17 March 2008

Back to School # 6 with Bock Beers

Traditionally we haven't paid very much attention to style at Hoosier Beer Geek - our focus is usually first on finding beers that look tasty and drinking them. But a little knowledge never hurt anyone, and accordingly we've started trying to expand our knowledge of style. This is the sixth post in our Beer School series, in which we're passing on what we learned in our meetings at World Class Beverages to you. We continue our beer schooling with Bock Beers.

Or most recent beer school covered Bocks/Scottish/Irish beers as well as a very interesting introduction to the world of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The BJCP is a very involved and intense process consisting of more than 100 hours of training and study to prepare for an exam to become a certified beer judge.

According to the BJCP website, “the purpose of the Beer Judge Certification Program is to promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills”. A beer judge evaluates and scores beers, meads and ciders and makes suggestions for improvements based on style guidelines set up by the BJCP. Scores are assigned on a scale from 0-50, 0 being problematic and 50 being outstanding, and are calculated from five categories: Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel and Overall Impression.

A score sheet from a beer judge should be objective and contain feedback on how the beer could be improved, leading to better beer for everyone. You can learn more about this program and download their recently updated style guidelines at the BJCP site.


Traditionally these lagers were done as the last beer of the season but are now brewed year-round. The “season” was the cool months of the year, as summertime (no refrigeration) was too warm to allow for appropriate brewing. Bocks probably originated in Einbeck, Germany and also means “billy goat” in German, which may explain why there are goats on many labels.

Bocks are split into four substyles according to the BJCP guidelines; Maibock/Helles Bock, Traditional Bock, Doppelbock, and Eisbock. They should be malty, adjunct free and have an Alcohol by Volume (ABV) of 6% or higher, depending on the substyle. The particulars of this style can be found at http://www.bjcp.org/stylecenter.html.

Maibock/Helles Bock – The most recent addition and lightest of this style, Maibock/Helles Bocks are generally associated with the spring, particularly May (Mai). Aroma should be malty with low to no hops or fruit esters, sometimes spicy, and perhaps mildly alcoholic in flavor. Hop flavor can also be present but malt flavor should be more predominant and the color should remain relatively pale. Some of the highest scoring brews in this substyle are Ayinger Maibock, Mahr’s Bock, and Hacker-Pschorr Hubertus Bock.

Traditional Bocks – As the name suggests, this was the first of the style and originated in the 14th to 17th century. These are typically darker, more malty, and stronger in aroma and flavor than the Maibocks, but not necessarily in ABV. Traditional Bocks are toasty and complex, with Munich and Vienna malts (common in Oktoberfest beers) dominating the flavor. They tend to be smooth with a sweet finish. Some top examples are the Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel, Pennsylvania Brewing Co St. Nick Bock, and Aass Bock.

Dopplebock - This style was first brewed by the Bavarian monks of St. Francis of Paula in the late 1700's as an alternative to food during lent. The German Beer Institute website says "Because the monks believed that liquids not only cleansed the body but also the soul, they would make plenty of liquid instead of solid bread from their grain, and then drink it in copious quantities...the more, the holier." This "liquid bread", named Salvator (after the Savior), was originally intended to be kept for the monks, but the unlawful sale of the brew to the commoners eventually led to the demise of the brewery (thanks to Napoleon).

Fortunately, but with much legal trouble, this substyle was eventually resurrected into today's Paulaner Salvator. Some breweries pay homage to the original, keeping the "ator" suffix in the name of their Dopplebocks, like Celebrator, Troegenator, Optimator, and Maximator to name a few. The color range of this substyle is wide and there are more opportunities for variation in aroma and flavor. These "double" bocks are dark and strong, even more so than the Traditional Bocks and are stronger now than they've been in the past.

Eisbock - A specialty beer from the Kulmbach district in Bavaria is made by partially freezing then subsequently removing ice from the beer, concentrating the alcohol. These beers may not necessarily be stronger than Dopplebocks, but they are indeed strong. Examples in this category include Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock, Eggenberg Urbock Dunkel Eisbock, and Capital Eisphyre.

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