All Things Bright and Beery
I was reading in the local paper (in the food section, of all things, a section of the paper I almost always skip) that Spring means bock beer, a fact I was wholly unaware of. I mean, I know that everything has it’s season, just as white wine goes with fish, and in spring a young man’s thoughts turn to love, but to bock beer as well?
Honestly, I can attest to the love thing, even though my bloom of youth has well gone to seed, but if spring is the season for bock beer perhaps I have been celebrating this season all-wrong for some time now.
The writer, Greg Kitsock, informs me that Bock is a strong German lager traditionally served during the spring and that the beer has it’s own mascot. Bock in German means billy goat or ram which is why a horned animal often graces the label. Legend has it that a Bavarian brewmaster challenged a visiting knight to a drinking contest after the knight impugned his beer. The knight was to down two tankards of beer and thread a needle while standing on one foot. (A challenge even for your average teetotaler) The knight waded through his two tankards only to fall flat on his face as he tried to thread the needle. The knight claimed that he had been knocked over by a stray goat or bock. The brewmaster was said to have replied, “The bock that threw you was brewed by me!”
I love a good legend and a funny beer legend is tough to pass up. But Mr. Kitsock trots out even more beer facts and history.
The term “bock” is probably a corruption of Einbeck, a northern German city once known for its strong brown beer.
The Einbecker Brauhaus AG there currently exports a light and dark version of its Ur-Bock (“ur” means “original” in German) to America.
Over time, the beer morphed from a strong beer that might be dark to a dark beer of no exceptional strength.
Doppel bock or double bock is stronger than regular bock, although not precisely twice as potent.
Doppel bock was originated by Paulaner monks, who migrated from Italy to Munich in the 17th century. The monks underwent a rigorous fast twice a year, eating no solid food during the 40 days of Lent and the four weeks of Advent. Their nutritious beer made these privations more tolerable.
This guy, Greg, is a wealth of information! All this time I thought that Lent was about skipping the red meat, but I can see how these guys could bide their time living on double strength beer and maybe some soup. Imagine rolling out of bed for morning prayers only to follow it up with a hearty helping of potent beer. No wonder these guys left Italy! They had to go to Germany to establish the Holy Order of the Soused! Only the Germans would accept a brotherhood that spent several weeks out of every year blitzed! What a country!
In all honesty, I can understand the dilemma that they found themselves in. Italy, known for its culture, antiquity, and wine was not the right setting for these holy men. *. They needed to find a home where wine was not the drink of choice, where a beer drinker would be welcomed, and a learned, Christian beer drinker even doubly so. I’m sure they found the mountain crossing to be tough going. It is the Alps, for the love of mike, and a good train, plane, or automobile to take them would be a long time coming. But I am sure they braced themselves for the journey and headed to the promised-land of beer, armed with the knowledge that God would protect them in their quest and reward them with a tasty dark beer with a good head.
So, in honor of these noble men of the cloth, hoist a bock and contemplate the High Holiday of the Christian calendar.
*(I am not a wine drinker myself. I never found one that I found palatable. In my mind, wine should be fruity and sweet, a form of wine that wine lovers seem to shun. I know there are dessert wines that meet these criteria but really, try asking for one at your local watering hole and pay close attention to the look that the bartender tries so hard to hide. You will be treated to variations of “This guy is fruitier than the wine he’s asking for”. As you do this, try to look at your buddies and deliver, with a straight face, the line “After a long day of: teaching, surgery, salt mining, logging, pimping, f**king your wife [no your own, your buddy’s], grating cheese, fill in the blank, I need a good, cold aperitif”. If you can do this and not receive: groans, moans, or a sound ass beating then you have achieved wine snobbery among a group of ninnies.)