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German Beer Styles: What is Bockbier?

Next up in our German Beer Styles series is Bockbier. This beer is characterized by its dark amber to brown color and bold malt flavor. It’s generally stronger than most lagers clocking in at around 6-8% ABV but can go up to 10%. This beer is traditionally drunk during the winter months from December through April and is mostly associated (like many German beers) with the city of Munich. But it wasn’t always that way.

Einbeck GermanyThe Bockbier style is originally from the town of Einbeck (pictured) in the 13th Century. At that time, it was a strong dark ale and almost the entire town was involved in one way or another with the brewing trade. One of their biggest customers was the Wittelsbach family, the rulers of Bavaria. They eventually drank so much Einbeck ale that it became a major line item expense in the Bavarian budget. To fix this problem, in 1590 Duke Wilhelm V opened his own Einbeck style brewery near Munich. A year later he opened another one on the site that is now the famous Hofbräuhaus and in 1610 he opened up sales to the general public. The beer was now making the crown money instead of losing it.

Spaten Bock Bier GoatIn 1614, with the help of a master brewer from Einbeck, the style was transformed from an ale to its current form of a lager and served for the first time at the Hofbräuhaus. The Bavarian dialect soon transformed the name Einbeck to “ein bock” meaning “one bock” or “one goat”. This is probably the origin of the goat iconography associated with Bockbiers.

There are several different types of Bockbiers. Some of the most popular are: Doppelbock meaning “double bock”, Dunkelbock a darker version of the Bockbier, Eisbock which is a stronger version created by freezing and then removing excess water from the beer, Maibock meaning “May bock” which is a lighter Bockbier traditionally served in Spring, Urbock which means “original bock” and is a style based on the original from Einbeck, and Weizenbock which is a wheat bock and like other German Weissbiers is an ale.