Much of our modern drinking culture stems from the work of monks during the Middle Ages. Even though much of their lives were spent serving a higher calling by attending multiple church services per day and translating texts to other languages, the monks also provided medical care, farmed the land and among other things, produced beer and wine. Of particular note, the Paulaner Friars in Bavaria (Munich) created a beer that would sustain them during the fasting periods when richer food like meat (where with bread was a staple of the monk’s diet) was a no-no. This style is referred to as the doppelbock.
The bock family of lagers are strong and malty with no real hoppy character. At 6.0-7.0% abv, the bocks are smooth, creamy, and rich in texture with a caramel flavor. The Paulaner Friars took this style to the next level in strength and richness with the doppel (double) bock, where the beers were even darker and fuller-bodied, with an abv checking in around 7.5-8.0%; modern examples by craft brewers can take this up to an abv as high as 12.0% with toasty flavors entering the equation, essentially “liquid bread” to feed the monks. When the fasting period was over, the lighter and hoppier maibock (also referred to as helles lager) was consumed in celebration.
The Paulaner Friars called this the “Salvator,” which translates to “savior,” and to this day many doppelbock beers include -ator in its name in reverence to the foundation of this beer style. Fun fact: bock beers, where “ein bock” translates to “billy goat,” will frequently depict goats on the labels.
Whether you observe Ash Wednesday today and the Lenten season, or you just want to introduce yourself to a new beer style that will warm you up during these remaining chilly days, reach for a doppelbock. Additionally, if you are a fan of Belgian Dubbels, try its lager counterpart to the east. Here are three for you to find.
Paulaner Salvator ($11/6-pack): The granddaddy of them all, this beer has been made for 375 years. The Salvator has a creamy texture with a chocolate-covered caramel flavor backed up by light hoppiness to create balance on your palate. 7.9% abv
Ayinger Celebrator ($14/4-pack): darker and maltier than the Salvator, but drier on the finish, the flavor profile shows more of a toasted bread and espresso character. It’s kind of like drinking breakfast (which 500 years ago was exactly the idea). 7.2% abv
Tröegs Tröegenator ($11/6-pack): Here is an American take on this style from central Pennsylvania, a region that traces its history to German settlers. The Tröegenator shows more of a reddish color than dark brown and has more noticeable hops and fruit than the traditional producers, but it still sticks to the malty character that defines the doppelbock style. 8.2% abv. NOTE: there is also a Bourbon barrel-aged version of this beer, where the alcohol is jacked up to 9.8% abv, available in 12.7 oz bottles that are about $15 per bottle.