Despite what Bavarians may pretend, the origins of Bock beers are lying in Lower Saxony in the town of Einbeck. From the 14th century the citizen of Einbeck had been given brewing rights and it seems that the first Bocks appeared then.
This beer seemed to have been originally top fermented and brewed with a large part of wheat. The word bock derived from Einbeck and also means goat, which explains the goats sometimes displayed on the labels. It has always designed a beer stronger than average. Nowadays Bocks are bottom fermented and have at least 5.3% alcohol.
The basic form – Dunkler Bock – is dark brown and very malty, mostly sweet and with a low hop character.
Another form is Heller Bock also called Maibock which is often presented between March and Mai, sometimes for Christmas. They have the same characteristics than the basic bock, except than some earthiness or chocolateyness are absent , due to the use of pale malts instead of dark ones.
If the origins of Bocks may lead to discussion, those from Doppelbocks are clearly defined. This stronger version of traditional bocks was first brewed in Munich by the Paulaner monks. Usually dark in colour (a few pale one exist out there) they are intensely malty and toasty with in most cases some alcohol presence and a quite strong sweetness. They are ranging from 7% to 10% with still a low hop character (mostly below 30 IBUs). Lot of Doppelbocks are named “-ator” as a tribute to the original Paulaner Salvator. Switzerland does not make exception with the Zöbi-Nator or the Egghubel Luna Plenator.
Eisbock – a very rare beer style – is produced by freezing a bock (or a doppelbock) and then removing the ice, thus concentrating the remaining beer. The result is an even stronger and sweeter product which is nicely suited as a dessert beer.
Weizenbock is a combination of weizen and bock which I personally estimate to belong to the Weizen family and hence not further consider here.
So, what about Bocks in Switzerland ?
First is to be said that amazingly – even if this beer style is a German tradition – no breweries from Romandie (the french-speaking part of the country) are producing (or have produced) a bock ! This will be corrected very soon though, considering the information I recently got…
The big breweries of the country are very precautious – to say the least – with bocks. So if Feldschlösschen, Heineken and Schützengarten are skipping this style, how could you except them to bring something bolder like stouts or IPA ? This is so right that one of the first thing having been done after the take-over of Hürlimann by Feldschlösschen is to discontinue the production of the legendary Samichlaus and from the Caesarus Imperator Heller Bock as well (the latter was produced for export only, so don’t be surprised if you don’t know it).
So nowadays you have to go with Locher and its Schnuggebock (but let’s be honest: a beer without any Bock characteristics), Sonnenbraü (Bock and Doppelbock; both subject to discussion as well), Egger Bock (well …) or the brand new Rosengarten Schwyzer Bock Hell to find this style offered by a brewery of an important size.
Heller Bock are equally present as Dunkler Bock in Switzerland. This is mainly due to the fact that Swiss beer drinkers are supposedly afraid of dark beers (well, that’s at least what the big breweries and their marketing researches think to have found out).
The only Eisbocks I got from Switzerland were a test batch from the BFM (Alex le Rouge Eisbock, 14%) and the firstly commercialized but pretty modest what concerned alcohol content (7.5%) and quality: the Stadguet Eisbock.
So, it’s time to look at my top ten. Like last time, I will only consider here the beers which are still available. Otherwise, the Samichlaus would have crushed the opposition easily…
|10th||Oster Bock||Raben Brau||6.6%||a very unusual and loose interpretation of a Maibock – yet very good – showing notes of pumpkin and spices|
|Strättlige Bock||Strättligen Bier||5.8%||another quite free version presenting fruity and spicy tones and more hop character and bitterness as well|
|9th||Barrique Maibock||Schwarzbuebe Bier||9.5%||an even more creative – and better – interpretation of the style: this strong and complex beer made its second fermentation for 2 weeks in a Sherry cask|
|6th||Lago Mio||Seeland Bräu||7%||a very malty and characterful beer|
|Furgge Bock||Hohgant||6.8%||a Heller Bock showing notes of fruity and very aromatic hops|
|Maibock||Gutknecht’s Hammer-Bier||7.5%||a very tasty, fruity and malty Maibock|
|5th||das Böhmische||Haldemann||6%||this Dunkler Bock is subtle, charming and very true to the style|
|4th||Osterbock 2011||Haldemann||7.4%||another great work from Fredy: a strong malty and chocolatey Doppelbock boosted by some fair hop presence|
|3rd||St. Flannan||Strättligen Bier||7.6%||robust and accurate Doppelbock from Patrik !|
|2nd||Maibock (M-Bock)||Öufi||6.5%||well-balanced, pleasant and true to the style|
|1st||Adventsdoppelbock||Gutknecht’s Hammer-Bier||6.8%||darker in colour than usual, this beer is boosted with a total mastering by addition of lemon zest and cardamom|