Nick Carr on January 16, 2015 0 Comments History of Bocks The traditional bock’s story begins in Eisbeck, Germany around the 14th century. A couple things set Eisbeck up for its place in the brewing histories. First, it was part of a federated trading group known as the Hanseatic League. For Eisbeck, this meant a much wider region of export for any good it produced (including beer). Second, it happened to be in a fertile hop growing region, just as hops were coming to prominence as part of a brewer’s main-stay ingredient list. Before hops came to the fore as a preservative of the fermented most brewing was done with a blend of herbs and spices to preserve the beer. These herbal blends, used to make what is now known to history as Gruits (ales without hops), varied greatly between brewers and were kept secret. At some point Einbeck realized both the superior flavor and preservative ability of the hop and their ability to grow it. Their status within the Hanseatic League ensured this information spread quickly, giving Einbeck a position of some authority where beer making was concerned. This early bock ancestor looks little like what we call a traditional bock today. They were brewed with pale malts, and wheat often made up a significant portion of the grain bill; which also may have contributed to Einbeck’s success as a brewing city. Most of the ales of the time were murky and dark. The emergence of a pale very clear lager would have been a particularly novel product. These bocks were also brewed only in winter, but then stored cold until spring, which increased clarity and decreased chances of bacteria. Einbeck’s brewing supremacy fell during the early part of the 17th century when a combination of the Thirty Years War, competing economic leagues, and fire, ravaged the town. As bock exports slowed it was realized that something had to be done. The Bavarian people had become too fond of the new beer to have it simply disappear. So in 1612, a brew master from Eisbeck came to teach Munich brewers the ways of bock beer. Known for their brown ales, Munich brewers created something new when they combined these darker grain bills with the new lagering procedures. The beer was still quiet dark and strong but was now bottom fermented and lagered for several months, creating a smooth, clear beer with richly complex malt flavors. What about the name? Well there are a couple ideas about its origin. In German, “Bock” is the word for a male goat and it is said the name refers to a combination of the strength of the beer (has a kick like a goat) and the possibility of the zodiac sign Capricorn being overhead each season when they brewed this beer. Another, more likely origin is a derivative of Einbeck. Change the “beck” to “bock” and you have the words to order a bock in German “Ein Bock.” Style Characteristics The guidelines for the Traditional Bock beer style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what a Traditional Bock should represent. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 14–22 SRM Original Gravity: 1.064–1.072 Final Gravity: 1.013–1.019 IBU Range: 20–27 ABV Range: 6.3–7.2% Aroma: Strong Maltiness & Toastiness; Little Hop Aroma, if any; Low Fruity Esters Flavor: Complex Maltiness; Toasty Flavors; Low-Levels of Caramel are Possible; No Esters, Diacetyl or Hoppiness Appearance: Ranges From Old Copper to Dark Brown; Often Has Mahogany Highlights & Cream-like Head Mouthfeel: Smooth Body; Medium to Medium-Full Mouthfeel with Low to Moderate Carbonation Food Pairings: Tex-Mex, Grilled Chicken; Roasted Duck; Pork Chops; Aged Swiss Cheese; Dark Chocolate Appearance: A well-made traditional bock is beautiful in the glass. Lagering gives good clarity even though this is a darker beer. Color can range from old copper to a darker brown, often with mahogany highlights. A persistent, large cream-like head with off-white coloring should sit atop the dark liquid. Aroma: Malt is the roof beam holding up a traditional bock’s aroma. This strong malty nose will often be rich in melanoidins (a compound formed when sugars and amino acids combine at elevated temperatures) and toastiness. There will be very little to no hop aroma. Alcohol may be noticeable, but at a pretty discreet level; and very low fruity esters. Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel will run smooth. No harsh notes or astringency should be noticeable. Low to moderate carbonation should push a nicely medium to medium-full body across the palate. Some alcohol warmth is acceptable. Taste: The complex maltiness of Munich and Vienna malts will rule, contributing toasty flavors, but no burnt or roasted character. Caramel may be present but at very low levels, nothing like the caramel-built malt characters of some other ales. Hop bitterness supports the malt flavors without becoming overly distinguishable. Some sweetness will linger through the finish, but is not cloying, and overall the beer should be well-attenuated. No esters, diacetyl, or hop flavor should be present. Commercial Examples Of The Style St. Nikolaus Bock (Pennsylvania Brewing Company, PA) Winner Great American Beer Festival, silver, 2011. Available November to January. Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel (Einbecker Brauhaus, Germany) Year round. Available in most good bottle shops. Aass Bock (Aass Brewery, Norway) Year Round. May be hard to find in the US. Note: Examples of “traditional” Bocks are pretty hard to come by. Even the winners for the Bock category in the competitions I usually take examples from were either no longer available or fell into another category of Bock (Maibock, Dubbelbock, etc.) If you know of any good Bocks that fall into the strictly traditional category drop a comment and add to the examples. Tips to Brewing Your Own Bock If you’re interested in brewing your own Bock at home, here are a few things you should know going into it. Click Here to Buy a Bock Ingredient Kit Water: The main concern for homebrewing water is to remove any excess chlorine. To do this run your water through an active carbon filter. Any home drinking water filter will do this quiet nicely. The pH is also a concern, but in this case it will likely take care of itself because of the highly kilned grains that you will be using in any bock recipe. pH can be easily measured with pH testing strips and should be around 5.2 at the beginning of the mash, rise to ~5.6 at the beginning of the boil, then drop to roughly 5.5 post boil. It will drop into the low 4’s during the ferment. The Malt Bill: Typically the malt bill for a traditional bock is going to be almost entirely Munich and Vienna malts. The proportions of these two malts and Lovibond (L) color rating within each malt are up to you, but I would lean heavier on the Munich. A tiny proportion of dark roast malt may be used for color adjustment (chocolate malt is often used), though generally should not be needed, especially for an all grain brewer. Completely avoid crystal malts because they will create the wrong kind of malt flavors in the beer. If extract brewing, find a Munich-based extract, and consider doing a partial mash with a mix of some Munich malt and a small bit of something darker (chocolate?) to add color and complexity. Hops: There are few if any hop flavors in a traditional bock, so most of your hops should be added at the beginning of the boil for bittering only. A small addition of aroma hops is OK, but use a careful hand here; there should be very little hop aroma in your finished product. Not surprisingly, the hops most often used will be low alpha German varieties. German Northern Brewer, Perle, Spalt, Saaz, and Hallertauer are all good selections. Stay away from high alpha varieties. They will overdue their welcome and upset the malt balance. The Mash: A triple decoction was traditionally used to deal with under-modified malts. With modern highly modified grains (especially two-row) a single infusion mash will usually work just fine, though doing a single or double decoction will tend to darken the color and create a fuller bodied, strong malt profile. A single infusion mash will look much like other brews. The conversion temperature will be between 149°-155°F for about an hour. And the sparge temperature will range between 168° and 172°F to get an in-the-grain-bed runoff temperature of 168°F. You may try to avoid going above 170°F because this is likely to leach tannins out of the grain husks and create a tannic characteristic, along with haze. A decoction mash involves taking a portion of the mash and heating it up to boiling, then adding it back in. Decoctions can; maximize malt flavors, help break down grain cell walls, and make filtering easier. Temperatures and proportions are very important in a decoction mash. If you want to give it a shot do a little research first. Yeast: The lager yeast you choose should be able to reproduce in a high gravity environment, be flocculent, and produce very little diacetyl. For authenticities sake, a Munich or Bavarian lager yeast strain should be used. WhiteLabs WLP833 German Bock yeast or Wyeast 2487 Hella Bock yeast are both solid options. Fermentation: Fermentation is done at around 50°F, meaning you need some way of controlling your temperature, which makes brewing a Bock (and any lager for that matter) something that should be done only by those who have a more advanced homebrew setup. After fermentation is complete the beer should be lagered (stored) close to freezing for 4 to 10 weeks, to give the yeast time to settle out. Cheers!