Liquid bread, billy goats and bock beer
Editor's note: Jen Kopf's first good beer came in Yorkshire, England, so long ago that barmen still were reluctant to serve full pints to "delicate" women (She blames Margaret Thatcher). Jen firmly believes that light beer is a waste of calories, and that drinking it will kill a little of your soul.
Ah, bock lager … that combination of billy goats, special occasions and Bavarian monks.
Fourteenth-century brewers in the Hanseatic town of Einbeck created the dark, lovely, malty, lightly hopped ale. According to Thomas Rupp, brewer at Union Barrel Works in Reamstown, it often would be made and consumed by the monks as a source of nutrition. "Liquid bread," says Jeff Herb, media and communications manager at Troegs in Hershey.
By the 17th century, it was part of the brewing repertoire in Munich, where the accent morphed "Einbeck" into "ein Bock," or "billy goat" … and then shortened to "bock."
There's the maibock or helles bock popular at this time of year, paler and with more hops; dopplebock, a stronger, maltier choice; and eisbock, a much stronger, wintertime version.
Traditionally, according to the German Beer Institute, a bock has a minimum alcohol content by volume of at least 6.5 percent -- but that can go up to 13 percent (or even more: Sam Adams makes Utopias, with an ABV of about 24 percent).
But enough of the history.
If you love "lite beer," or you're hot, thirsty and looking for something you can drink quickly, bock is not for you. As Rupp says, you'll know exactly how much bock you've had after you stand up and start to walk.
It's part of the reason Rupp loves the name of Union Barrel Works' Wobbly Bob Dopplebock (actually named for a former co-worker whose head bobbed as he walked), one of several bocks in his UBW lineup, including one with sweet clover honey.
What should you look for in a bock, whether it be maibock, dopplebock or other?
Herb says it should have a "rich, chewy body" -- there's that link to bread again, thanks to the malt -- and "a nice strong aroma."
Done well, it's a relatively popular choice in Central Pennsylvania.
In fact, Troegs owes a great deal of its success to its Troegenator Double Bock.
In its infancy, Troegs went through a period of some growing pains, Herb says. "They figured, 'Hey, we might as well go out with a bang,' " and the result was Troegenator, Mad Elf and Hopback Amber Ale.
Today, Troegenator is "a flagship," Herb says, "one of our best-selling in bottles."
n If you're looking for a quick beer-related road trip, check out the Sly Fox Bock Festival & Goat Race (there are those goats again!) Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Sly Fox's Phoenixville location: 520 Kimberton Road (Route 113), in the Maple Lawn Shopping Center. On tap: Slacker Bock, a helles bock, Instigator Doppelbock, two eisbocks and a maibock. The maibock will be tapped after the goat race, and named for the winner. See if Peggy, the winner in 2011 and 2012, can be unseated.
"What Ales Ya," a local column paying tribute to craft beer, appears the first and third Wednesday of the month in the Lifestyle/Food section. Staff members take turns sharing their thoughts on beer created by small, independent breweries, and ale-related news. Readers are welcome to offer their input via the reporters' emails, or through the Lancaster Lifestyle Facebook wall, YouShare or Twitter (@LancLifestyle). Always drink responsibly.