I have heard a number of origin stories about bock beers, some of which seem worth recounting here.
One of these I heard frequently as a younger brewer – that breweries traditionally made Bock Beer in the spring when they “clean out the vats.” I can assure you this story isn’t literally true; brewers are clean freaks as a rule and tanks (aka vats) are cleaned after each use.
I have wondered over the years if the origin of this story comes from breweries having the practice of emptying and cleaning their malt silos annually. Malt silos are generally huge vessels that can hold 100,000 pounds or more and tend to be used like the gas tank on a car – you don’t completely empty it out before refilling it. That said, emptying out a silo for annual inspection is a good idea, just to make sure the vessel is in still in good shape. So it is possible that a brewery or several breweries in the past used to brew a stronger bock beer every year, just as a means of using a lot of grain to empty out the silos.
A story I like a lot more involves medieval monks and the original of the Doppelbock style. Monasteries in Europe have a long tradition of brewing beer, and as the story was relayed to me, stronger bock beers were made in anticipation of fasting during lent (the period before Easter). Apparently the fasting practices at the time involved not eating solid food, but liquids – including beer – were considered okay as part of a fast. So the monks would produce extra strong and calorific beers to sustain them during the time of fasting. Sounds kind of fun, but strong beer and empty stomach can be a tricky combination.
Bock beers as a style are stronger, malt-forward lager beers, meaning that their primary flavor component is provided by the malt, with hops and other flavors in the background. Most are darker beers in the deep amber to brown range, but there lighter colored versions as well. There are variants on the style, including Maibock (lighter in color and sometimes more hoppy), Eisbock (where the beer is fortified by freezing some of the water out into ice) and Dopplebock (Or double bock) which is a stronger, more intensely flavored version of a normal Bockbier.
Stick Season is a big, rich and malty Double Bock made to lively up a leafless world. Notes of malt, toasted bread and toffee greet the nose at first whiff. The beer has a full palette that starts sweetish and is balanced by a mild hop bitterness and toasted/slightly roasted notes from the grain. The beer has a lovely brown color with nice ruby highlights if you hold it up to the light. It comes in at 8.1% ABV, so it’s a nice beer to finish the day with. Beers like this always pair well with roasted meats – I think this beer and a plate of Nurnberger sausages would be about as good as it gets.