As a member of our international beer club, you may already be familiar with the bock style of beer. These are strong beers, originating in Germany around the 14th century. They are traditionally served from fall through spring as a winter warmer and the richer examples are frequently enjoyed as desert beers. Traditional Bocks are made with all malt and are strong, quite malty, medium-to-full-bodied, bottom fermented beers with moderate hop bitterness. Hop flavor is typically low and hop aroma should be very minimal. Bocks can range in color from deep copper to dark brown. These descriptions of the style have their genesis in the centuries of brewing since their inception, with hundreds of breweries around the world making minor changes to the original concoctions. And speaking of original, it just so happens that this month’s second featured selection is from the very town that created the style.
According to their slogan, which is more truthful than many of those used by other breweries, “Without Einbeck, there would be no Bock beer.” Einbeck was once the most famous brewing city in all of Europe, with a tradition of brewing since at least the 13th century. It was unique in its beer brewing faculties; while in most other cities commercial brewing was carried out by royal court brewmasters or in abbeys, the citizenry of Einbeck were permitted to brew beer for sale. When a batch was ordered made, privileged citizens were paid a visit from the town’s brewmaster who would bring all the necessary equipment, including a large traveling brewing kettle. In fact, evidence of this can be seen in the original homes that have survived to today—very high archways mark the doorways of these structures, as this permitted the entrance of the brew kettle during the brewmaster’s visits, and large lofts for the storage of grain and sizeable cellars for the maturing of beer are also evident in some homes. Upon completion of the brewing, residents would carry out fermentation in their own cellars. This dispensation was more than just an honor, it equated to a tax break as compensation for their efforts. As you might imagine, this was a welcomed event, and every spring a festival was held during which a drawing took place to determine the order in which the famous tax-levying kettle would visit the citizens’ homes. The beer served at these festivals is said to have been the first May Bock or Maibock, a style of beer unto its own.
The name bock comes from a corruption of Einbeck. The southern-accented inhabitants of Bavaria eventually became fans of the style and put their own spin on the title by pronouncing it “Oanpock”, which eventually became known simply as “bock” or “bock bier”. Since bock means billy-goat in German, this animal is often associated with the style, appearing on many a beer bottle label. And because this creature is also the emblem for Capricorn, whose astrological period straddles Christmas, the style has also been associated with the holiday season, frequently made available in gift packages and making a more pronounced appearance in many stores around the same time. And while it may seem odd that there’s a Christian holiday associated with beer, the connection isn’t all that strange when you consider that the great German reformer Martin Luther praised the "Ainpöcksche Bier" (old German for Einbecker Beer) as “The best drink known to man” during his fasting for the Diet of Worms in 1521. Today, Einbecker’s Ur-Bocks are still the most popular and most consumed Bockbier in Germany.
For more information about the Einbecker Brauhaus, check out their web site at www.einbecker-brauhaus.de