By Kyle Sisco and Shannon Pierce
As we enter the late autumn and winter approaches in Minnesota, we have said goodbye to sandals and swimming suits, and might be about time to do the same to our Kölsch beers, wheat beers, summer ales and shandies. It’s time to usher in the darker, sipping beers of winter, along with taking advantage of the cooler Minnesota basements—well-suited for lager fermentation.
While most Minnesotans take pleasure in winter fun like skiing, skating, snowmobiling, and ice fishing, we all at some point slow down and chum indoors at our favorite establishment or in front of a crackling fire with friends and family. Those nights call for a beer of similar stature. This is the perfect time to brew a traditional bock. Our twist on this medieval beer is complimented with the rich, sweet, caramel qualities of Medjool dates from The Wedge.
Traditional Bocks are a dark, strong, malty lager beer. Traditional bock beers are typically brewed from October to January, and best enjoyed after at least two months of maturation in a cold cellar. They are light copper to dark brown, with strong, rich, malt aroma, and toasty, melanoidin-rich flavor. Melanoidin flavors are derived from the Maillard reaction, or the browning process of using heat to combine amino acids and sugars. The most common characteristics consist of warm bread or bread crust, biscuit, toast, raisin, toffee, chocolate, or even seared meat. Melanoidins are present in all beers and occur from the kilning and drying during the barley malting process, decoction mashing, vigorous boils, and extended boil times. The Munich malt and 2-hour boil contributed to this bock’s melanoidin flavors.
There are several different styles of bock: Maibock/Helles Bock, Traditional Bock, Doppelbock, Eisbock, and their cousin, the Weizenbock. All descendants of Germany, the golden, malty Maibock lacks the depth and richness of a Traditional Bock, the Doppelbock is more full-bodied and considered a “double” bock, the Eisbock is a concentrated Doppelbock, by means of freezing and removing the ice, whereas the Weizenbock is a wheat version of the Doppelbock. While Bocks originated in Germany, these styles are celebrated and brewed well worldwide.
Fun Fact: Traditional Bocks originated in the city of Einbeck in Northern Germany. Once the beer made its way to Munich, the dialect changed the pronunciation to “ein Bock,” or “a billy goat.” That is why commercial brewers of this style commonly adorn their labels with a billy goat.
It is only fitting that a rich, malty, bock beer is brewed with a comparable food: the caramelly, sweet date!
Dates are an edible, sweet fruit from the date palm and are thought to have originated around the area of modern day-Iraq as early as 4000 BC. Date palms are dioecious, having both male and female plants with only the female plants bearing fruit. The Spaniards introduced dates to Mexico and California in 1765. There are numerous varieties in three main cultivars: soft, semi-dry, and dry. The Wedge commonly carries three different varieties: Barhee (Barhi), Medjool, and Deglet. Barhis and Medjools are soft while the Deglets are a semi-dry variety. The Barhi varieties are nearly round and jam-packed with caramel flavor. Barhis are a delectable treat that are great on their own, but are not always available due to their popularity and somewhat limited availability. Deglets are commonly used in cooking and are not as sweet as the Barhis. We selected the Medjool variety because they are readily available and have a sweet and rich flavor profile that compliments the traditional bock.
We substituted a portion of the specialty malts in the recipe for the Medjools, knowing the dates would offer a certain amount of fermentable sugars, flavors, and aromas. The seed of the dates were removed, the dates were puréed with hot wort during the boil, then added to the boil kettle for the final two minutes. This was done to preserve the flavor and aroma contributions from the dates. The 10-minute whirlpool also contributed to extracting the date characteristics. During transfer from boil kettle to primary fermenter, the trub (protein, hop, and date waste at the bottom of the kettle) was left behind.
The finished beer has rich, complex, malty aroma. The melanoidin Munich malt flavor shines through with bread crust and a hint of vanilla. The dates add a subdued yet noticeable caramel sweetness, along with increased body and mouthfeel.
The rich, strong, malty flavor of the Medjool Bock plays host to a wide variety of food parings. Milk chocolate covered raisins from the bulk-food aisle compliment the rich malt flavor. Plain Barhi dates with your bock would be a great fit, but for a real treat, consider bacon-wrapped dates for a true melanoidin experience. Most seared meats pair well with a traditional bock. Aaron Nytroe, the veteran Meat and Seafood Manager at The Wedge, recommends his favorite braised treat: thinly sliced tenderloin, seared in butter and served over toast. Cheeses and bocks will always work well together. Try the Roomano Aged Gouda or the caramelized Gjetost cheese from Norway. A chocolate-dipped brown sugar shortbread cookie from the dessert case would be the perfect dessert pairing.
While the summer beers have their rightful spot in the beer calendar, so does the rich, malty Traditional Bock. With the addition of Medjool dates from The Wedge, this 7.6% sipper is perfect for those slow, blustery winter evenings.
For the recipe, click Next Page