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This month's question: What is the difference between the various types of Bock beer? How would I make one?

Answer: Bock beer is a style that dates back to medieval times. Considerable brewing prowess was developing in Northern Germany at the time. With the rise of the Hanseatic league, the town of Einbeck, where the style originated, had the means to export the style far and wide. The high gravity of the style helped out with stability for longer shipments. The popular style didn't escape the notice of the Bavarian brewers, and eventually they learned the technique. As the Hanseatic league declined, transport of beer from Northern to Southern Germany declined as well, leaving the Bavarians no choice but to make it themselves.

The Bock style began to branch out with the arrival of Italian Monks, who were followers of St. Francis of Paula. They boosted the original gravity of the beer to use it as a source of nutrition during times of fasting. This variety became known to the populace as doppelbock. Maibock later evolved as a style better suited to warmer weather, taking advantage of the ability to kiln lighter "helles" malts. Eisbock "Ice-Bock" is made by freezing out a portion of the water in the beer, to make an extremely high alcohol concoction. More about that in a future article.

Bocks are all strong beers, with starting gravity about 1.064. The backbone of the darker Bock beers is Munich malt. The rich melanoidin flavor and aroma of the malt should clearly come through. This character is considerably muted in Maibock, however. The remainder of the grain bill uses Pilsner or Vienna malt. Crystal malts can be used in low levels. If used to excess, the beer will have a caramelly flavor, not considered appropriate for the style. Avoid the use of roast malts

Hops take a background to the malt with the exception of Maibock. Maibock is the only version with discernable hop aroma or flavor. It is also the most bitter. German noble hops should be used, though this is less important with the darker versions.

Like many other German styles, the preferred process for all-grain brewers is to use decoction mashing. This will enhance the malty melanoidin flavors. However, if you want to skip the extra effort, just bump up the Munich malt portion of the grain bill a bit, and use a step infusion mash. For you extract brewers, get some Munich malt extract and mix it 50:50 with pale malt extract. Add a bit of steeped Melanoidin malt and a bit of German crystal malt if you are making a doppelbock.

Water with moderate carbonate levels should be used for the darker versions. Soft water should be used for Maibock. Make sure you schedule extra time for boiling. You'll need an extra hour, especially for doppelbock to get your starting gravity high enough. Also, you may want to use a larger than normal mash and cut back on sparging. The style requires good clarity, so add some Irish Moss of Whirfloc to the batch near the end of the boil.

These are lager beers, so make sure you have your lager fridge ready. Pitch with a yeast such as Wyeast 2206 or White Labs WLP833. Ferment between 48°F and 56°F for at least 8 to 12 days. Extra time will be needed for doppelbock. Like other lager styles, it can benefit from a diacetyl rest. Then, transfer into secondary and gradually lower the temperature to he lower 30's. Lagering will take at least two months, and up to 6 months for doppelbock. These beers benefit from kräusening, though the usual methods of adding priming sugar or force carbonation work well.

Vital Statistics for Bocks

Style Starting
Bitterness, IBU Color, SRM Hop Aroma
Maibock (Helles) 1.064-1.072 1.011-1.018 23-35+ 6-11 Low
Traditional Bock 1.064-1.072 1.013-1.019 20-27 14-22 None
Doppelbock 1.072-1.096+ 1.016-1.024+ 16-26+ 6-25 None
Eisbock 1.078-1.120+ 1.020-1.035+ 25-35 18-30+ None