German Beer Styles: What is Eisbock?
This week we’re focusing on Eisbock, pronounced “ice-bock”. No, this isn’t that crappy Ice beer that was a craze in the 1990s. This beer came about in Germany 100 years earlier in the 1890s. In short, this beer usually starts off as a Doppelbock beer, is frozen long enough for the water to crystallize and separate from the solids and alcohol, and then the rich essence of the bock beer is drained off producing a sweet, boozy, malty beer with almost no bitterness. Alcohol ranges from 9-15% by volume, with some extreme beers hitting the 60% mark.
While the exact origin of Eisbock isn’t known, a common legend states that it was created by accident. Sometime around the 1890s in the Reichelbräu brew yard in Kulmbach Germany, a young brewery worker was told by the brewmaster to roll some finished kegs of bock to the cellar. Tired from a long day at work, he rolled them outside and figured he could finish the job the next morning. That night turned out to be bitter cold. When the brewers returned the next morning, they were horrified to find that the kegs had frozen and exploded, yet on the inside was a core of syrupy brown liquid. The brewmaster, looking to punish the young worker, ordered him to crack open the frozen barrels and drink this (assumed) awful brown liquid. To the worker’s delight, this liquid turned out to be incredibly sweet, delicious and boozy and soon all the workers were sharing in his “punishment”. Legend has it that since then, the Kulmbach brewers would roll out a few barrels of Doppelbock to freeze overnight and collect the sweet essence of bock the next day. And thus was born the Eisbock.
The color of Eisbock can range from a deep red to almost black. Expect to find aroma notes of figs or dried fruits and roasted coffee or chocolate, and flavors of dark fruits, maple syrup and warming alcohol with a long finish. The most popular Eisbocks are the Kulmbacher Reichelbräu Eisbock and the Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, a wheat based ale version of the Eisbock.