Know your brew: Doppelbock

Dark, malty and rich for those cold winter nights

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Endo Brewing's Hibernator
MIchael J. Casey

When it comes to talking about what to drink with what you eat, most will rely on grapes and vintages over grains and styles. Their position: Wine is for food; beer is for moments.

It’s a foolish simplification — beer possesses a wide array of ingredients that’ll harmonize beautifully with any dish thrown at it — but there is some truth to it. Not only is beer produced throughout the year, often for specific drinking occasions with finite windows; it also perishes quicker than wine. The best beers are seasonal and to every season, a beer.

Take one of the best seasonal styles out there: doppelbock. This bottom-fermenting German lager is traditionally stronger, darker and maltier than your typical lager. That’s because Franciscan monks began brewing their bocks strong — doubly, if you will — to help fortify them during the fast of Lent. You’ve heard the phrase “liquid bread” before? Well, doppelbock is what they’re talking about.

Bock beers originated in the north German city of Einbeck in the 14th century. When the style moved south to Munich 300 years later, Bavarian dialectic heard “Einbeck” as “ein Bock,” and the name stuck; as did the image of the Billy goat — what “ein bock” means in English.

Billy goats still decorate many a beer label, particularly Ayinger Brewery’s Celebrator Doppelbock with two goats hoisting a glass of Bavaria’s finest double bock. And if Celebrator Doppelbock isn’t Bavaria’s finest, it might be the most recognizable: dark cola in color, but not black as night, with a wispy head, a nose of sweet malt, dried fruit and leather with a creamy mouth of malt, roast and a touch of hop bitterness. It’s a beer that deserves to be served alongside hearty stews and fudge sundaes.

German doppelbocks tend to run a bit on the earthy side: mahogany, smoke, leather, etc. Spaten Optimator from Munich also sports a prominent nose of briny olives and figs alongside rich malt. Americanized versions hue closer to the sweeter side of malt. Denver’s Prost Brewing’s Doppelbock hits heavy notes of caramel, molasses and brown sugar, making it more of a dessert drink. Epic Brewing Company’s Double Skull Doppelbock keeps the cloying at a minimum with flavors closer to caramel candies rather than sweet syrup. And, like the best lagers around, Double Skull has a quick and clean finish, the kind of brew that’ll brighten up your palate for another sip.

The above four doppelbocks can be procured at any quality liquor store, but for the best doppel around, you’ll have to head out to Lafayette’s Endo Brewing Company for their Hibernator, a beautifully balanced beer exhibiting dark fruit on the nose, sweet malt in the mouth, with nuances of black cherry and complex tea tannins. You don’t have to wait for Lent to drink it. Pair it tonight with Japanese curry rice, chicken mole or London broil and prove all those 0 wrong.