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Bock – The Goat, The Town, And The Beer

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What’s in a Name?

Often beers were a product of local ingredients and brewing techniques, so it made perfect sense to name them after the city or region they where they were brewed: Pilsen after the town of Plzen, Schwechater, comes from the brewery in Schwechat, and so on.

Sometimes beer names are descriptive like beers with “Rauch” (German for “smoke”) or “Steam” in the name, the former describing the use of smoked malt, the latter referring to a beer style.

And sometimes one can only wonder…

“Bock” means “male goat” in German, but it also used to describe the male of other groups of animals like sheep (Schafbock) and deer (Rehbock). A fitness and exercise contraption is called “Bock” as well as the seat for a carriage driver (Kutschbock).

So where does that leave us with the name of the beer? Let’s look at the history of Bockbeer.

A Town Full Of Brewers

The city of Einbeck

The town of Einbeck is located in lower Saxony in Germany. It was awarded city rights in 1240 together with brewing rights for every citizen, with the effect that it soon sported 700 master brewers. Being a member of the Hanseatic League, beer was not only brewed for consumption of the local burghers, but also for sale in far away regions. The beer was at first top fermented, and to make it more durable for transport, it was brewed with a high gravity. The result was a heavy sweet beer that was soon drunk all over Germany, especially in Bavaria.

In 1589 The Hofbraeuhaus was founded in Munich and brewed beer according to the German Beer Law. 1614 the Wittelsbacher summoned master brewer Elias

Munich Hofbraeuhaus

Pichler from Einbeck, specifically to brew the “Ainpoeckisch Bier”. “Ainpoeck” was the way Einbeck was written and pronounced. Over time the Bavarians shortened and simplified the name of the cherished beer and “Ainpoeck” became “Ein Bock” and then only “Bock”. Written down it seems like a stretch, but when you speak German and say it out loud a few times, it is really not.

So there, Bock is really the name where the beer came from. In Bavaria the top fermenting Bock was transformed into a bottom fermenting lager that we became the beer we know and love today. It ranges in color from light to the dark and has a dominating malt character. Hop bitterness is noble and subdued, fermentation is clean.

The alcohol content is often misunderstood among homebrewers. Bock (and I am including Doppelbock here) should have a warming alcohol note. Under no circumstances should the alcohol taste overpower the malt and give it a sharp note.

Different Bocks

Today we know several versions of Bock:

Doppelbock

“Doppel” means “double” in German and refers to the higher alcohol content of the beer. Legend goes that Maximilian I. of Bavaria summoned the Paulaner monks from Italy to his realms, where they founded the monastery Neudegg ob der Au. Unaccustomed to the German climate and food, religious fasting was very difficult for this southern order. But luckily they were allowed to consume beer during fasting and the “ ainpoeckische bier” was high in nutrients. When Maximilain granted them brewing rights, the monks made the beer even maltier to enhance the satisfaction during fasting. The Doppelbock was born.

Maibock

Maibock is a light beer that was only allowed to be brewed a few weeks in April and was then drunk in May.

Eisbock

Another legend has it that a brewing apprentice in Kurbach, Germany in 1890 left a few barrels of bock out

Making Eisbock

in the open on a very cold night. Some of the water in the beer froze and the beer was thought to have spoiled. The angry master forced his apprentices to drink the “spoiled” beer and… it turned out to be delicious. Eisbock (German for “Iced Bock”) is partially frozen and the ice is taken out. Since water is removed in the process, the beer becomes more condensed and maltier.

How the Bock Helped To Save Munich

In 1632, during the 30 Year War, the Swedish King Gustav Adolf conquered Munich. This war was a bitter conflict and conquering a city usually ended in mayhem, plundering, and utter destruction. In Bohemia it had a devastating effect on the brewing industry. But all of that did not happen in Munich. Gustav Adolf wanted 300.00 Thaler to spare the city. When the citizens could only come up with a third, Gustav Adolf accepted 220 hectoliters of brown beer and several liters of bock. One wishes all conflicts could be solved with a beer.

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Brewing a Traditional Bock

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Introduction

My brewing setup

Bock is one of those beers that I could drink year round. There are definitely beers that adhere to certain seasons: a light summer ale for a hot day, a thick stout for a winter evening, and so on. Bock, in its big maltiness, is like a celebration, whenever it might take place. Whenever somebody brings a bock to a get together, there is no question what is to be expected: a intense malty flavor with an enhanced level of alcohol.

Brewing a bock is almost a meditation for me. Everything is slowed down. The high amount of grain takes time to heat, mash, sparge and the wort is noticeably sweeter than the worts of other beers. A bock is a celebration of malt and hops, a slow, yet very drinkable reminder of past brewing practices. What it is not, is a race for ABVs. The alcohol should lend a warming note to the beer, and never turn the bock into rocket fuel.

I am following the recipe for Traditional Bock from Jamil Zainasheff in Brew Your Own. Wherever I deviated from the recipe I have made a note.

Planning

Malt

The majority of a bock is Munich malt, with Pilsner making up the rest and some specialty grains thrown into the mix to enhance the malt flavor.  German malts are, of course, the preference here.

Water

Here it gets tricky. For darker beers, water with a higher mineral content and higher alkalinity is preferable. I have decided to forego bottled water and use our tap water, for which I have a water report. The numbers give me some estimates what to expect.

Hops

Bittering is a background note. Hallertau Mittelfrueh is preferred. Jamil’s recipe uses Magnum hops and I use that in my recipe as well. Jamil’s recipe is formulated to 23 IBUs. I have raised the number to 24 IBUs.

Yeast

There are many liquid yeasts that produce malty beers. I don’t have time to do a yeasts starter and do not want to go through the expense to pitch six vials of liquid yeast instead. The answer is my good old dry yeast workhorse Fermentis W34/70 Lager yeast. According to Mr Malty’s pitching rate calculator (http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html) I need 2.7 satchets.

Recipe

I am using beersmith for this recipe. When I put in Jamil’s numbers, it put the OG way over the top of the recommended number to 1.076. I reduced the grain bill a bill to match 1.073.

The screenshot above shows the values in beersmith. I am on the higher end of ABV, and the lower end of the color range.

The mash schedule follows Jamil’s single infusion mash of 155F, but I will add a decoction at the end for some color and flavor additions.

  1. 163F for dough-in to target 155F – hold 75 min
  2. Decoction of a third of the mash – boil for 20 min
  3. Add back decoction and raise slowly to 168F for mashout

Brewing

I am using a 10 gal Blichmann Boilermaker as mashtun with a false bottom. The boiling kettle is 8 gallons.

Mashing

I prepare the tap water by dissolving a campden tablet in 9 gal of water to disperse the Chlorine.

  1. Mash water is heated to 163F, dough in lowers the temperature to 157F, and soon to 155F.
  2. The first pH reading comes to 5.0. I am targeting between 5.3 and 5.5 pH. Over the entire mash I keep adding Calcium carbonate to the mash in small quantities –  31 grams in all. The pH will not rise and will remain at 5.0
  3. After 75 minutes I pull the decoction – one third of the thick mash.

    The decoction

  4. I boil the decoction for 20 minutes and add it back to the main mash.
  5. Slowly the temperature is raised to 168 for mashout.

Sparging

After a vorlauf to set the grainbed, I sparge with 4 gallons of 175F water until I collect 6.7 gal of wort. The pH of the wort is 5.3 at the end of collection. The pre-boil gravity is 1.057, one point over the beersmith prediction.

Boiling

The boil time is 90 min. After 30 minutes I add the Magnum hop pellets. It is the only hop addition. 15 min before the end of boil I add the Irish moss, at the 10 minute mark one capsule of Servomyces yeast nutrient.

After boiling the wort has a nice, golden honey color

Chilling, Settling, Aerating

The wort is chilled for one hour in an icebath to 64F and then transferred to a settling tank.

The icebath

After one hour in the tank a thick layer of solids have precipitated out of the wort. I slowly dribble the wort into a plastic carboy to aerate it.

Aeration

Pitching

Three sachets (11.5g a piece) of W34/70 are rehydrated at 76F and pitched. The carboy is placed in a fermentation cooler bag and held at 50F-55F

Update Brew Day +1

Signs of fermentation are visible on the surface.

Update Brew Day +2

The bubbler on the carboy has started moving

Update Brew Day +3

The wort is fermenting vigorously

Update Brew Day +6

The fermentation is slowing considerably. I am raising the temperature to 61 for d-rest.

Update Brew Day +9

Fermentation has stopped. Im lowering the temperature into the 50ies.

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