What is bock?

A dark brown beer in a tulip glass sitting on a wood surface.

Strong, malty and slightly sweet, there’s much more to a bock than just its cool name. Here’s what you need to know about this centuries-old German style beer

A good bock beer is like that uncle of yours who’s always brimming with stories: hearty, robust and unforgettable. Beer enthusiasts appreciate the deep malt profile of a bock, while those who usually shy away from beer may be drawn in by its approachable, slightly sweet taste.

Although not as common as India pale ales or lagers, bocks are rising in popularity, thanks to a renaissance in craft brewing. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a bock beer?

Bock beer has a rich history dating back to the early 14th century, in the German town of Einbeck. Over time, it was adopted and adapted by Bavarian brewers, with the term “bock” being a variation of “Einbeck.” Traditional bocks are strong lagers known for their significant malt character and minimal hop bitterness.

What makes a beer a bock?

The heart of a bock beer is malt, and a strong malt backbone gives a bock its signature taste. Brewed with lager yeast, a bock ferments and conditions at lower temperatures for extended periods of time. This process, known as “lagering,” allows for the creation of a cleaner- and smoother-tasting beer.

The defining malt in a bock is Munich malt, which imparts a toasty, bread-like flavour and aroma. Depending on the specific style, other specialty malts may be added to provide colour and more flavour characteristics such as chocolate or caramel.

What are the different styles of bock?

Bock beers come in several styles, each with its own personality.

  • Traditional bock: This is a stronger, maltier beer, with a moderate body. The colours range from deep copper to dark brown. The taste is dominated by rich malt and bread flavours, with a hint of caramel.
  • Doppelbock: As the name implies, doppelbock or “double bock” is an amplified version of the traditional bock. These are full-bodied, often very dark and higher in alcohol content. Expect strong malt flavours, with notes of toasted bread, caramel and sometimes chocolate.
  • Eisbock: Eisbock, or “ice bock,” is a specialty brew that undergoes a freezing process to concentrate flavours and increase alcohol content. The flavour profile is similar to a doppelbock, but even more intense.
  • Maibock: Also known as a “helles bock” or “pale bock,” Maibocks are lighter in colour, but still pack a hefty malt punch. They are usually a bit hoppier than their darker cousins and have a more balanced flavour profile.
  • Weizenbock: This is a wheat variant of bock, featuring the same strong, malty characteristics combined with the fruity and spicy flavours associated with German wheat beers.

How to serve bock beer

Whether you’re a seasoned beer lover or a novice exploring the world of beer, a bock offers a unique tasting experience. Its full-bodied profile and complex flavours make it a style worth getting to know. A bock beer is best served a bit warmer than your average lagers to better accentuate their multi-layered flavours (aim for a serving temperature of between 10 C and 13 C) and in either a stemmed tulip glass or a beer mug to help maintain its temperature and concentrate its aroma.

While bocks can certainly stand alone, they also pair well with hearty foods. Consider serving a bock alongside a meal with pork, sausage or a cheesy dish. Just like your storytelling uncle, a bock beer promises an adventure — one full of history, depth and richness.

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