During the course of the year, one of the most celebrated and alluring beer styles has got to be bock beer. To a real beer enthusiast, bock beer is truly a brew to seek out and savor (when it can be found).
In Germany, breweries have mastered this beer with various styles: weizenbock (wheat bock), helles bock, Mai-bock, and doppel (or double) bock, to name a few. (Bock beers ending in -ator refer to the doppelbock style.) And almost every brewer who has ever produced a bock beer has utilized a goat in some form or another on the label’s design. A goat used in the logo or on the label refers to the bock (German for billy goat). The type of depiction usually determines the desirability of a particular bock beer item.
Dances with Goats
The Brewery Collectibles Club of America includes a chapter of bock beer enthusiasts known as the “Merry Bocksters.” These collectors are inspired by how the goat is incorporated into a brewery’s bock beer advertising. Some of the best-known labels depict dancing goats, goats licking their chops, goats pulling carts and goats carrying human riders. (Some of the most memorable items simply show a goat that appears to be thirsting for beer.) The more graphic and unusual the use of the goat, the more desirable the item. Many designs incorporated the horns of the goat as part of the logos.
Some of the most sought-after of the early beer cans include bock beer from Budweiser, Schoenling, Carling’s Black Label and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Many annual commemorative mugs, glassware, coasters and posters have been released to celebrate the various springtime offerings of micro and regional breweries.
Years ago, some smaller regional breweries would sometimes utilize only a bottle cap (or a stamped bottle label or the lid of a beer can) with bock painted on it to indicate that the container held bock beer. Also, as a cost-saving measure, a number of these small brewers would use a stock-art label containing only the brewery’s name and address stamped on a preprinted label featuring a goat and the words “Bock Beer.”
Back in the early 1950s, the Narragansett Brewery (of Cranston, RI) used the character of “Ferdinand the Bull” to advertise its bock beer. The characters were conceived by author Munro Leaf and illustrated by artist Ward Kimball (of Walt Disney fame). Over the years, the Jacob Leinekugel Brewery of Chippewa Falls, WI, has also issued an extensive array of items promoting its bock beer, as has the August Schell Brewery of New Ulm, MN.
A number of breweries host events like an annual Blessing of the Bock, or a Bock Fest, or other roll-out-the-barrel celebrations in the spring when this tonic is released. It should be noted, however, that not all bock beers are brewed for release in the spring. Brands like Shiner Bock, Berghoff Bock, Michelob Amber Bock, Huber Bock, Point Bock, Erdinger Pikantus Weizenbock, and Ayinger Celebrator are available year ‘round. An amazing fact about collecting only items pertaining to bock beer is that it can seem like there is an endless amount of items out there, even though this is only one style of beer.
Beer Dave Gausepohl has collected breweriana since 1974 and has a personal collection of more than 400,000 items. He has visited more than 1,500 breweries and has tasted well over 10,000 different brews from around the world.