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Style Matters - Bocks

In each issue we spotlight a particular beer style and provide tips from an ingredient and fermentation perspective. In this issue we take a closer look at Bock beers.

Background: Bockbier originated from Einbeck, a town 170 miles northeast of Frankfurt. The oldest available recipe is April 28, 1378. Two tons of beer were sold to the city of Celle using this recipe. In the year 1612 the Bavarian dukes lured away a brewmaster from Einbeck for their Hofbräuhaus in order to produce the famous "Einpökisch Beer" (old German for Einbeck). The name of the beer changed to the Bavarian accent and was called "Oanpock" and later "bock beer."

Malt Notes: Bock beers are traditionally the strongest of all German beer styles and emphasize the malt side of brewing. These beers are sweet, malty, and bready in flavor with, depending of the grain bill, notes of caramel, chocolate, or roast. Of course the grain bill must be beefed up to give the higher sugar concentration, which leads to a stronger beer.

One of the foremost suggestions we would make would be to include in the grain bill a substantial portion of Munich, Vienna, or other high dried malt. Some bock beers are produced with little else! The bready, malty flavors so enjoyable in the style come largely from the presence of melanoidins produced either in the malthouse or in the brewhouse. The most traditional way of producing these flavors is through a malting process called "high-drying."

First, a couple of basics about melanoidins. They are a class of flavoring compounds produced – you guessed it – by the melanoidin reaction (sometimes called the Maillard Browning Reaction). Basically a simple protein and a sugar combine when heated in the presence of water to form a melanoidin. Although these compounds can be produced in the boil or the mash tun, melanoidin production is most active in the malting process.

In high dried malts barley is selected, steeped, and germinated in the same manner as base malts. The difference occurs in kilning. When base malts are kilned, lower humidity, heated air is passed through the bed of green malt to dry it. For high-dried malt "higher" humidity air is passed through the bed to "dry" (hence "High Dried"). The proteins and sugars in the green malt combine with water in the heated air, to form melanoidins. The resulting malt is breadier, sweeter, and darker (3-20 L) in color than a base malt. Perfect for a Bock beer!

As an additional note, high-dried malts generally possess enough amylase enzymes to self-convert. You can use them at whatever fraction you prefer in your recipe – up to 100%. Finally, top off the grain bill, if you wish, with caramel or roasted malts to achieve the color and flavor notes you desire and you are well on the way of producing a world-class Bock beer.

– Cargill Malt

Hop Notes: For Bock beers, it’s best to use German Hallertau style hops such as the actual GR Hallertau, GR Tradition as well as GR Hersbruck and GR Spalt. These correspond to US varieties with Hallertau backgrounds such as US Hallertau, Mt. Hood, Liberty and Santiam.

These are for the most part mid to lower alpha levels 3.0-6.0%, with betas about the same as the alpha levels. The aroma profiles are mild and pleasant with a slight spicy character.

– Hopunion CBS

Yeast and Fermentation Notes: Ferment between 50 and 55 degrees, the closer to 50 the better for malt-dominated profile. Age a minimum of six weeks, with 12 being best. Using the process of kräusening to carbonate your beer will give added authenticity and complexity.

One of the better strains for Bock beers is our German Bock Lager Yeast. From the alps of southern Bavaria, this yeast produces a beer that is well balanced between malt and hop character. The excellent malt profile makes it well suited for Bocks, Dopplebocks, and Oktoberfest style beers. A very versatile lager yeast, it is also good for Helles style beers. If you are thinking of trying an alternative yeast, experiment with our San Francisco Lager Yeast. It has a very malty profile and is excellent with Bocks. Other fine yeasts for this style include Octoberfest/Märzen Lager, Southern German Lager, and Old Bavarian Lager, all of which produce very malty beers.

– White Labs