THE SESSION #121— BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. 

This month's theme is Bock Beer and is hosted by The Brew Site.

I am pleased to announce that I will hosting the March 2017 edition of The Session, which will take place on Friday, March 3. The topic we will be writing about is inspired by a beer style traditionally associated with spring: Bock!

The month of March heralds the start of spring, and March 20 is even National Bock Beer Day. So Bockbiers seemed like a natural fit for the month!

Don’t feel constrained to simply write a review of a Bock beer, though I’m certainly interested to read any reviews that come it. Some other ideas to consider:

  • Dig into into the history of the style—their ties to Einbeck, the differences in the development of Bocks and Doppelbocks, and so on.

  • Do any of your local breweries brew a Bock-styled beer? Seek it out and write about it.

  • Alternatively, interview your local brewer who brewed that beer; get their take on the style and why/how they brewed it the way they did.

  • Have you ever attended Bockfest in Cincinnati, Ohio? It just so happens to take place the first weekend of March—write a review for The Session!

  • There are already the styles of traditional Bock, Doppelbock, Maibock, Eisbock, Weizenbock (and Helles Bock and Dunkles Bock in the BJCP) guidelines. Just for fun, invent a new style of Bock and describe it.

  • Have you homebrewed a Bock or similar style? Tell us about it, and anything you learned brewing this lager style at home.

  • Bock puns!


When I was a teenager I loved to read Mad Magazine like most kids did of that age and era. One of my favorite regulars was the Spy vs Spy series. This was a fun and silly adventure of two spy characters — one was dressed in all white, the other all black — that would plot how they would one-up the other. Apparently, the cartoon carries on today but with a different artist. So, when reviewing the various bock beer styles, I thought it would be interesting to point out the differences — black vs white — one to better my own understanding and for any one wanting to get deeper into these excellent beer styles.

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.
— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

There are two primary beer style conventions, the Brewer's Association (BA) and Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines (BJCP). Most of the the beer style line up between the two systems and some are slightly askew in their naming. So, sometimes on the shelf or beer menu you will see a beer style named one way and sometimes the other. Breweries seem to like to have fun with this.

Much of this text is taken directly from the Wikipedia article on bock beer. That article captures the basic characteristics of all the bock beers. I will attempt to highlight the differences — notes at the end of each style — of what sets one apart from the next. Where appropriate, I've added a styles comparison offered from the BJCP.

Too, Serious Eats offers a good article on the subject of German beer styles, A Beginner's Guide to German Beer Styles

So, why the goat? It’s a little bit of wordplay—these beers originated in the town of Einbeck, Germany. That name Einbeck got telephone-lined around a bit and ended up sounding sorta like “ein Bock,” which translates to “a billy goat.”
— Serious Eats

Dunkles Bock

The BJCP calls this Dunkels Bock and the BA refers to it as Traditional Bock.

Wikipedia Traditional Bock |   The style known now as bock was a dark, malty, lightly hopped ale first brewed in the 14th century by German brewers in the Hanseatic town of Einbeck. The style from Einbeck was later adopted by Munich brewers in the 17th century and adapted to the new lager style of brewing. Due to their Bavarian accent, citizens of Munich pronounced "Einbeck" as "ein Bock" ("a billy goat"), and thus the beer became known as "bock". To this day, as a visual pun, a goat often appears on bock labels.

Bock is historically associated with special occasions, often religious festivals such as Christmas, Easter or Lent (the latter as Lentenbock). Bocks have a long history of being brewed and consumed by Bavarian monks as a source of nutrition during times of fasting.

BJCP Style Comparison: Darker, with a richer malty flavor and less apparent bitterness than a Helles Bock. Less alcohol and malty richness than a Doppelbock. Stronger malt flavors and
higher alcohol than a Märzen. Richer, less attenuated, and less hoppy than a Czech Amber Lager. 

Notes :: The key things to know about the general bock beer are: it's an old style dating back to the 1300s, it was first brewed in Einbeck Germany, due to the Bavarian accent Einbeck became "ein bock" which translates to billy goat in German and thus the connection with a goat has stuck. Okay, one more thing about bock. There has been a thought that bock beer was made from the dregs from the brewers kettle. That is not true — I still am asked this — making beer is too exacting and this treatment would not stand up to brewing standards and discriminating tastes.


Wikipedia Doppelbock |   Doppelbock or double bock is a stronger version of traditional bock that was first brewed in Munich by the Paulaner Friars, a Franciscan order founded by St. Francis of Paula. Historically, doppelbock was high in alcohol and sweet, thus serving as "liquid bread" for the Friars during times of fasting, when solid food was not permitted. Today, doppelbock is still strong—ranging from 7%–12% or more by volume. It is clear, with colour ranging from dark gold, for the paler version, to dark brown with ruby highlights for darker version. It has a large, creamy, persistent head (although head retention may be impaired by alcohol in the stronger versions). The aroma is intensely malty, with some toasty notes, and possibly some alcohol presence as well; darker versions may have a chocolate-like or fruity aroma. The flavour is very rich and malty, with toasty notes and noticeable alcoholic strength, and little or no detectable hops (16–26 IBUs). Paler versions may have a drier finish. The monks who originally brewed doppelbock named their beer "Salvator" ("Savior"), which today is trademarked by Paulaner. Brewers of modern doppelbocks often add "-ator" to their beer's name as a signpost of the style; there are 200 "-ator" doppelbock names registered with the German patent office.

The following are representative examples of the style: Predator, Paulaner Salvator, Ayinger Celebrator, Weihenstephaner Korbinian, Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel, Spaten Optimator, Augustiner Maximator, Tucher Bajuvator, Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock, Capital Autumnal Fire, EKU 28, Eggenberg Urbock 23º, Bell's Consecrator, Moretti La Rossa, Samuel Adams Double Bock, Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock, Wasatch Brewery Devastator, Great Lakes Doppelrock, Abita Andygator, and Wolverine State Brewing Company Predator.

BJCP Style Comparison: A stronger, richer, more full-bodied version of either a Dunkles Bock or a Helles Bock. Pale versions will show higher attenuation and less dark fruity character than
the darker versions.

Note :: Doppelbock is one of my favorite beer styles, being slightly sweet with a touch of alcohol warming. By name, it generally means double or stronger bock beer, it was first produced by the monks of Paula, the first beer was called Salvator and that beer is still brewed by Paulaner today, it was known as "liquid bread" to help the monks endure their Lenten fast, many modern brewers use the "ator" suffix in honor of the the original Salvator, e.g. Ayinger's Celebrator, Augustiner's Maximator and Tröegs Tröegenator . Every bottle of the Ayinger Celebrator is adorned with a white toy goat on a red string. Yes, I'm a fan!


Wikipedia Eisbock |   Eisbock is a traditional specialty beer of the Kulmbach district of Germany that is made by partially freezing a doppelbock and removing the water ice to concentrate the flavour and alcohol content, which ranges from 9% to 13% by volume. It is clear, with a colour ranging from deep copper to dark brown in colour, often with ruby highlights. Although it can pour with a thin off-white head, head retention is frequently impaired by the higher alcohol content. The aroma is intense, with no hop presence, but frequently can contain fruity notes, especially of prunes, raisins, and plums. Mouthfeel is full and smooth, with significant alcohol, although this should not be hot or sharp. The flavour is rich and sweet, often with toasty notes, and sometimes hints of chocolate, always balanced by a significant alcohol presence.

The following are representative examples of the style: Kulmbacher Reichelbräu Eisbock, Eggenberg, Schneider Aventinus Eisbock, Urbock Dunkel Eisbock, Franconia Brewing Company Ice Bock 17%.

The strongest ice-beer is being produced by a Franconian company as well - it is called Schorschbräu and is 57% (current world record).

BJCP Style Comparison: Eisbocks are not simply stronger doppelbocks; the name refers to the process of freezing and concentrating the beer and is not a statement on alcohol; some doppelbocks are stronger than Eisbocks. Not as thick, rich, or sweet as a Wheatwine.

Note :: Pronounced "ice-bock". Take a doppelbock beer, freeze it slightly, remove the ice, the beer now has less water and is thus increased in ABV and complexity — even port-wine-like.


Wikipedia Weizenbock |   Weizenbock is a style of bock brewed using wheat instead of barley. It was first produced in Bavaria in 1907 by G. Schneider & Sohn and was named Aventinus after a Bavarian historian. The style combines darker Munich malts and top-fermenting wheat beer yeast, brewed at the strength of a doppelbock.

BJCP Style Comparison: Stronger and richer than a Weissbier or Dunkles Weissbier, but with similar yeast character. More directly comparable to the Doppelbock style, with the pale and
dark variations. Can vary widely in strength, but most are in the bock to doppelbock range. 

Note :: These are brewed with wheat (at least 50% but may be up to 70%) as the main grain rather than barely. Schneider & Sohn brew these beers to this day and are generally consider the best of the style.

Helles Bock / Maibock

Wikipedia Maibock | The maibock style, also known as helles bock or heller bock, is a helles lager brewed to bock strength; therefore, still as strong as traditional bock, but lighter in colour and with more hop presence. It is a fairly recent development compared to other styles of bock beers, frequently associated with springtime and the month of May. Colour can range from deep gold to light amber with a large, creamy, persistent white head, and moderate to moderately high carbonation, while alcohol content ranges from 6.3% to 7.4% by volume. The flavour is typically less malty than a traditional bock, and may be drier, hoppier, and more bitter, but still with a relatively low hop flavour, with a mild spicy or peppery quality from the hops, increased carbonation and alcohol content.

The following commercial products are indicative of the style: Ayinger Maibock, Mahr’s Bock, Hacker-Pschorr Hubertus Bock, Capital Maibock, Einbecker Mai-Urbock, Hofbräu Maibock, Victory St. Boisterous, Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock, Smuttynose Maibock, Old Dominion Brewing Company Big Thaw Bock, [Brewery 85's Quittin' Time], Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Franconia Brewing Company Maibock Ale, Church Street maibock, and Tröegs Cultivator.

BJCP Style Comparison: Can be thought of as either a pale version of a Dunkles Bock, or a Munich Helles brewed to bock strength.  While quite malty, this beer typically has less dark and rich malt flavors, and can be drier, hoppier, and more bitter than a  Dunkles Bock. Has more of a rich malt character and more alcohol than a Festbier Bock, or a Munich Helles brewed to bock strength. While quite malty, this beer typically has less dark and rich malt flavors, and can be drier, hoppier, and more bitter than a Dunkles Bock. Has more of a rich malt character and more alcohol than a Festbier.

Note :: Think light lager brewed to a higher ABV. Also, mai means May, as in the month, and was traditionally served in the Spring around May. It was traditionally brewed in the fall, at the end of the growing season, when barley and hops were at their peak. It was "lagered" all winter and enjoyed in the spring at the beginning of the new brewing season.


There, you have it. It may seem a bit confusing at first, but the best method to learn about beer and particularly the styles is to choose and drink with intention. If you're up to it, seek out some of these lesser know styles like eisbock. Take some tasting notes and be aware of the names brewers are using for these beers. And perhaps refer back to these guides occasionally.