Technical Notes:
Original Gravity:
1.064-1.120
Final Gravity: 1.011-1.035
IBUs: 16-35
SRM (Malt Color): 6-30
ABV: 6.3-14%

Commercial Examples:
Maibock/Hellesbock:
Ayinger Maibock, Mahr’s Bock, Hacker-Pschorr Hubertus Bock, Capital Maibock, Einbecker Mai-Urbock, Hofbräu Maibock, Victory St. Boisterous, Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock, Smuttynose Maibock
Traditional Bock: Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel, Pennsylvania Brewing St. Nick Bock, Aass Bock, Great Lakes Rockefeller Bock, Stegmaier Brewhouse Bock
Dopplebock: Paulaner Salvator, Ayinger Celebrator, Weihenstephaner Korbinian, Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel, Spaten Optimator, Tucher Bajuvator, Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock, Capital Autumnal Fire, EKU 28, Eggenberg Urbock 23º, Bell’s Consecrator, Moretti La Rossa, Samuel Adams Double Bock
Eisbock: Kulmbacher Reichelbräu Eisbock, Eggenberg Urbock Dunkel Eisbock, Niagara Eisbock, Capital Eisphyre, Southampton Eisbock

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2 responses

26 01 2010
Beth W.

Thanks for helping me understand why I love a bock so much. Also, now I know why you get that little goat charm on the bottle of the Paulaner Salvator (?).

27 01 2010
Neil Hatefuture

Thanks for the info on my most favorite of reasonably priced beers: Spaten Optimator. As a possible future brewer I’ve found your blog really informative, keep it coming!

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