If the Helles Bock can be thought of as a strong Munich Helles, then traditional bock could be thought of as a buffed up Munich Dunkel. These were the original bocks of Bavaria, local interpretations of the Einbecker model, and the template for big brother Doppelbock. Still rather modest by “strong” beer standards at OG 1.064 and above, Traditional Bocks will test your mettle in homebrewing extra-malty beers. Use aromatic malts (must be mashed) to accentuate this malt component on top of toasty, well-kilned base malts. Once again, combinations of Pilsner, Vienna and Munich types can be used as the base, but this is a real chance to showcase Munich malt. My preference is 50/50 Vienna and Munich at about 90 percent of the grist, with the remainder Special B, Aromatic and Caramunich III, and sometimes chocolate. The color should be medium to mahogany brown. Mash at 154 to 155º F to get maximum mouthfeel. Extract brewers can follow the same strategy, with Pilsner and Munich extracts, the latter being up to 100 percent of the extract component. Add complexity and depth with Caramunich, medium to dark crystal and perhaps a small measure of Special B or chocolate as steeping grains. Melanoidins from kettle reactions should be a primary component. A prolonged boil or vigorous boiling of the initial runoff can greatly aid the richness of Traditional Bock. Hop rates are low to mid 20 IBUs.
In this homebrewer’s opinion, a stellar Doppelbock is not only the ultimate beer style, but also one of the most rewarding beers to craft. Light lagers are probably harder to make, but Doppelbock embodies more of the artisan virtues than any other style. Patience, creativity and full command of brewing skills are needed. Most Doppels are full amber to deep reddish brown, but blonde doppelbocks also exist. The name itself can only be applied to lagers of minimum OG 1.072 in Germany, and rarely do they exceed 1.080. With these parameters in mind, this is truly a classic lager style that can be made entirely to the brewers whim. After all, Doppelbock was designed as liquid bread. Use the Pale Bock approach for Blonde Doppelbock, but mash high for mouthfeel and increase the gravity to at least 1.075. For amber Doppelbocks, use Vienna and Munich alone as the base and prolong the boil (always helps flavor development), or augment with Caramunich or medium caramel and/or aromatic malts for complexity. For darker color and even more depth, use Special B and chocolate malt for plum or raisin notes to go along with the sweetish, opulent malt and melanoidins. Hop in the low to mid 20 IBUs.
Mouthfeel can be from medium to full, the former partnering well with amber Doppelbock and the latter a perfect match for dark, authentic historical renditions, shades of 17th century Munich. The real challenge is to make this ultra-clean with impeccable and complete fermentation. Residuals should not be too sweet, but manifested in body and a big malty profile of aroma and flavor. Expect to ferment for a month and lager for at least 8 weeks. Never will a strong yeast starter, full aeration and proper diacetyl rest be more important. Bavarian, Munich and Bock yeasts are optimal.
About every fourth beer that I make has an “experimental” component to it, and bocks are not excluded from this. Try cocoa nibs, regular cocoa, chocolate syrup or chocolate at knockout, in the secondary or during aging. Another one to try is Black Bock or “Schwarzbock,” a variation that I have had great luck with. Add up to 5 percent Carafa of your choice and a touch of chocolate malt (up to 1# total in extract recipes per 5 gallons) for this roasty edge. It will remind you of Baltic Porter. Other malted grains, such as wheat or rye will add some creaminess, a bit more complexity and some flavor. Perhaps the best bock I’ve ever made, according to competition judges, was a Doppelbock made with malted rye (25%), Munich, Aromatic and Chocolate malt.
Now is the time to get that Doppelbock recipe together, since it will be ready right about Lent. And if all goes well, think about following that up with a Maibock, perfect for transitioning into summer.