Bock is a type of strong lager beer, first brewed in the 14th century in the Hanseatic town of Einbeck, Germany, from which it gets its name (originally "Einbeck" / "Einbock"). The original Bocks were dark beers, brewed from high-colored malts. Modern Bocks can be dark, amber or pale in color. Bock was traditionally brewed for special occasions, often religious festivals such as Christmas, Easter or Lent.
Bocks have a long history of being brewed and consumed by Roman Catholic monks in Germany. During the spring religious season of Lent, monks were required to fast. High-gravity Bock beers are higher in food energy and nutrients than lighter lagers, thus providing sustenance during this period. Similar high-gravity Lenten beers of various styles were brewed by Monks in other lands as well (see Trappist beer).
Bock beer originated in the Northern German city of Einbeck in the 14th century, and was recreated in Munich in the 17th century. Its alcohol content ranges from 6.3% to 7.2% by volume. The beer has a complex malty flavor dominated by the richness of Munich and Vienna malts, which contribute toasty flavors. It has a low hop bitterness, usually enough to not overwhelm the malt flavors, allowing a slight sweetness to linger into the finish. Bock is light copper to brown in color with reddish highlights, with good clarity despite the dark color. It has a large, creamy, persistent off-white head, and moderate to moderately low carbonation. Examples include Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel, Lakefront Bock, Aass Bock, Great Lakes Rockefeller Bock, Huber Bock, Berghoff Bock, and Shiner Bock. Breweries in Bamberg, Franconia who traditionally smoke their malt over beechwood chips also produce a Rauchbock.
The Maibock style is a pale version of a traditional bock. It is a fairly recent development compared to other styles of bock beers, frequently associated with springtime and the month of May. Alcohol content ranges from 6.3% to 7.4% by volume. The flavor is typically less malty than a traditional bock, and may be drier, hoppier, and more bitter, but still with a relatively low hop flavor, with a mild spicy or peppery quality from the hops or alcohol content. It is a clear lager, deep gold to light amber in color, with a large, creamy, persistent white head, and moderate to moderately high carbonation. There is some dispute as to whether the Heller ("pale") bock and the Mai ("May") bocks are the same style, but they are generally agreed to be the same. Examples include Hubertus Bock, Einbecker Mai-Urbock, Augustiner Hellerbock, Hofbräu Maibock, Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock, and Victory's St. Boisterous.
Doppelbock or double bock is a Bavarian speciality beer that was first brewed by the monks of St. Francis of Paula. Alcohol content ranges from 6% to over 10% by volume. Historic versions had lower alcohol content and higher sweetness, and were considered "liquid bread" by the monks. Most versions are dark colored, but pale versions do exist. The color ranges from deep gold to dark brown, with a large, creamy, persistent head ranging from white for pale versions to off-white for darker versions, although doppelbocks with higher alcohol content may not display good head retention. It has a very strong malty aroma, with some toasty aromas. Some alcohol aroma may be present, and darker versions may have a chocolate-like or fruity aroma. The flavor is very rich and malty, with toasty flavors and noticeable alcoholic strength. Most versions are fairly sweet, due to little or no hop flavor. Paler versions may have a drier finish. Examples include Spaten Optimator, Tucher Bajuvator, Troeg's Troegenator, Augustiner Maximator, Weihenstephan Korbinian, Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock, EKU 28°, Eggenberg Urbock 23, Samichlaus, Abita Andygator, and Birra Moretti La Rossa. The Minim monks who originally brewed Doppelbock named their beer "Salvator", which today is trademarked by Paulaner. It is traditional for breweries to give their Doppelbocks names that end in "-ator".
Eisbock is a traditional Kulmbach specialty beer that is made by freeze distilling a doppelbock and removing the ice to concentrate the flavor and alcohol content. Alcohol content ranges from 9% to 40% by volume. It is deep copper to dark brown in color, often with ruby highlights. Head retention is frequently impaired by the higher alcohol content. It has a rich, sweet malty flavor, balanced by a significant alcohol presence. It has a clean, lager character with no hop flavor. Examples include Schneider Aventinus Eisbock, Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock, Eggenberg Urbock Dunkel Eisbock, Niagara Eisbock, and Southampton Eisbock.
In Austria, Bockbier is traditionally brewed only around Christmas and Easter, when nearly every brewery brews its own bock.
Argentina has one well known Bock that can be found in many restaurants. Brewed by Quilmes, which has a large percentage of the Argentine market, the Quilmes Bock is likely the deepest and richest common beer in the country.
The Italian Birra Moretti Doppio Malto (also known as Moretti La Rossa) is very similar to the Bock style, and some consider it intermediate between a light Maibock and a dark bock.
In the province of British Columbia, the Vancouver Island Brewery produces an Eisbock known locally as the Hermannator, which is only seasonally available from the end of October to mid January. It has a higher alcohol content (9.5%) compared to most Canadian beers, but is very popular among locals during the winter. Phillips Brewing Company of Victoria, BC also produces a seasonal doppelbock called the "Instigator," which is labelled as 8.5%. The Creemore Springs Brewery of Creemore, Ontario produces urBock, a special Christmas beer only available for a limited time and in limited amounts over the festive winter season. Bushwakkers Brewpub in Regina, Saskatchewan produces both "Harbinger Maibock" and "Procrastinator Stopelbock", which are available in rotation year round. The Sleeman Breweries produces "Bock", which is marketed as being offered in limited edition.
Bock beer is produced in Mexico around Christmas season, under the Noche Buena label.
Bock beer is being produced and distributed under the Urbock label by Namibian Breweries.
The city of Cincinnati, Ohio, has hosted a Bockfest celebration since 1992 celebrating its German-style brewing history, the German culture of its Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and the coming of spring. The festival was started by a collaboration between the neighborhood groups Merchants of Main and the Over-the-Rhine Foundation and Cincinnati's Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewery. Today, Hudepohl is owned by the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, and the company produces doppelbocks under both brands. Moerlein's Emancipator Doppelbock is available in bottles and on draft from February through March. Hudepohl Bock is available only at Bockfest. A home brewing competition is held at Bockfest Hall during the festival. The competition winner's recipe is then used to produce Hudepohl Bock the following year. Bockfest officially begins with the Bockfest Parade, a nontraditional procession always led by a goat pulling a keg of bock, a "Sausage Queen," and a motorized bathtub. The festival also includes tours of Cincinnati's pre-Prohibition brewery buildings. Bockfest usually occurs during the first weekend in March.
New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin produces an interpretation of a bock, called "Uff-Da." The bock has chocolate and coffee undertones not common in traditional bock recipes. In 1997 Michelob, a brand of beers produced by the Anheuser-Busch brewery, introduced Amber Bock.
Bock beers, like many other beer styles, are increasingly produced by various craft brewers across the United States. For example, Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado produces a traditional bock style called Pandora's Bock, available from January through March.
A variation of bock called 'bokbier' is also brewed extensively in the Netherlands and occasionally in Belgium. Most larger Dutch breweries, such as Heineken International, Grolsch, Amstel, Brand and Dommelsch, market at least one variety. Most bokbiers tend to be seasonal beers (traditionally autumn, although there are currently also spring, summer and winter boks). They are among the only few specialty beers that existed besides lager for a long time. Microbreweries may prefer to seasonally brew a bokbier, such as the eco-beer biobok, made in autumn by Brouwerij 't IJ in Amsterdam. The city of Amsterdam also hosts a well known festival in honour of bokbier in its former stock exchange organised by P.I.N.T . Belgium-based InBev produces Artois Bock, which is exported internationally and can be found in areas where bock is not traditionally available.