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Traditional bock



by Ray Daniels

As cold settles into much of the country, a brewer's thoughts turn to beers with a bit more potency and bock is generally near the top of the list. December is a perfect time to brew bock beers because you'll still be able to lager for about two months before the traditional mid-March tapping date.

History of bock

The beer that we call bock today has its origins in the north-German town of Einbeck. As early as 1325 the beer of Einbeck enjoyed a good reputation and -- for that time -- widespread distribution.

During the 1500s Historian Heinrich Knaust described the Einbeck beer:

"Of all summer beers, light and hoppy barley beers, the Einbeck beer is the most famed and deserves the preference. Each third grain to this beer is wheat; hence, too, it is of all barley beers the best . . . People do not fatten too much from its use; it is also very useful in fever cases."

Thus the original bock was made from at least one-third wheat malt in addition to barley. Other sources tell us that it was top-fermented and well bittered.

Anyone familiar with contemporary bocks realizes that the beers of Einbeck bear little relationship to the style as known today. Indeed, the term "bock" probably had not been coined before Einbeck's virtual demise during the Thirty Years' War. To bridge this gap in both brewing and linguistics required the people -- and brewers -- of Munich.

Prior to the 16th century, the beer made in Munich was not highly regarded, even by the local folk. Many imported beers were enjoyed and the beer from Einbeck was highly favored. As the 17th century dawned, the Munich brewers "bent all their energy to brewing a beer as good as that of Einbeck." This effort failed until a brewer from Einbeck was

drawn to Munich in 1612, and lent his skills to the cause.

Of course, the original recipe could not be reproduced precisely. The malts made in Munich were darker and wheat malts could not be used by regular breweries, thus the Munich beer was darker than the Einbeck original. In addition, the high carbonate levels of the Munich water produced a harsh bitterness in highly hopped beers, so the hopping

levels were substantially reduced, yielding a malt-balanced beer. Finally, lager fermentations were common in Munich by this time, so the bottom-fermenting yeast was used.

Although the Munich copy of the Einbeck beer bore little resemblance to the original, the resulting beer was still named after the city that inspired it. In the Bavarian dialect, it was called "Ainpoeckish Pier." The beer was enjoyed by the citizens of Munich and soon replaced the original. Not long after, brewing ceased in Einbeck as a result of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) and the name of the Munich-produced beer no doubt began to drift from "Ainpoeckish" to simply "Poeck" and ultimately to the "Bock" we know today.

Of course this is not the only story told about the naming of "bock" beer. Those who have spent hours on end enjoying this fine beverage no doubt used their uninhibited imaginations to create fanciful stories about its naming. One even attributes the naming to the Roman Emperor Julian (the Apostate) who lived in the fourth century A.D. -- long before the advent of brewing in Einbeck or Munich.

"Bock" does mean "goat" in German and its not surprising that someone drinking this beer would feel a "kick" and make the verbal connection. Once this was done, a strong association formed between bock beer and the goat -- an association that continues even today.




Bock is often associated with spring for many historical reasons. Einbeck was most famous for its May bock and a Maibock is a well known style of paler bock today. The monks of Munich who were followers of Saint Francis of Paula made a very strong bock to sustain them during Lent. This beer later was marketed as Salvator (i.e. savior) and became one of the first commercial examples of what is now known as doppelbock.


This spring you might try any number of German beers that end with "ator" (e.g. Spaten's Optimator). When you do you will be following the tradition of the monks by enjoying a beer that must have a starting gravity so high that most of the beers have alcohol contents of at least 7% by volume. The Sam Adams Triple Bock (currently the world's highest alcohol beer) is really a souped up dobbelbock.

At the farthest end of German bocks is eisbock. Reichelbrau of Kulmbach makes this beer by freezing a doppelbock and removing 5% to 7% of the original volume as water (which freezes first). The result is a remarkable smooth and full beer. The more available EKU Kulminator 28 is often classed as an eisbock, but while frozen to settle yeast and Sediment, it does not have water removed from it and is another souped up doppelbock. With an alcohol content of 12.3% by volume, EKU 28 is very similar to classic eisbock. It is often available in Oklahoma so try it for your spring bock tasting.

Many myths have surrounded bock that should be dispelled. The goat that is often seen on bottles of bock comes from the fact that bock means goat in several Germanic languages. The beer did not get its names from goats. It is not a strong"bottom of the fermentor" beer drawn annually in the spring, but now you know why that story might have been started. Finally, Shiner Bock is not traditional bock at all because Texas brewing laws prohibit beer of the classic German bock strength from being brewed, although it is a nice lager made from dark malts to be bock-like.

Brewing bock beers

Most beer recipes use a lightly kilned malt, i.e. pilsner, lager or pale ale malt, for the majority of the grist, but bock can be something of an exception to this rule. When making bock, many brewers look to Munich malt to play the lead role.

Bock was created before the days of specialty malts when things such as chocolate malt, roast barley and even crystal malt were unknown. As a result, most beers were made from a single type of malt. The flavor and color of the malt -- and therefore the finished beer -- were determined by conditions during malting, especially the kilning temperatures.

The Munich malt we use today appears to be a direct descendant of the malts once used in all Munich beers, including the bocks created in that city. Thus the use of Munich malt as the primary grain for a bock recipe is historically accurate. In addition, it provides a unique flavor and color contribution to the beer. One caveat: be sure to use only a Munich malt made from 2-row barley -- generally this means going for the imported products.

After Munich malt, the most common grain in bock recipes is crystal malt. If you select Munich malt as your base malt, you should use dark crystal malts for 6 to 10 percent of the grain bill. On the other hand, if you select pilsener malt as the base for your bock recipe, you'll need a bit more crystal, usually 15 to 20 percent.

The next grain that you will want to include is chocolate malt. Most recipes employ a small portion, ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent with an average of about 2 percent of the total grist bill.

The majority of all bock recipes have grain bills composed of just these four grains: pilsener or two-row malt, Munich malt, crystal (or caramel) malt and chocolate malt.

Of course bock recipes are the perfect place to use some malt extract. The higher gravities required by the style sometimes stretch the limits of mash capacities. An excellent bock beer can be made using a small mash and a generous dose of extract.

As for hops, bock beers require a light touch. Bitterness levels are low and little or no hop flavor or aroma should be detected. Classic German aroma varieties are favored such as Hallertau, Hersbruck, Tettnang, Spalt and even Saaz.

Build a BOCK recipe

When we put all this advice into practice, we can formulate a couple of different recipes. All are shooting for an original gravity of 1.066 to 1.068 and the formulations shown below are for a 5 gallon batch.

All-grain approach

Pilsener-Based Munich-Based

Grain Recipe Recipe

Pilsener/Two-row 9 lbs 1 lb

Munich Malt 2 lbs 11.5 lbs

Crystal Malt (90-120L) 2.25 lbs 1.25 lbs

Chocolate Malt 8 oz 4 oz

Extract/Mini-mash Approach

Pilsener-Based Munich-Based

Grain Recipe Recipe

Light Unhopped Extract 4 lbs 4 lbs

Pilsener/Two-row 1.75 lbs --

Munich Malt 1.5 lbs 4.5 lbs

Crystal Malt (90-120L) 2.25 lbs 1.25 lbs

Chocolate Malt 8 oz 4 oz


As mentioned above, classic German aroma hops are generally used for all of the hop additions in bock beers. The European varieties I would recommend are: Hallertau, Hersbruck, Tettnang, Spalt, and Saaz. Workable American-grown alternatives are Liberty, Crystal and Mt. Hood.

For bittering, you'll want 5 to 6 alpha acid units -- that's one ounce of 5% to 6% alpha acid hops, two ounces of 2.5% to 3.0% alpha acid hops or any other combination where the alpha acid percentage multiplied by the ounces equals 5 to 6. Boil these hops for 45 minutes to one hour.

If you want, you can add a small hop addition about 15 minutes before the end of the boil. Use one of the varieties listed above and add no more than one-half ounce.


The critical part of bock fermentation is achieving proper lager fermentation temperatures. If you can achieve 50 to 55F, use a lager yeast that emphasizes malt complexity, such as the Wyeast Bavarian Lager yeast.

Strange as it may sound, if you are not able to achieve these cool temperatures for fermentation, you might want to make this beer using an ale yeast. The American Ale or Chico Ale yeast strain is typically very clean and can give you a somewhat lager-like product, especially if fermented at temperatures of 62 to 66F.

Regardless of which yeast you use, you'll want to allow a period of lagering after fermentation. For lager yeasts, this phase should be conducted at 35 to 40F. If you use the ale yeast, you might allow for a slightly warmer lagering temperature, say 40 to 50F.




•10 pounds, Klages malt

•3 pounds, Munich malt

•1 ounce, Mt. Hood loose hops (60 minute boil)

•1/2 ounce, Mt. Hood loose (30 minutes)

•1/2 ounce, Mt. Hood loose (15 minutes)

•1 teaspoon, Irish Moss

•Wyeast 2308 (Munich), in 1 pint 1.022 starter (1/10)


30-minute protein rest at 125 degrees Fmaibock 60-minute mash at 159 degrees F 15-minute mashout at 170 degrees F Primary and secondary fermentation insulated glass carboys at about 50 degrees F Specifics:

•O.G.: 1.061



Maibock #2


•11 lbs Pils malt

•3 lbs Munich malt

•1.5 lbs German light Crystal Malt or Vienna Malt

•1/2 lb home toasted lager malt

•1.5 ounces Hallertau pellets- boil (4.0% aa)

•1/2 ounce Tettnang pellets- boil (3.4%aa)

•1/2 ounce Hallertau pellets-flavor (4.0%aa)

•1/2 ounce Tettnang pellets-finishing (3.4%aa)

•Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager Yeast- 1.0 L starter


Add 2.25 gallons of 54degC water to crushed grains, stabilize temp at 50degC. Add 1.25 gallons boiling water to bring temp to 68-70degC. Hold for 90 minutes. Sparge with 4 gallons of 77degC water. Bring wort to a boil and add boiling hops. After 30 minutes, add flavor hops. 10 minutes before end of boil, add finishing hops. Chill, etc., pitch yeast.

•OG: 1064

Bock Aasswards

Ingredients: (for 15 gallons)

•24 pounds, Munich malt

•6 pounds, Vienna malt

•6 pounds, 2 row Klages malt

•1--1/2 pounds, 80L Crystal malt

•4 OZS., Hallertaur pellets


•Bavarian style yeast


Treat 10.5 gallons of medium hard water with 18 grams of Calcium Bicarbonate. Mash in grain. Follow a mash program of 50 minutes at 50C, 20 minutes at 58C, 40 minutes at 65C, 90 minutes at 70C, and a mash off for 15 minutes at 77C. Sparge for about an hour and a half. This will yield about 19 gallons at the end. (runoff gravity of about 1.010). Boil

down to a volume of 15 gallons (about 3 hours and 20 minutes.) Add 4 ozs. of Hallertaur pellets about 2 hours into the boil. Cool and pitch yeast.


•O.G.: 1.075

•F.G.: 1.022

•Primary Ferment: 3 weeks at 48 degrees

•Secondary Ferment: 6 weeks at 36 degrees





Original Gravity: 1.066

Final Gravity: 1.014

Batch Size: 5

Grains/Malt Extract:

9 lBS. PILS Malt (Hugh Baird)

5 lBS. Munich Malt (Bamberg)

1 lb. Aromatic (DWC)

.5 lb. Biscuit malt


1.5 ozs. Liberty (5) 60 Min

1.5 ozs. Hall. Hersberker (3.2) 30 Min

.5 oz. Liberty (5) 30 Min

.5 Hall. Hersberker (3.2) 15 Min

WATER - 1 TSP. SALT/1/2 tsp. Gypsum

Yeast: White Labs German Lager

Brewing Procedure/Fermentation Log:

MASH - 122'F -30 MIN

135'F - 20 MIN

149 'F - 30 Min