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Lent (beer) as an endurance test

Back in the 17th century, the monks already knew “Liquida non frangunt ieunum. – Liquids do not break a fast”, and during Lent they drank nourishing, invigorating high-strength beer. The Pope in all his majesty had approved it as a Lenten drink. Originally, by the way, bock beer comes from the Hanseatic city of Einbeck in Lower Saxony. The “Ainpockish beer” was so popular in Bavaria that in the 16th century brewers had already begun to produce this beer in Bavaria as well. All Bavarian Lenten high-strength beers are still today double-bock beers, with an original gravity of more than 18° Plato.

Nowadays, the Lenten beer is mostly served from Ash Wednesday to Easter – in the “fifth season of the Bavarian year”. The Bavarian population can meanwhile be frequently encountered at various high-strength-beer festivals – the strong-beer trials at the Nockherberg as the highlight of this fifth season are quite famous.

My double bock: traditional, but different

And that’s the way it is with seasons of the year: there’s no escaping them. So it seemed only meet and fitting that I should celebrate the “bock-beer season” properly and brew a bock beer in the Steinecker Brew Center for the upcoming weeks of Lent. Our Lenten beer was also to be a double bock, of course – no point in doing things by halves. The malt grist consists largely of Pilsener and Viennese malt. Supplemented with a small proportion of light caramel malt, this produces a magnificently gleaming amber colour. Sounds unusual? The choice of a pale bock beer instead of a dark one is primarily attributable to my North German origins and the pale high-strength beers popular up there. But that’s not all – with the hops, too, I venture into new territory. Instead of using classic flavour and bittering hops, this time I want to focus more on a flowery and spicy aroma. Which is why I combine the traditional recipe for pale double bock with the Cascade flavour hops from the USA, which have been very popular for some time now. This creates a flowery aroma reminiscent of citrus fruits. In addition, the bitter note remains comparatively mild, even with very high hop strikes, so that the targeted 40 bittering units won’t be a problem. Due to three hop strikes, at the beginning and shortly before the end of wort boiling, and directly in the whirlpool, we obtain a pleasantly hoppy bitterness and a full, intensive aroma.

Aromatic impressions

During all steps of the brewing process, it quickly becomes evident that we’re dealing with a rather special beer. The mash is significantly more viscous than with comparable full-strength beer, and the brewhouse is directly suffused by a pleasant fragrance. The first wort draining off from the lauter tun is gleamingly pale, and a taste test already foreshadows what a high proportion of malt sugar it contains. When balancing the hop strikes, the citrus notes of the Cascade hops are immediately perceptible, and taste definitely moreish.

Bock beer endurance test

Not only for my nose, but also for the equipment in the Brew Center, this double bock is a kind of extreme experience: the Pegasus C lauter tun demonstrates its impressive capabilities with a grist of a good 300 kg/m² of lautering surface. Original gravities of 24° Plato at the first wort can be lautered without any problems while achieving very good turbidity values and without any deep-raking passes – which is what I had expected, but had so far not tested at the Brew Center in practice. For the second wort, the BOTEC F1 process control system uses the trending system to automatically increase the exiting volume flow, thus ensuring a short occupation time coupled with ideal extract yields.

So our clients can rely on field-proven kit from Steinecker even for the more demanding beers. For many of these clients, by the way, this is nothing new – since worldwide there are currently many brewhouses up and running in which comparable beers with high original gravities are brewed, such as Dubbel, India Pale Ale, Porter & Co. So in the Steinecker brewhouse at the Freising Brew Center, the next “West Coast Double IPA” will then be child’s play to brew.

Interim goal achieved

While I’m still savouring the agreeably hoppy aroma of the evaporating wort, I’ve reached the end of the brewing process. The original gravity of the cold wort is 18.5° Plato as planned. The bottom-fermenting yeast will now be doing its work over many days at a comparatively low temperature of 10° C in a classical fermentation process, so that after fermentation an abv of almost 8 per cent can be expected. Whether the high abv and the agreeable caramel sweetness actually harmonise with the Cascade hops as desired will then be revealed when the bock beer is tapped in a few weeks’ time. So there’s something to look forward to …

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