Doppelbock or “double bock” started out as a beer brewed by the Paulaner monks in Munich for their Lenten fast. Since they could not eat anything for 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, there was no use baking bread that they could not eat. Instead they used the grain to brew a strong beer which they felt cleansed the body and soul during this long taxing period of fasting. The beer they brewed was called Salvator, or Savior, and was initially brewed only for themselves. Apparently some was sold for extra money periodically because there were many complaints of public drunkenness in the streets surrounding the monastery. Eventually the brewery (now owned by a civilian brewer named Franz Zaver Zacherl, the owner of Münchener Hellerbräu) received an ordinance of favor from King Ludwig I of Bavaria himself which allowed them to brew Salvator and dispense it to the public.
Soon many breweries began brewing copies of Salvator. As soon as the German copyright law was passed, Franz Xaver’s successors, the Brothers Schmederer, received the registered trademark for Salvator and all the other breweries using the name had to come up with new ones. Almost all selected names with “-ator” in the suffix. Beers such as Celebrator, Triumphator, Maximator, etc. were being brewed in Germany and were recognized by the “-ator” as a doppelbock style beers.
Even though the name means double bock, by German law, it is required to only have an OG of 1.074 or 18°P to be labeled a doppelbock. This is 2°P over a standard bockbier. This is the minimum however and many of the doppelbocks can reach strengths between 10 and 13% ABV. Apparent attenuation is less than a standard bockbier, in the range of 65-72% making the beer seem quite sweet. Even though the alcohol may not be substantially more than a regular bock, the beers are usually perceived as being much stronger.
- Aroma: Malt dominates the aroma and darker versions will have prominent toasty aromas and melanoidins. The extended boils used by the brewers in Germany usually leave the beer with some caramel aromas. There is not much hop aroma in the darker versions but some noble hop aroma is found in some of the paler versions. Since this is a lager, you won’t find any diacetyl. Some fruity notes often described as prune, plum or grape may be found in dark versions, but it is not required. Sometimes a light chocolate aroma is present in dark versions but you should not find any burnt or roasted aromas. In stronger doppelbocks, some alcohol may be noticed.
- Appearance: A deep gold to dark brown color is normal and dark versions may have ruby highlights. The long lagering period will provide good clarity. The head is big and creamy and may vary from white to off-white, and is usually persistent except in stronger versions where the alcohol inhibits the retention.
- Flavor: These beers are often sweet, rich and malty. The darker version’s significant toasty notes and melanoidin aromatics follow through to the flavor as well as lighter versions, only to a lesser degree. Complex chocolate flavors are an option for darker doppelbocks and these flavors will never be percived as roasty or burnt. The clean lager flavor is evident and the beer will have no diacetyl. Some fruitiness is optional in dark versions and these fruity flavors are usually perceived as being prune, plum and/or grape. The alcohol that does make it through to the flavor will be smooth with no harshness or burning sensations. With dark doppelbocks, little to no hop flavor should be evident, but lighter doppelbocks may show some noble hop spiciness. Bitterness is moderate to moderately low and is never dominant over the malt. The sweetness is evident in most versions but the beer still shows a good attenuation. Sweetness is not from lack of attenuation, but from the malt forward balance and low hopping in the beer. Light versions will be drier in the finish as the hopping is usually higher.
- Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is medium-full to full with moderate to moderately-low carbonation. No astringency or harsh overtones should be noticed, just smooth clean lager characteristics.
- Overall Impression: A rich malty strong lager with dominant bready malt character. Some characterize it as a bigger version of a traditional bock or helles bock.
- Comments: Normally, the doppelbock has an appreciable increase in alcohol, sweetness, body, malt-derived flavors and aromas. Darker versions exhibit typical character from decoction mashing and long extended boils of caramel and melanoidins. Light versions will not be nearly as sweet or malty and are normally hoppier. The fruitiness noted above is from the use of Munich malt and is not yeast derived. Even though the OG’s upper limit is stated at 1.112, many doppelbocks can reach 13% ABV or more.
- 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). Noble hops. Water hardness varies from soft to moderately carbonate. Clean lager yeast. Decoction mashing is traditional.
- Vital Statistics: OG: 1.072 – 1.112 FG: 1.016 – 1.024 IBUs: 16 – 26 SRM: 6 – 25 ABV: 7 – 10%+.
- Commercial Examples: Paulaner Salvator, Ayinger Celebrator, Weihenstephaner Korbinian, Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel, Spaten Optimator, Tucher Bajuvator, Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock, Capital Autumnal Fire, EKU 28, Eggenberg Urbock 23º, Bell’s Consecrator, Moretti La Rossa, Samuel Adams Double Bock
References: Information for this page was adapted from the 2008 BJCP Style Guidelines, the page on Bockbier from The German Beer Institute, The German Beer Portal for North America, and Brewing Classic Styles, 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew, by Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer, Designing Great Beers, The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles, by Ray Daniels