I blog primarily over at "geosciblog" (http://geosciblog.blogspot.com), I am doing this one for fun. It is inspired by 30+ years of beer can collecting and having tried more than 3,000 different American beers during that time. “. . . And beer was drunk with reverence, as it ought to be.” — G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, August 06, 2005

What is Bock Beer?

Before there were microbreweries and brewpubs...

Aside from ales and dark lagers, the most exotic brews most American beer drinkers sampled were bock beers. Bock beers are a type of dark lager developed primarily in Germany and Czechoslovakia. By tradition, they are a late Winter/early Spring offering.

The seasonal nature of bocks also make bock collectibles more desireable. Some of the favorite bock beer cans include Budweiser Bock and A-1 Bock (from Phoenix), both of which were only canned for one year. Some collectors specialize in bock collectibles.

Some people remember bock by the traditional goat icons (explained below) and some by the erroneous belief that bock beer represented the "sludge" from the bottom of the brewers aging tanks. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the beer business, cleanliness is paramount and everything is cleaned between batches.

In the past, many American brewers had bock beers, including Budweiser and Schlitz. By the 1970s and early 1980s, from my vantage point in Georgia, the only American bock beers were Pabst Blue Ribbon Bock and Stroh's Bock. In the Knoxville, TN area there was Schoenling Bock from Cincinnati. After I moved to Texas, I became familiar with Shiner Bock, which was a year-round offering. There were a few other local bocks that persisted.

www.BeerAdvocate.com has these words to describe the most familar type of bock:

"The origins of Bock beer are quite uncharted. Back in medieval days German monasteries would brew a strong beer for sustenance during their Lenten fasts. Some believe the name Bock came from the shortening of Einbeck thus "beck" to "bock." Others believe it is more of a pagan or old world influence that the beer was only to be brewed during the sign of the Capricorn goat and that "bock" means goat in German. Basically this beer was a symbol of better times to come and moving away from winter.

As for the beer itself in modern day, it is a bottom fermenting lager that generally takes extra months of lagering (cold storage) to smooth out such a strong brew. Bock beer in general is stronger than your typical lager, more of a robust malt character with a dark amber to brown hue. Hop bitterness can be assertive enough to balance though must not get in the way of the malt flavor, most are only lightly hopped."

Aside from the traditional Bock, other sub-categories include the stronger Doppelbock, Eisbock, and Maibock/Hellesbock.

Without offering any endorsements, as tastes vary individually (see the individual listings from Beer Advocate), some of the ones I have tried include:
Bock - Michelob Amber Bock, Shiner Bock, Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, Christian Moerlein Bock, Leinenkugel Bock, Point Bock, Lone Star Bock.
Doppelbock - Samuel Adams Doppelbock, Thomas Creek Doppelbock, Samichlaus Bier (from Austria - 14% alcohol).
Eisbock - Coors had one a few years ago, haven't tried any others lately.
Maibock/Hellesbock - Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Flying Dog Hellerhound Bock, Gordon Biersch Maibock, Five Seasons Me262 Maibock.

Samuel Adams Triple Bock is an intense experience. I have two bottles that have been aging since purchased in Dallas, Texas in 1994 and 1995. When fresh, they were comparable to ports, meant to be sipped. At the time, their 17.50% alcohol was the highest available in the world, in fact they had to use champagne yeast, as the high alcohol content killed off the beer and ale yeast tried. Sometime I will open them in the company of friends, to try to see if aging has treated them well (the opinions on Beer Advocate raise doubts).

As I don't get to travel much during Bock season and I generally prefer American beers, I have yet to try the vast majority of the listed brands on these webpages.

Any feedback would be appreciated, if you have a favorite bock beer.
What happen to Dixie Beer?
Can't find it in Atlanta anymore.
Have they clsoed?
I haven't seen it lately. No doubt there was at least a lot of disruption, if not damage from Katrina. It had been teetering for years. I hope it isn't closed, but I wouldn't be surprised.
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