RealBeer

World View
Culture
Tasting Notes
What's New
Publications
Ask Michael
Library

Search
Beer Hunter:



Why Germans celebrate a Bock's Fizz

As the long winter finally gives way to spring, the drinkers of Bavaria can scarcely wait to get back out to the local beer garden.

Their anxiety to escape the confinement of winter is like a "cabin fever," to be driven out by what they call the "beer cure."

The cure requires a special type of beer, known as Bock. When the Bock season is in spate, as it currently is, so are the endless legends that describe the origins and nature of the style.


Most Bock beers are sustaining, very smooth, strong lagers, often dark in colour.


Most Bock beers are sustaining, very smooth, strong lagers, often dark in colour.

Unlike Danish or British "head-banging" lagers, they have a good, pure, malt character; a delicacy of balancing hop; and a softness and cleanness resulting from many weeks' lagering are tapped at

the beer garden without having been pasteurised.

The season begins in February or March with the tapping of the famous Salvator Doppelbock of the Paulaner brewery in Munich.

This brewery was founded in 1634, initially as part of a monastery dedicated to St. Francis of Paula. (This saint was born in Paula, Calabris. The Franciscan order was founded by his namesake from Assist.)

The brewery's "double" Bock is dark brown in colour, and has an alcohol content of around 7.5 per cent by volume, from an original gravity of 1072-4.

Three malts are used, providing a richness and complexity of aroma and flavour, though the beer rounds out to a surprisingly dry balance in the finish.

The beer was originally intended to provide sustenance during Lent. The name Salvator, Latin for "The Saviour," was trademarked in 1894, by which time (after Napoleon) the brewery was in secular hands.

Since then, many other Bavarian brewers have adopted names ending in -ator to indicate this style of beer.

This has over the years given rise to labels like Optimator, Fortunator and Triumphator.


In the United States recently, I ran across an example called Procrastinator; as it lay in maturation, the brewery kept putting off the moment of racking.


In the United States recently, I ran across an example called Procrastinator; as it lay in maturation, the brewery kept putting off the moment of racking.

Another American brewer has a beer called Terminator, though it is not a Bock.

North of Munich, in the old Bavarian brewing town of Kulmbach, I have enjoyed at source the strongest German Bock, the aptly-named Kulminator 28.

The figure refers to a gravity of 28 in the German system (around 1120), producing an alcohol content of between 11.5 and 13.7 (brews vary).

This rich, linctus-like brew has a fruity flavour reminiscent of orange skins. I have even been served it in a cocktail with orange juice and rum. A Bock's Fizz?

The beer would no doubt be much fruitier if it were not given a long lagering.

The producers, the Erste Kulmbach (EKU) brewery, claim they mature it for nine months at very cold temperatures. allowing ice to form in the last two or three weeks.

Kulmbach also has from its Reichel brewery a Bock beer called Bayriach G'frorns ("Bavarian Frozen"), in which the alcohol level is deliberately raised by a process of freezing between fermentation and lagering. Between five and seven per cent of the beer's volume is left behind as ice.

Because water freezes before alcohol, this has the effect of concentrating the strength of the beer. The brew starts at a gravity of 1096, and emerges with 10 per cent alcohol.

It has a distinct character that reminds me of coffee laced with whisky.

An intentionally lactic malt may add a touch of sour mash flavour. This traditional product indirectly inspired the flavourless "ice beers" launched by lesser lager brewers in recent years.

The true Eisbock is tapped at a festival in Kulmbach's town hall on the last Saturday of March.

German tradition is that a "double" Bock has a gravity of not less than 1072, and a "single" of at least 1064, which will typically produce an alcohol content of around 6.7.

Some brewers produce both dark and pale versions, the latter often served in May as a later spring treat.

The Bavarians are said to have acquired their taste when one of their noblewomen married the Duke of Brunswick in the 1600s.

The wedding was apparently celebrated with casks of beer fetched by the duke from his native Lower Saxony. The greatest brewing town in Lower Saxony was traditionally Einbeck.

Did Einbeck become corrupted to Em Bock? There is some evidence that this was the case.

Today, Einbeck has only one, large brewery, on the side of which is a sign saying: "Without our town, there would be no Bock beer."

The Einbecker Brauhaus produces three Bock beers: a Dunkel (dark), Hell (pale) and a Maibock (with a bronze colour). The first two are said to be matured for between 10 and eight weeks, but the Maibock has only six.

The notion is that the shorter lagering time will impart a fruity, more bubbly and refreshing character.


Although the Bavarians' devotion to dark and strong beer has been diminishing for many years, and sharply of late, they all still love the folklore of tradition.


Although the Bavarians' devotion to dark and strong beer has been diminishing for many years, and sharply of late, they all still love the folklore of tradition.

Every Bavarian village has a maypole, for exampIe. In Einbeck, May 1 was also the day of a draw to determine the order in which the townspeople would use the public brew-house during the next brewing season.

Why, I wonder, did they conduct this lottery so early? In those days, before refrigeration, no one would brew in summer.

Nor would many people today drink a Bock beer in summer, "though some cities and countries do have versions for autumn and winter, perhaps October or November.

This confusion as to whether Bock beer is served at the beginning of the year or the end has away. led me to believe there is an overlap between these traditions and the Marzen-Oktoberfest custom.

I believe both arise from the habit of making a high-gravity beer in spring to a own for summer and finally exhaust in the autumn.

Perhaps it was this ceremonial draining of the last casks that gave rise to the persistent belief that Bock bear is the residue found when the brewery vessels are cleaned.

Some people say that this is the beer for the season of Capricorn, hence the goat that often decorates. A more likely explanation is a visual pun: "Bock" has the same root as "Buck." It means billy-goat in several Germanic Ianguages (and various spellings).

Einbeck was brewing in the 1300s, long before the rise of lager, so the first Bocks were probably strong wheat beers.

Today such a beer would be called a Weizenbock. In Germany, wheat beers are always made with top-fermenting yeasts, and that combination can create some wonderfully spicy, clove-like flavours.

Combine those with dark malts and high alcohol and you have a beer of extraordinary complexity.

The best known example is Schneider's Aventinus, named after the historian who first described Bavaria. This beer's flavours remind me of chocolate, apples and cloves. I will be drinking that one well into the summer.


Published Online: SEPT 2, 1998
Published in Print: APR 1, 1995
In: What's Brewing

Beer Styles

Search Beer Hunter:
Search The Real Beer Library For More Articles Related To: GERMANY, , Salvator Doppelbock, Paulaner, Procrastinator, Kulminator, Erste Kulmbach, Reichel, Bayriach G'frorns, Dunkel, Maibock, Aventinus
  presented by
RealBeer Inc.

Beer Hunter, Published By Real Beer Inc.

About Beer Hunter - Link To Beer Hunter - Contents

Copyright 1998-2013, Michael Jackson & Real Beer Inc.
beerhunter@beerhunter.com

 
ADVERTISEMENT