There’s snow on the ground here in central Pennsylvania, and it’s going to struggle to get above 20° today. It may be wildly different where you are, but even so, just knowing that part of the country, the hemisphere, is wrapped against the cold, sitting by a fire, should make you think of bock beer. I know I’m looking at my stock of Tröegs Troegenator and Schlenkerla Urbock with a considering eye.

Bock Beer Creative Commons

Why now? Why bock, why not DDH DIPA? Sorry, just the thought of DDH DIPA brings to mind “Abie’s Irish Rose,” a hackneyed comedy that ran for years on Broadway in the 20s, and drove critic Robert Benchley to pen this pithy mid-run review: “See Hebrews 13:8.” It’s a New Testament verse you can hear him muttering: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.”
Break out! Break out with a big mug of Bock! The power of malt compels you!

There’s been a lot of bullshit, stuff and nonsense, written about bock beers. I’m not going to rehash any of it, why waste time? Let’s start fresh.

Bocks are German. The origin of the name and the type are the subject of regional argument, but none of that matters even a little bit: they’re big strong lagers, they’re German, they’re lightly hopped, and we call them bocks. ’Nuff said, to quote Stan Lee. Let’s get beer in the glass and move on.

But first, a personal request: cue up some Bach. You know, Johann Sebastian Bach was German. If you’re going to drink classic German beer, think about some classic German music, because the man was awesome, a genius.

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Why do I bring up Bach? Because this week I’m mourning the passing of a friend, Bill Moeller, the last of the great German-American brewers. Bill brewed beer in the old regional breweries of Pennsylvania from the 1950s to the 1980s, and then became the in-demand consultant for the new microbrewers, formulating the original Brooklyn Lager, Dock Street Bohemian Pilsner, and whole ranges for other small brewers.

One of his best, IMO, was Dock Street’s Illuminator Double Bock. And Bill was a fan and supporter of classical music, a very German thing. I’m listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos as I write this. Try them, they might surprise you.

Back to bock! In a larger context, to be circular, the gestalt (another German word!) of bock is German. They are lagers, made from good solid malt, nothing fancy. They are unashamed strong beers, focused on purity (Reinheitsgebot, the German beer law geeks used to quote, literally mean ‘purity command’). But perhaps most German, together they represent the idea of a spectrum, a continuum of beers that are very similar – malty, smooth, strong – differentiated by strength, color, hopping level.

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