Beer Style 9A: Doppelbock
There are dozens of beer styles and we know it can get a little confusing, so each week we profile a particular style of beer in the Devil’s Peak Beer Guide. We’ll outline beer styles from the 2015 BJCP guidelines, offering both a technical and somewhat anecdotal overview of the dozens of beer offerings from around the world.
Doppelbock, or “double bock,” is a dark German lager that packs quite a punch. Typically between 7 and a whopping 13 percent a.b.v., this malt bomb came about as a way to sustain 17th century monks during times of fasting. Have you ever heard the term “liquid bread?” This beer style is quite possibly the best definition. I’ll admit – if I had to go 46 days without eating, beer would be about the only thing that would make it tolerable.
As is a recurring theme with German beers, the style was developed in Munich (I know – shocker) by Paulaner Friars (yes – that Paulaner). Being quite grateful to be blessed with this life sustaining brew during Lent, the monks dubbed it Salvator (Savior) – a name that Paulaner has since trademarked. As a nod to its history, many Doppelbock brewers add “-ator” to the end of their brews – marking the heritage and style. There are many contemporary examples of the style, but none as rich in history as Paulaner’s Salvator, which is still brewed on location in Munich.
So what should you expect from the Doppelbock? Malt, and lots of it. In the glass, they can vary from a deep gold to a dark brown and sometimes show flecks of ruby. Toasty and sweet with hints of chocolate and dark fruit, expect moderate bitterness with little to no hop flavour. There should be a warming from the high alcohol percentage, but not in a way that’s abrasive. If you’re looking for an ideal food pairing, try roasted meats. Duck, lamb and beef are fantastic options.
Let’s take a look at a detailed rundown, straight from the BJCP Style Guidelines.
Overall Impression: A strong, rich, and very malty German lager that can have both pale and dark variants. The darker versions have more richly-developed, deeper malt flavors, while the paler versions have slightly more hops and dryness.
Aroma: Very strong maltiness. Darker versions will have significant Maillard products and often some toasty aromas. A light caramel aroma is acceptable. Lighter versions will have a strong malt presence with some Maillard products and toasty notes. Virtually no hop aroma, although a light noble hop aroma is acceptable in pale versions. A moderately low malt-derived dark fruit character may be present (but is optional) in dark versions. A very slight chocolate-like aroma may be present in darker versions, but no roasted or burned aromatics should ever be present. Moderate alcohol aroma may be present.
Appearance: Deep gold to dark brown in color. Darker versions often have ruby highlights. Lagering should provide good clarity. Large, creamy, persistent head (color varies with base style: white for pale versions, off-white for dark varieties). Stronger versions might have impaired head retention, and can display noticeable legs.
Flavor: Very rich and malty. Darker versions will have significant Maillard products and often some toasty flavors. Lighter versions will have a strong malt flavor with some Maillard products and toasty notes. A very slight chocolate flavor is optional in darker versions, but should never be perceived as roasty or burnt. Clean lager character. A moderately low malt-derived dark fruit character is optional in darker versions. Invariably there will be an impression of alcoholic strength, but this should be smooth and warming rather than harsh or burning. Little to no hop flavor (more is acceptable in pale versions). Hop bitterness varies from moderate to moderately low but always allows malt to dominate the flavor. Most versions are fairly malty-sweet, but should have an impression of attenuation. The sweetness comes from low hopping, not from incomplete fermentation. Paler versions generally have a drier finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full to full body. Moderate to moderately-low carbonation. Very smooth without harshness, astringency. A light alcohol warmth may be noted, but it should never burn.
Comments: Most versions are dark colored and may display the caramelizing and Maillard products of decoction mashing, but excellent pale versions also exist. The pale versions will not have the same richness and darker malt flavors of the dark versions, and may be a bit drier, hoppier and more bitter. While most traditional examples are in the lower end of the ranges cited, the style can be considered to have no upper limit for gravity, alcohol and bitterness (thus providing a home for very strong lagers).
History: A Bavarian specialty first brewed in Munich by the monks of St. Francis of Paula. Historical versions were less well-attenuated than modern interpretations, with consequently higher sweetness and lower alcohol levels (and hence was considered “liquid bread” by the monks). The term “doppel (double) bock” was coined by Munich consumers. Many commercial doppelbocks have names ending in “-ator,” either as a tribute to the prototypical Salvator or to take advantage of the beer’s popularity. Traditionally dark brown in color; paler examples are a more recent development.
Characteristic Ingredients: Pils and/or Vienna malt for pale versions (with some Munich), Munich and Vienna malts for darker ones and occasionally a tiny bit of darker color malts (such as Carafa). Saazer-type hops. Clean lager yeast. Decoction mashing is traditional.
Style Comparison: A stronger, richer, more full-bodied version of either a Dunkles Bock or a Helles Bock. Pale versions will show higher attenuation and less dark fruity character than the darker versions.
Entry Instructions: The entrant will specify whether the entry is a pale or a dark variant.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.072 – 1.112
IBUs: 16 – 26 FG: 1.016 – 1.024
SRM: 6 – 25 ABV: 7.0 – 10.0%
Commercial Examples: Dark Versions –Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel, Ayinger Celebrator, Paulaner Salvator, Spaten Optimator, Tröegs Troegenator, Weihenstephaner Korbinian,; Pale Versions – Eggenberg Urbock 23º, EKU 28, Plank Bavarian Heller Doppelbock
Tags: high-strength, amber-color, pale-color, bottom-fermented, lagered, central-europe, traditional-style, bock-family, malty
Image Credit: Paulaner Munchen