My grandfather Inskeep was a beer drinker and towards the end of his life he lived with us. Almost always there would be a couple of bottles of his favorite brew in the fridge and typically it would be one of the Cincinnati brews such as Hudepohl or Burger. In the early winter he would always bring home something called bock beer and all I knew about it was the color was always much darker and he claimed it was more powerful.
For years I heard stories that bock beer was only made in the winter because that’s when the brewers cleaned out their vats and bock was brewed from what was left over. Since then I’ve learned that such isn’t true and that bock is brewed year round and technically has nothing to do with a particular season. It is typically a dark brewed lager that tends to be low on hops, high on malt, and often higher in alcohol content.
Bock is also higher in nutritional value and was often used by German monks, and others,
as a nutrition source during periods of fasting, such as Lent. Even higher in nutritional value and alcohol is a version called double bock. German monks considered double bock to be “liquid bread” and it was so popular during Lent it also became known as Fastenbier.
I first learned of double bocks during a visit to Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati. I overheard a clerk telling a customer about a particular brand of double bock he considered to be the best. Once they had moved away I picked up a bottle, read the label, and decided to bring a bottle home.
The brand was Celebrator by Bavaria’s Ayinger Brewery and it was maybe the best beer I’ve ever consumed. Problem is, Celebrator is not cheap. By chance I came across an American made double bock in Chillicothe and bought a six-pack to try. It was Troegenator double bock brewed by Troeg Brewery in Hershey, PA. Much more affordable it quickly became a favorite.
In case you noticed the names of these beers end in “…ator.” The reason for this is tied up in German trademark and religious history but almost all double backs carry this suffix.
Some time later I made a return visit to Jungle Jim’s and decided to buy a bottle of every double bock in stock, which consisted of only four brands, Celebrator, Salvator, Maximator, and Weihenstephan’s (world’s oldest brewery, 768 AD) Korbinian, which breaks the ator tradition.
To the above brands add Troegs and the total number of double bocks I’ve tried is five. Of those my favorite is Celebrator and least favorite, Maximator. Except for Maximator I wouldn’t hesitate buying any of them again, especially Troegenator because of availability and price. All were creamy, malty, lacking in bitterness, and poured a nice sustained head. To me these types of beers are akin to drinking a milkshake, they just feel and taste good in the mouth followed by a soothing sensation in the throat.