(6.5% German make from a 330 ml bottle). Since 1378 Bock beer has been produced in the town of Einbeck, and this Ur-Bock is the original bock beer. As per the bottle:
“Das original aus der Heimat des Bockbiers. Kernig, mit fein wurzigem Rostmalzaroma und von einer geheimnisvoll dunklen Optik. Gebraut nach dem Deutschen Reinheitsgebot von 1516”.
Or in English… “The original from the home of bock beers. Powerful with a fine spicy note of roasted malt and of a mysteriously dark appearance/look/optic. Brewed according to German purity law dated 1516.”
So, its the real thing. Now, how does it taste? On the pour it had a thick foamy head over a chestnut-brown body with reddish hints. The smell yielded subtle dark malts and lager. The taste was that of the sweet, dark, roasted malts with a distinctively hoppy finish all with a nice bubble to the body. To me, the front had hits of a barley wine while the back was that of an IPA with the hop notes.
This beer style was traditionally used as ‘liquid bread’ for fasting monks during the Lenten period, much akin to that of the Trappists ales of their neighbours to the west in Holland and Belgian. The darker beers such as these provided more nutrients than their pale lager cousins, and must not have been the worst way to pass the time. These beers were also used to support, as they still do, the monastic orders who they were originally enjoyed by through sales.
This beer and its original brewery have a long history behind them, one which traces the importance and evolution of independent parties forming an economic consortium. This was a significant development because it was a digression of power from its traditional base in Europe, previously being derived from one of two places, either the church or a local ruler.
Allow me to digress: The Einbecker brewery, located in a town of Einbeck in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, was a part of a powerful medieval trading consortium called the Hanseatic League . This grouping of northern European cities and guilds was the most powerful trading agent of the time in the region (say 13th c – 17th c), and so to be a producer of beer in that region meant your brew was to enjoy the trading channels and protection of this vast economic power. The League enjoyed prosperity for centuries, and the beer of Einbock was enjoyed throughout the medieval world making it as far as the Middle East and Jerusalem. The network spread and set up trading posts, or kontors, in many cities that profited greatly.
Bringing this histoy home: One can imagine the wealth generated for port towns such as London, which was the Hanseatic League’s British port. The site of their headquarters in London, called Steelyard, was on the modern site of the Cannon Street Station. They were often at odds with the English traders, or mercers, but enjoyed concessions and tax exemption as granted by Edward I in 1303 in the Carta Mercatoria (Charter of the Merchants). This was until it was briefly revoked by Edward II, however the Hanseatic League was re-granted the economic concessions in 1334 by his successor Edward III. This angered the English mercers greatly, but it was not until Queen Elizabeth bowed to the wishes of the mercers, that she expelled the Hanseatic League from London and closed its port, the Steelyard, in the 16th c.
This is however, only part of the story of bock beer. It picks up after the disintegration of the League which was caused by the growing self-interest of its members, the strengthening of its neighbours (Holland, Denmark, Norway, Poland etc.) and the outbreak of war which saw the decline of this prosperous league, not to mention the isolataion of the bock beer brewers of the north.
Bock beer it turns out, outlive the League which saw it traded safely throught Europe. Throughout the reign of the League, bock beer was traded heavily across what is now modern Germany as well. It became so popular that when the supplies ran short of the thirsty demands of the Bavarian dukes, they acquired a brewer to make the bock beer in Bavaria. This leads us into the next part of bock beer history, which I shall take up in my subsequent reviews of more bock beers, such as Ayinger’s Celebrator, a double bock of some notoriety.