This recipe appears in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” Learn more at mashmakerbook.com.
Pale doppelbock. We’re going to do this.
Because I love comparative beer analogies, picture the pale bock as a traditional dark doppelbock without the raisiny, fruity, toffee, cafe au lait character, or as an even bigger version of a maibock. It might even be compared to a lightly hopped Belgian strong ale, but instead of all the yeasty phenols and spice there are just waves of luscious, unobfuscated, slow-fermented pils malt washing over your sinuses.
Going by the numbers
Doppelbocks rank among the strongest beers in the world, big and bombastic with a heavy focus on malt. Paler helles bocks can have a bit more hop flavor and bitterness than their darker cousins, but the emphasis remains on malt sweetness.
To be called doppelbock, the OG must be at least 1.072; there is no upper limit for gravity. This makes for a lager with an alcohol content of 7% ABV on up into the double-digits. Hopping is slight and relative to gravity, with most examples showing up between 16–26 IBU. Color can be anywhere from a deep gold (like our recipe) to a deep garnet-mahogany brown.
What makes it tick
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Like many other Bavarian beer styles, it’s all about that malt, ’bout that malt, ’bout that malt—no hops. This regional inflection is only reinforced by the high gravity. In a traditional dark doppelbock, the malt would be the more highly kilned and bready Munich. For a lighter-colored helles or maibock—as well as this month’s Helladoppel—the malt needs to be paler. To that end, we’ll recruit a fine German pils malt to do the heavy lifting for this beer’s flavor, aroma, and pale color.
Just because it’s not all about the hops doesn’t mean they’re entirely absent. Bavaria is home to a number of Landrace, Noble, and new hop varieties that native brewers use to balance their malty beers. In terms of flavor and aroma, Humulus lupus in doppelbock takes a backseat (maybe even more like skitching on the bumper), but its bitterness is an important supporting element. I’m calling for German Perle, but any continental variety with mid-range alpha acid content—Tradition, Opal, Premiant, etc.—could happily stand in.
However, to flash back to my beloved comparative analogies, the key differentiator between doppelbocks and other big beers is the fermentation—it’s a lager, so cool and slow is the name of the game. We want little to no fermentation esters and a smooth alcohol character. We want something “clean.”
The challenge to the brewer is keeping yeast cells happy in a less-than-happy environment, e.g., low temperature, a high concentration of ethanol, and a combination of increased difficulty in getting oxygen into solution, decreased bioavailability of nutrients, and high osmotic pressure as a result of the immense OG. Stressed yeast working through high gravity wort results in high ester production and harsh fusel alcohols—aka, not “clean.” To counteract all that, we need a large population of healthy cells, plenty of oxygen, and possibly some supplemental yeast nutrient.
A recipe to try
Helladoppel Pale Bock
Target OG: 1.092, Target IBU: 26–27
• 15½ pounds Weyermann Pilsner
• 8 ounces Weyermann CaraMunich I
• 1¼ ounces German Perle
• Your favorite high-gravity capable Bavarian lager strain—I’m going to use Wyeast 2352 Munich Lager II
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