The Best Bock Beers, Period
If you’ve never had a bock (and Shiner doesn’t count. More on that later) then here’s the quick primer: “bock” is the general term that can be used to describe a number of sub-varieties, like weizenbock (wheat bock), doppelbock (double bock) or maibock (May bock). Generally speaking, they’re sweet (almost like the “wine” of beers), thick and malty, gently hopped, and brimming with alcohol (with doppelbocks being extremely high alcohol). And what’s even better? They’re perfect for spring.
Now this seems counterintuitive, since, in your mind, you associate spring with, say, baseball and short sleeves and blooming flowers. By all rights, this kind of weather demands a lighter, tastier fare. But that’s mid- to late-spring. Everyone forgets about the early part of spring. You know, late March, early April, when you’re still wearing heavy jackets and some places are occasionally getting snow, and even the places that aren’t getting snow are absolutely disgusting because all the snow is melting and the grass is all muddy. It’s gross and awful and everyone’s pissy because WHY ISN’T IT WARM YET!?
Bocks? Bocks have extra alcohol, which is perfect for staving off that early spring blecchiness. THAT’S what bocks are made for.
Before we dive in, you should know that bocks are especially rich in history, and I always give a few extra points to the breweries that nod to the past. Keep that in mind when I tell you this:
Bocks were originally brewed in Einbeck, Germany. Over time, Munich brewers adopted the style and, with their thick accents, confused Einbeck with “Ein Bock” which translates to “A Billy Goat.” That’s why many breweries feature a ram somewhere on the bottle, as a nod to the original. The ones that don’t? Well. Usually I like to give those an extra crucial eye. That’s not canon law. That’s just my own personal hangup.
Thirsty yet? I know I am. Let’s dive in, shall we?
This, friends, is the original doppelbock (double bock). Now, a quick note on this style–the first doppelbocks were brewed very sweet, and usually at an ABV up to 12%. Now, remember, more alcohol = more calories, and bocks needed to be boozy so monks could survive on “liquid bread” during fasts. As a result of the religious nature of their invention, they called it “Salvator” (i.e. Savior). As an homage, many other doppelbock brewers will add the “-ator” suffix to their beer, such as Spaten Optimator. To my knowledge, nobody’s picked up “Terminator” or “Gladiator” yet, meaning there are at least two marketing departments that are asleep at the wheel. <
Tröegs Troegenator Doppelbock
I didn’t need to say “Doppelbock” right? Because you saw the “-ator” and put that math together yourself, didn’t you? Atta way, boys and girls! Keep it up and you’ll make Cicerone in no time.
Troegenator is sweet and delicious and creamy and utterly, utterly dangerous. I actually had one of these the other day while working a beer festival, and it landed somewhere between “a delicious, respectable decision” and “the worst thing I’ve ever done.” You’ve gotta understand, this beer is 8.2% of stealth ninja deliciousness. You will relish every sip and then it will murder you. It is absolutely worth drinking. Just be careful out there.
Ok, before jumping into this, I need pull back the curtain a bit here. Originally, my plan was to give you four entries here: the Salvator, the Troegenator, a weizen-bock, and an eisbock. But, I think a hybrid “weizen-eisbock” will do just fine.
But FIRST! Let’s break this down into individual pieces, so you can really wrap your head around the idea of a “weizen-eisbock” and why that’s such a startling and–quite frankly concerning sequence of letters.
1) To review, bocks are malty, thick, alcoholic spring beers. We’ve got that.
2) “Weizen” designates “wheat”, so think about some of your favorite hefeweizens or belgian wits out there. These beers will have some combination of the following flavors: clove, banana, smoke, bubblegum, and green apple.
So a “Weizenbock” will put those elements together. Think about that: sweet green apple? Malty banana (which is also a great funk band name)? Yums all around. Ok. Now table that for a second.
3) Some mad scientist once upon a time took a normal bock (malty, boozy, thick) and froze it. Now, alcohol doesn’t really freeze. But water does. That meant the alcohol could separate out from the water, and the water could subsequently be chipped away, leaving behind a super-concentrated, high alcohol bock-bomb capable of ruining lives and/or marriages. And that beer? That beer is called an Eisbock.
“Ice beers” aren’t too rare (after all, “Natty Ice” follows a similar principle. It’s just gross). But THIS! This is strengthening an already strong beer. Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock combines all three of those things. It’s creamy. It’s delicious. It’s 12% alcohol. And Aventinus comes to us from Georg Schneider, who already brews the sublime Schneider-Weisse, which I have recommended on this site before. Drink at your own peril.
And finally, a note on Shiner Bock…
Some of you–likely enraged Central Texans–noticed I took a swing at Shiner Bock earlier. Now, I lived in Austin for four years and Shiner Bock is near and dear to my heart. And while it’s true that a number of craft beer fans don’t care for it–I maintain a sentimental enjoyment for it. I think it’s wonderful and it reminds me of a place I called home for a long time. BUT! I don’t think it’s a bock. Personally, I think it’s a Vienna-style lager–a style which has much more in common with Negra Modelo or Sam Adams than it does with Salvator. And by calling it a bock, we’re unfairly cramming a square peg into a round hole. Put another way, Shiner is essentially a slightly toastier, slightly creamier, slightly less-bubbly Budweiser, whereas the best bocks have notes of fruit and chocolate and even a touch of alcohol on the tongue! So drink Shiner by the boatload–I won’t judge. Just don’t drive. And don’t hold it up to a standard that it can’t compete with. That’s like saying “Michael Jordan was the best basketball player ever–BUT COULD HE SKI!?”
Yeah. Probably. But you get my drift.
ANY-way. While the spring is still young–get ye some bocks, and brace for warmer weather!
Brian Cullen loves beer! Especially stouts and spring beers and summer beers and–wait, what is this, an intervention? You stay outta my beer! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill all of you! Follow him on twitter @bucketcullen.
Brian previously chronicled The Best IPAs, Period.