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Dopplebocks are a spring tradition that began with monks in Germany

salvatorThis time of year is special to Christians world-wide. From Fat Tuesday to Good Friday, Christians celebrate the season of Lent when Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray before his crucifixion. It is a serious time that is revered by both lay persons and those who have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord.

So, what is the connection to beer? It seems that the German Paulaner monks at Cloister Neudeck ob der Au in Munich took their fasting serious during Lent and ate no solid food during the Holy time. Therefore, instead of making bread with their grain they brewed beer – what they called liquid bread to sustain them through the long season.

The beer they brewed has gone by several names including Fastenbier or Starkbier it is more commonly known as Doppelbock. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines, this brew should be very rich and malty with a touch of chocolate but still crisp and smooth. Doppelbock, literally double bock, is generally relatively high in alcohol at between 7 and 12 percent. In the higher alcohol versions, there is generally a mild burn from the alcohol.

This classic Bavarian style has a long and checkered history. Depending on which documents you believe, the style began somewhere between 1630 and 1670. Being men of the cloth, the monks were not so sure that they should be drinking such an intoxicating and delicious brew during Lent, typically a time of denial. So, they sought guidance from their earthly leader, the Holy Father himself in Rome.

The monks dispatched a keg of their brew to Rome, but since the journey was long and wound through the Alps and the hot plains, of Italy the beer got warmed in the sun and shaken by the road over a period of several weeks. When it arrived in Rome it had been through quite an ordeal and was less than ideal for consumption. The pope took one taste of the brew and decided that such a vile brew would be fitting as a drink during a time when the monks were supposed to be denying themselves earthly pleasures.

But, monks are not the only ones to have used the brew as a means of fasting. A few years ago a J. Wilson approached an Iowa brewery and asked them to create a Doppelbock for him. His goal was to imitate the Paulaner monks and go on a liquid diet for the entire Lenten season.  Wilson drank four beers on weekdays and five on weekends along with water and ate nothing during his fast. At the end of his Lenten experiment he was 25 pounds lighter and reported very few ill effects. However, in an interview for Men’s Health magazine, Wilson said he would not recommend the diet as a healthy way to lose weight.

The monks of eventually named their brew Salvator after the savior. In deference to that original brew, when imitators began making their own versions, most were named with the –ator ending to the appellation. Commercial versions that are currently available include Spaten Optimator and Ayinger Celebrator. Recently the style was reproduced in Jacksonville by Intuition Ale Works as a special beer for the brewery’s Mug Club.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Beer, Beer Styles

 

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Monastic Brews: Doppelbock

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!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Beer, Beer Education, Beer Festival, Imports

 

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