This week I take a look at the Dunkles Bock beer style from Northern Germany and examine its history and how to brew one. Dunkles Bock is a dark, strong, malty German lager.
Dunkles Bock History
Bock beer traces its history to Einbeck, a small German town between Kassel and Hannover. Brewing records mentioning bock go back to as far as 1378. Einbeck at the time of the Hanseatic League (14th to 17th century) was a brewing center and exporter of Bock. It was also situated in fertile land where hops could be grown, and hops were just beginning to be incorporated in beer. While Dunkles Bock fell in popularity after the Thirty Years War, the lager styles including bock were picked up in Bavaria and Munich around 1617, where they continued to be produced.
The term ‘bock’ translates to “ram” in German, and rams are often used in logos advertising the beer. “Dunkles” means dark, referring to the beers color. Lighter colored bocks were also produced.
The Dunkles Bock Beer Style
Dunkles Bock is a strong, dark lager that is malty and slightly toasty in profile. It has a rich bready-malty aroma and little to no hop aroma. The finish is a clean lager beer, though some dark fruit character may be acceptable. Color is light copper to brown, and the beer has good clarity despite the color. Typically it is topped with a creamy, off-white head.
The flavor is rich, malty and slightly toasty. Some dark caramel notes may be present, and only enough hop bitterness to support the malt. The beer is medium to full bodied, and has moderate carbonation. It should be smooth drinking.
The beer has a fairly high starting gravity of 1.064-1.072, and FG of 1.013-1.019 for a strength of 6.3-7.2% ABV. Color range runs in the 14-22 SRM level, and IBUs are 20-27 which is just enough to counter the malt.
Brewing a Dunkles Bock Recipe
The grain bill for a Dunkles Bock relies heavily on Munich and Vienna malts with the majority being Munich malt. Its not uncommon to use some Pilsner malt as well. Dark color is typically achieved using a small quantity of roasted malt. Caramel and non-malt adjuncts are not appropriate for this style. The tradition is to use a triple decoction to bring out more malt flavor, but most modern brewers simply use a lager style mash, hitting both the low and high temperature ranges to enhance attenuation.
The grains are offset by a moderate level of Continental hops including traditional German varieties like Hallertauer, Tettnanger or perhaps Saaz. German lager yeasts are favored, though you should choose a Bock lager yeast if available.
For some sample recipes – please visit this search on BeerSmithRecipes.com.
Fermentation and aging are done in the traditional lager styles at low temperature with a diacetyl rest at the end. The finished beer is moderately carbonated much like an American beer and served cold.