This month’s session is hosted by Wilson at Brewvana, one of our favourite beer blogs. Wilson says:
I want to learn about doppelbocks, and so the sky’s the limit: write about doppelbocks however you see fit. History, reviews, pairings, pictures, poetry and experiences. All of it.
This time last year, we hadn’t heard of a doppelbock and didn’t really know what a bock was. A year on, and a two week trip to Germany later, we’re still not much wiser.
You get light, amber and dark bocks (and doppelbocks). The strengths vary (the “doubleness” is relative to the other beers in a particular brewery’s range, as far as we can tell). The same goes for bitterness — sometimes, it’s all sweet chocolate, and other times there are perceptible hops. Maltiness is key, in doppelbocks doubly so — but that’s about the only unifying feature, and it’s pretty broad as to what it allows you to do. It’s not so much a style as a state of mind and a way for the brewery to say: You’re getting something really special here.
Handily, most German breweries give their doppelbocks a name ending in -ator, as homage to the original Salvator (now produced by Paulaner).
Incidentally, Salvator is about the only doppelbock easily and regularly available in London (i.e. you can get it in a couple of pubs). It amazed us the first time we had it, but we’ve since come to find it rather on the sweet side.
Onto some doppelbocks we’ve enjoyed in the past year. “Alligator” is produced by brewpub Der Koenig von Flandern, in Augsburg (Bavaria). This is a lovely pub, with two other decent brews and good food. But the Alligator stood out; it was 7.2% and reminded us of chocolate liqueur. Great name, too. It also boasts “19% Stammwuerze”. Does anyone know what this means?
We’re told (by the brewery among others) that Weltenberger Klosterbrau Asam-Bock is also a doppelbock, despite not following the naming convention. We had this a couple of times during our last trip. I remember that we loved it, and my notes say “Rich, chocolatey, treacley with a bitter aftertaste. Like an imperial stout but not as heavy. Perhaps a cross between imperial stout and Salvator. Or a chocolate orange.”
Another great doppelbock from a great brewery was “Operator” by Herrnbrau in Ingolstadt. We think this was a seasonal special, as there’s no reference to it on the website. We don’t have particularly detailed notes on this one: “dark & sweet, bit chocolatey, strong, delicious”. Don’t think we’re going to win any beer-writing awards with that review, but we definitely enjoyed it a lot. Herrnbrau produce lots of great beer, with wheatbeers that are more bitter than those of their Bavarian competitors, and a number of seasonal specials. Pity you don’t seem to see them much outside Ingolstadt.
Finally, we got a bottle of Left Hand’s “Goosinator” especially for the Session. This is a smoked doppelbock, according to the label, and is bottle conditioned. They’ve made up some half-arsed story on the back of the bottle for the origin of the name, to disguise the fact that all the best -ator puns with real words have been taken.
Well, it’s an interesting creature. Bailey loved it, and I wasn’t so convinced. It has a slightly smoky and pleasant malty aroma, then a range of flavours as you taste: a hint of chocolate, then a whopping malt kick (soggy cornflakes?), then the smoke layer and then some smoke and hop bitterness. For me, the differing flavours didn’t quite hang together, but they floated Bailey’s boat.
Links to the breweries are embedded in the article. Most of the German ones are in German only, unfortunately.