Wait – you’ve never heard about Bocks? It’s one of the oldest beer styles around.
So, what is Bock beer really?
In a nutshell, Bocks are stronger beers. In other words, they’re not like your typical lager or Pilsner. A defining quality of this style is its rich malty and toasty character.
But what about its hoppiness? Or what makes a beer a Bock beer? How do you brew a German-style Bock? Don’t worry. That’s coming up in a second.
What Makes a Beer a Bock Beer?
It’s all about malt-dominant flavors in a German-style Bock. You might taste some hoppiness but it’s generally very light in this style.
Another quality of Bock beers is that they’re bottom-fermented. Unlike ales which are top-fermented at higher temperatures, Bocks are fermented at lower temperatures. These temperatures usually range between 45°F (7°C) to 50°F (10°C).
What is the Beer Profile of Bock Beer?
It’s hard to understand what makes a beer a Bock beer by simply saying it’s malt-dominant. Or that it has very light hoppiness.
A lot of beers nowadays are malt-forward. To fully understand what makes a beer a Bock beer, here’s a quick rundown of a Bock beer’s profile.
Traditional Bock beers have an all-around malt profile. It has a high to very high malt flavor with very light hoppiness.
As for its flavor profile, traditional Bocks lean more towards toasty or nutty flavor notes. Some styles will have caramel as part of the flavor profile. However, this wouldn’t make it a traditional Bock anymore.
According to the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program Guidelines), a traditional Bock has a malt profile that…
- Has high malt sweetness or balanced sweetness
- Toasted or nutty malt flavors but not caramel
The aroma of a traditional Bock is also similar to its flavor profile. That means a Bock’s aroma will lean towards toasty or nutty aromas, but not caramel.
Because Bock beers don’t have a high hop character, the hop aroma should also be very low.
Bock beers have a dark brown to very dark appearance. In the SRM chart, Bock beers have an SRM between 20 to 30.
As for clarity, it’s not cloudy but rather clear in appearance.
Bock beers have a medium full-body, low to medium carbonation, and a dry finish. Its overall mouthfeel is smooth and soft without any bitter taste in your mouth.
Unlike your typical lager, Bock beers will have a higher ABV – around 6% to 7.5%. On average, most Bock beers have an ABV of 6.5%.
Why Is Bock Beer Called Bock Beer?
Bock beer is called bock beer due to its origin story. Bock beer is an old beer, dating back to the 14th century.
It was first brewed in the Einbeck region of Germany. By the 17th century, the Bock style made its way to the south, specifically to the city of Munich.
Eventually, bock beer reached Bavaria where the Bavarians pronounced it as oanpock and later on, as a bock bier.
This last name was the name that stuck along with the image of a goat found on the Einbeck beer label. And it’s why the name today remains as bock beer.
But what about the goat? Well…
There’s a lot of lore surrounding the goat on Bock beer.
Why Is There a Goat on Bock Beer?
For starters, when the Bavarians pronounced the term Einbeck, it sounded like Einbock. In German, Einbock translates to billy goat.
The goat remains on the label as a sort of visual pun that relates to the term Einbock.
Another interesting lore is based on the astrological sign Capricorn. Traditional bock was released during the spring or winter season. Since the winter/spring season falls under Capricorn, bock beer came to be associated with the image of a goat.
Another legend mentions that because bock beer is a strong beer, it gives you the “kick of a goat.” In effect, this may have led to strong bock beer having the goat on the label.
Whichever lore you choose to believe in, one thing’s for sure. Bock beer is a strong beer. And because it’s so strong, perhaps it hits with a good kick of a goat in your mouth — you can’t deny its accuracy now, can you.
Where Is Bock Beer From?
Bock beer dates back to the 14th century in the Northern part of Einbeck in Germany. Although most records say that bock beer started during the 14th century, the earliest record was found in 1378.
Bock was originally brewed by monks during the Lent season. And it served as a symbol for better times to come during long and cold winters.
When monks originally brewed Bock beer, it was actually known to be nutritional. In fact, the monks would call Bock beer “liquid bread” since it served as a drink that provided sustenance during winter.
However, the Bock beer of today doesn’t have that “liquid bread” nutritional value. It leans more towards alcohol content.
Who Invented Bock Beer?
Monks from the German town of Einbeck invented this rich, malty, and toasty brew. You might have heard about Trappist ales too. These delicious ales were also brewed by monks.
The monks who invented Bock beer usually brewed it only during the Lenten season. Why? Because monks were forbidden to eat during this time. And so, they thought…
Why not brew a rich, intensely malty drink to get through the Lenten season? That’s exactly what happened.
It wasn’t long until Bock beer became a popular local tradition during spring. But Bock beer didn’t become as popular as it is today because of a local tradition.
During the 17th century, a couple from south Germany insisted they serve Bock beer at their wedding. When the guests first took a sip of Bock beer, it quickly became the rage and talk of the night. Soon after, Bock beer spread throughout Germany.
What Are the Different Types of Bock Beer?
Bock beer has grown since the 14th century. Commercial breweries have made various styles over the years.
However, there are only 5 main types of Bock beer. Some of these are stronger while others are lighter or paler.
And finally, some embody the same characteristics of a traditional Bock, but with subtle changes to the style. One example is a Weizenbock, which is basically the wheat version of Bock beer.
What Are the 5 Types of Bock Beer?
There are 5 different types of bock beer:
- Traditional Bock
You might have heard a few or all of the Bock beer types mentioned here. But just to be sure, here’s a quick definition of each type.
You’ve already met Traditional Bock. As mentioned earlier, this Bock beer type is well known for its rich or robust malty flavor.
Its appearance also ranges from dark brown to very dark and will have a smooth mouthfeel with very light hoppiness.
What makes a traditional Bock different from other types is its toasty or nut-like flavor notes. It’s definitely a beer that’s easy to drink thanks to its smooth body and well-balanced bitterness.
Does a traditional Bock have hops? Yes, it does; however, the hops are only meant to balance out a traditional Bock’s malty sweetness.
Finally, a traditional Bock will have an ABV between 6% to 7.5%.
Doppelbock is the powered-up version of a traditional Bock. You could say that a Doppelbock is practically a double Bock beer.
Maltiness, flavor, and alcohol content. These are all double of what you’d find in a traditional Bock. In other words, a Doppelbock is a malt bomb. Its flavor notes include the following:
Of all the Bock beer types, Doppelbocks have the strongest alcohol content. Interestingly, Doppelbocks can also be either pale or dark in color.
A pale Doppelbock is brewed with lighter Pilsner and Munich malts, while a dark Doppelbock is brewed with Vienna and Munich malts.
Also known as Helles Bock, a Maibock is the opposite of a Doppelbock. Well, not the complete opposite, but in terms of color, a Maibock is paler with a deep gold or light amber color.
If Doppelbocks are dark and bold, Maibocks are lighter and less malty. It uses a combination of Vienna, Munich, and light Pilsner malts.
However, there is one aspect to a Maibock that sets it apart from the rest: hoppiness.
A Maibock will have a slightly more hop flavor with some peppery notes and bitterness to shine through. The hops used to brew a Maibock are usually Noble hop varieties.
Now, this isn’t to say, though, that a Maibock isn’t high in malt.
A Maibock will have toasty, bready maltiness, but compared to a traditional Bock, a Maibock is slightly less malty.
Nevertheless, a Maibock retains one true aspect of all Bock beers, alcohol strength. Even though a Maibock has a lighter profile than a traditional Bock or Doppelbock, it still packs a strong ABV “goat” kick.
An Eisbock is the rarest among all types. Compared to a traditional Bock, an Eisbock has a much stronger alcohol content.
But what makes an Eisbock so interesting is its brewing process.
Eisbocks are made by freezing the beer until some of the water freezes. Then, the ice is skimmed off and the result is a stronger beer. Water is removed to add more alcohol strength to the brew.
Yes – an Eisbock is a strong Bock. And it’s not just the alcohol that’s strong. The flavor, body, and malts are all concentrated, which is perfect for balancing out the intense alcohol content.
Weizenbock is the newest Bock on the block. It was first brewed in 1907 by G. Schneider & Sohn – a Weissbier brewing company in Bavaria.
Compared to all the Bock beer types, a Weizenbock isn’t brewed as a lager.
Another way of better understanding a Weizenbock is that it’s the wheat version of a Doppelbock. Instead of using barley, wheat is used.
There are 2 qualities that define a Weizenbock:
- It uses wheat instead of barley.
- It uses an ale yeast – the same ale yeast to brew a Hefeweizen. In effect, this imparts a banana flavor to it.
Some commercial breweries will produce a Weizenbock with different flavors like plum, grape, or raisin. However, the most common style is similar to the flavor notes you would get from a Hefeweizen.
What Kind of Beer Is a Bock?
A Bock is a type of lager, which means it’s fermented at lower temperatures. However, a Weizenbock isn’t brewed as a lager.
Since a Weizenbock is brewed using ale yeast and wheat, it leans more towards an ale than a lager. Other types such as Eisbock, Doppelbock, traditional Bock, and Maibock are all lagers.
Is a Bock an Ale or Lager?
Yes and no. Traditional Bocks are lagers. Put simply, the traditional and original style of a Bock follows a lager style.
Bocks are bottom-fermenting lagers that are stored for a few months in cold storage to smooth out its flavors.
So, when is a Bock an Ale, then? When you’re brewing a Weizenbock, it’s generally classified as an ale. Mainly because of the yeast strain and fermentation process.
What Is the Difference Between a Lager and a Bock Beer?
Bocks are stronger than lagers. (Remember, Bock = strong beer). A Bock is also typically bolder and richer in terms of malt compared to a lager.
The appearance of a Bock also differs from a lager, seeing as how a Bock’s color ranges from dark amber or brown to dark color.
Is a Bock a Wheat Beer?
A Bock isn’t a wheat beer by definition. Bocks aren’t traditionally brewed with wheat. Only one style is: a Weizenbock.
Weizenbocks are a type of Bock but it breaks away from the Bock tradition of how it’s brewed, making it an ale.
According to BJCP, Weizenbocks are classified as a “German Wheat Beer”. But that still doesn’t make Bock a wheat beer. It only means that a Weizenbock is simply the wheat version of Bock beer.
Is a Bock a Porter?
Bocks aren’t Porters, but it’s easy to see why many might think so. Porters are also dark-colored beers with a medium body that impart malty sweetness.
However, Porters also have bitter hoppiness and also use top-fermenting ale yeasts. Bocks use bottom-fermenting yeasts and don’t have bitter hoppiness like Porters do.
It might be hard to tell one apart if you were drinking a dark-colored Bock. However, the differences between a Bock and Porter are actually quite vast.
For one, a Bock has German origins while a Porter originates from England or Ireland. In addition, the style of Bock beer varies greatly.
Bocks can range from a light pale color to a dark brown or dark color. The ABV can also range from moderate strength to high strength. And finally, Bocks can either be bottom-fermented or top-fermented.
In short, Bocks aren’t Porters.
Is Bock Beer a Stout Beer?
Stouts may be darker and more full-bodied than a Porter, but it’s still very different from a Bock beer. People often get confused between a Stout and Porter.
And when you add Bock into the picture, it gets even messier. But here’s one thing that will set a Bock and a Stout apart.
Stouts use unmalted roasted barley as the main malt/grain ingredient. It’s why Stouts give off a coffee-like flavor. In fact, Stouts are popularly known for this.
A Bock doesn’t have coffee flavor notes but rather toasty, nutty, and sometimes bready malt flavor notes.
And then there are the varying styles of a Stout. You have Imperial Stout, Milk Stout, Oatmeal Stout, and so on. These variations alone reveal that a Stout is different from a Bock in many ways.
It’s worth noting that one variation of the Stout – Chocolate Stout – has a similar taste to Bock. But even then, the verdict is clear: a Bock beer is not a Stout beer.
What Is the Difference Between a Stout Beer and a Bock Beer?
As mentioned earlier, the varieties of Stout beer are vastly different from Bock beer. Compare a Doppelbock to an Oatmeal Stout, for example.
You’d find that both these beer styles are different not just in taste but in the ingredients as well.
Stouts are known for their signature coffee-like flavor, which comes from unmalted roasted barley. Bock beer, on the other hand, doesn’t impart coffee-like flavors.
Bocks have a more toasty, malty flavor while Stouts lean more towards roasted flavor notes. However, the biggest difference between a Stout and Bock is the alcohol strength.
You’ll find a much higher ABV in a Bock than in a Stout. And finally, Stouts are generally classified as dark ales. Meanwhile, Bocks are dark lagers.
Ales vs lagers? Very different indeed. Ales will have more fruitiness in general while lagers have a more clean taste.
Is Bock a Light or a Dark Beer?
That’s a good question. Bocks can be both light and dark beers.
You can have a Bock that’s pale amber in color and a Bock that’s dark brown or dark-colored. For example, a Maibock and Weizenbock will have a lighter or paler color than a Doppelbock. Yet, all three are Bock beers.
It’s worth noting that Bock beers have a wide variety of styles. These styles stretch widely from appearance to ABV and brewing process.
As a result, you get Bocks that are dark in color. And you get Bocks that are light or pale in color. Heck, you even get a wheat version that strays away from the traditional Bock lager brewing process.
What Do Bock Beers Taste Like?
A Bock beer should be rich, malty, and toasty with no detectable bitterness or hoppiness. Some Bock beers will have some caramel added to them while others will have a banana fruity ester note.
Depending on the style, Bock beers can have grape, raisin, plum, or toffee flavor notes too. However, the key flavor note here is malt.
Bock beers are malt-dominant beers and they always will be.
Are Bock Beers Bitter?
Bock beers are not bitter. Why? Because it’s just not their style. Bocks are all about the malt. In other words, Bock beers let malt take the center stage. The front row seats. The driver’s wheel.
You don’t drink a Bock beer and say “Wow, that’s bitter”.
Bock beers let the rich and sweet maltiness dominate the flavor profile. Combine that with toasty or nut-like flavor notes and you have one heck of a great Bock beer.
Is Bock Beer Hoppy?
Bock beers aren’t hoppy. Sure – hops are still added to the brew. But, the style guidelines of a Bock beer reveal that a Bock should have no detectable hoppiness.
The closest “hoppy” beer you might taste in a Bock beer is a Maibock. When you brew a Maibock, you add more hops than you would in a traditional Bock or Doppelbock.
However, even if some of the hops may shine through, it’s still not the main attraction of a Maibock. Maibocks are still malt-dominant beers, which means they should have a bready, malty, and toasty flavor.
You’ll taste some of the hop flavor in a Maibock, but it wouldn’t be enough to be considered a hoppy beer.
How Strong Is Bock Beer?
Compared to your average lager, like your Pilsner, Bock beer is stronger. A traditional Bock has an ABV between 6% to 7.5%. However, a Doppelbock can go as high as 9% in alcohol content.
You won’t find a lot of lagers climbing as high as 8% or 9% in ABV strength. And don’t forget Eisbock.
Eisbocks are unique because part of the brewing process involves freezing the water. Once the water freezes and the ice is skimmed off, you get a stronger beer.
To give you a better analogy, Bock = strong beer, right? Well…Eisbock = strong Bock. If an average Bock beer is already at 6.5% ABV, how much would an Eisbock have?
Twice as much? Try 9% to 14%. There’s even one brewery in Munich Giesinger Braeu that brews an Eisbock with an ABV of 30%!
How Is Bock Beer Brewed?
Brewing a Bock beer starts with the right grains, hops, and yeast. Wait – did you say hops? Yes, specifically low hop varieties that don’t add a lot of bitterness to your Bock.
Choosing the right ingredients will be discussed in the next section.
Now, there’s one thing to take note of when brewing a Bock: diacetyl rest. When brewing a lager, a diacetyl rest should always be part of the brewing process.
And lastly, mash temperature is also vital. Mash too high and you end up extracting tannins in your Bock. The end result? Undesirable flavors.
Ingredients for a Bock Beer?
In this section, you’ll learn everything there is to know about choosing the right hops, yeast strain, and grain bill.
Hops for Bock Beer
The majority of your hops should be added during the kettle boil. This will add some bitterness to balance out any lingering sweetness in your Bock.
But, take note: Don’t use any high-alpha hop varieties. High-alpha hop varieties are what give your beer its distinct or detectable bitterness.
Adding that to a Bock would be unacceptable. In addition, hop aroma shouldn’t be present either. For a Bock, stick to low alpha German hop varieties, such as:
- German Northern Brewer
Grain Bill for Bock Beer
Grain/malt is the most important ingredient in a Bock beer. Most styles will use Vienna and Munich malts for their grain bill. Some homebrewers also add Pilsner malt; however, the honey flavor in a Pilsner malt may be too sweet for some.
If you want a rich malty and bready flavor profile, go with Maris Otter and Munich malts. A good ratio to start with is 2:1.
So, for example, you can go with 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of Munich malt and 5 (2.3 kg) pounds of Maris Otter malt.
Now, what about crystal malts and dark roasted malts?
Generally, it’s not a good idea to add any crystal or dark roasted malt. Why? Because dark roasted malts give your Bock a roasted flavor. Crystal malts, on the other hand, impart the wrong malt flavor in your Bock.
However, there is a way to bump up your malt complexity. You can add 1/2 pound (227 g) each of the following:
- Briess Special Roast
You can also add 1/4 pound (113 g) of Cara Rye to bump up your Bock’s toasty flavor notes. Overall, these malts should give you a malty, toasty Bock.
Yeast Strain for Bock Beer
For your yeast strain, it’s always best to go with strains that have small amounts of diacetyl. Two great starter yeast strains would be:
- Wyeast 2487 (Hella Bock yeast)
- WhiteLabs WLP833 (German Bock yeast)
Now, there’s a special yeast strain worth mentioning too: Wyeast 2206. It delivers the maltiness you would expect from a Bock beer. Not to mention, it has good attenuation so you should get a solid ABV strength.
But there’s one problem with Wyeast 2206: It’s prone to diacetyl. Yikes! Fortunately, there is a way to prevent diacetyl in your Bock.
That is, of course, if you choose to go with Wyeast 2206 (more on this in the later sections).
Mash Temp for Bock Beer
A single infusion mash for Bock beer should get the job done. Your conversion temperature should be between 149°F (65°C) to 155°F (68°C) for 1 hour.
As for your sparge temperature, keep it between 168°F (75°C) to 172°F (77°C). You should end up with a grain-bed runoff temperature of 168°F (75°C).
Finally, keep your mash pH between 5.2 to 5.6. At the beginning of your mash, the mash pH should be at 5.2. Then, during the start of the boil, it should rise to about 5.6. As for the post-boil, it should drop to 5.4 to 5.5.
Water Chemistry for Bock Beer
For your water chemistry, take note of your Sulfate and Chloride levels. Good chloride levels should contribute to the maltiness of your Bock. However, keep your Chloride below 100 ppm.
If your Sulfate is too high, you risk accentuating more bitterness in your Bock. As for Magnesium, 5 to 6 ppm should be good to start with. 5 ppm should be enough to make your yeast perform better.
Here’s a sample of what your water chemistry might look like:
- Chloride: 54 ppm
- Sulfate: 25.7 ppm
- Magnesium: 5 to 6 ppm
- Calcium: 50 to 60 ppm
- Sodium: 20 to 27 ppm
- Bicarbonates: 137 ppm
When Should You Brew Bocks?
Once you have all your ingredients and your water chemistry sorted out, go ahead and brew your first Bock.
Here’s a short summary of everything so far in brewing a Bock:
- Choose low-alpha German hop varieties (Hallertauer, Spalt, Saaz)
- Go with a yeast strain with low diacetyl
- Munich, Vienna, and Maris Otter malts are great starter malt options
- Refrain from adding crystal malts and dark roasted malts
- Keep your mash temp between 149°F (65°C) to 155°F (68°C) for 1 hour
- Be mindful of your sulfate and chloride levels in your water chemistry
Now, there’s just one last step: Fermentation.
How Do You Ferment a Bock?
Fermentation for a Bock should be done at 50°F (10°C) for 2 to 3 weeks. Fermenting your beer cold is crucial. Why? Because Bocks are lagers that are brewed at bottom-fermenting temperatures.
In short, these are ideal temperatures for the yeast to do its work. But what if you choose to go with a yeast strain that’s prone to diacetyl, like Wyeast 2206?
In that case, your fermentation temperature should be lower than 50°F. Preferably as low as 45°F (7°C). The colder it is, the better. However, just make sure you don’t go too low that you end up freezing your brew and the fermentation process.
Then, 4 to 5 days after fermentation starts, gradually increase the temperature by a degree until you hit a temperature of 60°F (15°C). This is necessary if you want to clean off any diacetyl and perform a thorough cleanup of your brew.
Take note, though. This process only applies if you’re pitching Wyeast 2206. But if you’re going with Wyeast 2487 or WLP833, a fermentation temp of 50°F for 2 to 3 weeks is fine.
How Long to Lager a Bock?
After fermentation is complete comes the lagering process. The lagering phase should last for about 2 months in cold storage at temperatures between 32°F (0°C) to 35°F (2°C).
The general rule of thumb is to lager your Bock for 4 to 10 weeks. Ultimately, this timeline should give your yeast the time it needs to settle out of your brew.
Is Bock Beer From the Bottom of the Barrel?
The assumption that Bock is made from the dregs at the bottom of a barrel is actually a myth. This isn’t true in any case and would, in fact, be impossible for 2 reasons:
- Reusing the dregs at the bottom of the barrel leads to bacterial contamination. It’s clear that Bock beer doesn’t have the same quality as contaminated beer.
- The residue left behind or sitting at the bottom of the barrel is unfermentable. It’s exactly why it sits at the bottom of the barrel and cannot be refermented to make more beer.
Who Makes a Good Bock Beer?
Most Bocks are seasonal – usually only available from February to March.
Ever since Bock came into the picture, there have been many breweries that released their own Bock style over the years. Some were wildly innovative, while some stayed true to the classic way.
That being said, there are a handful of breweries that brewed Bock beers worth taking note of.
The next time you see an aisle that’s fully stocked with Bock beers, look for any of these all-around malty beers:
|Weihenstephaner Korbinian||Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan|
|Mystic Bock||Arches Brewing|
|Ayinger Celebrator||Ayinger Privatbrauerei|
|Paulaner Salvator||Paulaner Brauerei Munche|
|Troegs Troegenator||Troegs Independent Brewing|
|Five O’Bock Somewhere||La Quinta Brewing|
|St. Nikolaus Bock Bier||Pennsylvania Brewing|
|Rogue Dead Guy||Rogue Brewing|
|Sprecher Maibock||Sprecher Brewing Company|
|Low Boy||On Tour Brewing|
|Schell’s Bock||August Schell Brewing Company|
|Lakefront Maibock||Lakefront Brewery, Inc.|
|Rock Out with Maibock Out||Hailstorm Brewing|
|Poop Your Pants Chocolate Bock||Perrin Brewery|