Monks have been brewing beer since the Middle Ages. The best known of the monastic brews are the Dubbels, Tripels, and Quadrupels of the Trappist monks in Belgium. But, the brethren in Germany also had a hand in brewing ales with the Doppelbock. Most beers are brewed by the Cistercian, Benedictine, or Trappist orders.
For the most part, monks brewed weaker beers that they drank with meals since water was rarely drinkable in its pure form in Europe. But, they also brewed stronger ales that they brewed especially for holidays and then would sell to the public. But, one style of beer, brewed by Italian monks living in Munich, Germany of the Order of Saint Francis of Paula (Paulaners), brewed a strong beer for their own needs.
Doppelbock was born of need to sustain the Paulaners through the fasts of Lent. During the Lenten season, monks were forbidden to partake of solid food. So, to see to their nutritional needs a strong, grain-heavy beer was developed. This beer was so thick with grain that it was nicknamed “liquid bread.” But, because the beer was so sweet and satisfying, the monks began to wonder if they should be drinking and enjoying it so much during Lent. So, in an attempt to gain the blessing of the Holy Father for their Lenten practice, the Paulaners sent a cask of the strong brew to the Holy See in Rome. On the journey the beer was jostled and subjected to extremes in temperatures that caused it to go sour and taste vile. Upon tasting the brew, the Pope deemed it disgusting and worthy of Lenten penance. So, without hesitation, he approved the beer as a drink for Lent due to its vile nature. Little did His Holiness know that the brew was actually quite tasty when not subjected to the extremes of travel.
The Paulaners continued producing the brew they named Salvator after their Savior from the mid-1600s until 1799 when Napoleon Bonaparte, under his policy of secularization, dissolved the monastery and thus the brewery.
Six years passed before the Dopplebock style re-emerged when a private brewer by the name of Franz Xaver Zacherl, the owner of the Münchener Hellerbräu, rented the old Paulaner brewery and began producing the Doppelbock for Lent again. But, again, the style came under fire with the law when villagers complained that partakers of the brew were too lively. But, Franz persisted and in 1837 King Ludwig I himself made a proclamation that Salvator should be available and the brewer left alone.
Soon other Doppelbock beers were brewed by competing breweries, but out of deference to the original, most were named with the –ator ending to their names.
Every spring, near March 19, a beer festival takes place that is less known than Oktoberfest, but is said to be better, called Starkbierfest (strong beer fest) takes place in Munich. This springtime festival is based on Doppelbock brews rather than the Marzen style at Oktoberfest. During this Lenten celebration, the weather is cooler and the tourists are more scarce. But, the Bavarian culture is alive and well.
The beer is still brewed according to the old methods by the brewery known as Paulaner after the monks who founded it over 350 years ago.
Until Next Time
Long Live the Brewers!
- Munich’s other beer festival (cnn.com)
- Schloss Eggenberg Doppelbock Dunkel Review (procrastinatingdev.com)