Looking for something different? Hazy beers not quite hitting the same? Perhaps you’re considering trying something maltier, but you’ve never ventured beyond stouts and porters. Might I suggest a beer that monks once called “saviour” and even described as their “liquid bread”? I present to you the mighty Doppelbock.
Despite the style being rather uncommon today, you may recognise it by its unoﬃcial mascot: the humble goat. ‘Bock’ roughly translates into German for billy goat, but nobody seems completely certain how these beers got this name. The prevailing explanation seems to be that it developed from the gradual warping of ‘Einbeck’, the city where the style emerged. I’m told this makes more sense if you speak German.
Bock beers first emerged in what is now central Germany during the mid to late 14th century. Doppelbock itself appeared a few hundred years later during the 17th century in Munich, Germany.
At first, Doppelbock beer was largely brewed by Paulaner monks who drank it as an important source of their nutrition. The Paulaners were bound to a life of poverty and strict fasting. Doppelbock initially sustained them through long periods of fasting, and they were eventually permitted to sell it to the locals to support their charitable work. During Napoleon’s rule over much of Europe, the monks were given the boot. Doppelbock was no more until the style was revived in the 1830’s by the now privately owned Paulaner Brewery. Today, the style is brewed by craft breweries across the globe.
So, what makes a Doppelbock? In appearance it can vary from dark cherrywood to a honeycomb gold. The flavour is all about the sweet malts. These beers bring delicious, rich flavours of lightly toasted bread, subtle chocolate, and a touch of dark fruit. The alcohol content ranges from 6-12%, and the hops are typically not noticeable. The mouthfeel is generally soft and full bodied. All of these characteristics combine to make an awesome style that pairs especially well with hearty food. Pair it with your favourite Sunday roast, a big slice of chocolate cake, or a classic rack of ribs.
Time for some recommendations. Here in New Zealand, we’re lucky to have some stunning examples of the style available for our tasting pleasure. First and foremost, you have to try Sprig + Fern G.O.A.T. Doppelbock. This multi award-winning beer delivers flavours of luxurious malty goodness and subtle dark fruits. Once you’ve finished that, try Sawmill The Doctor, full of sweet toast and chocolate. Wanting something bolder? Consider the complex barrel-aged Kereru Red Admiral or a smoky version: North End Pit Boss.