Liquid Bread: The Top 5 Bock Beers for Lent

March 4, 2015

So you gave up dessert for Lent? Good for you, you wimp! Once upon a time, German monks ate nothing for the entirety of the Lenten fast. No bread, no salad, no fruit—nothing. Beat that.

How did they survive, you ask? By imbibing large quantities of heavy, calorie rich beer, of course!

Around 700 years ago, German monks in the town of Einbeck developed a specific style of malty, dark, high alcohol beer to help sustain them during intense periods of fasting. This beer became known as Bock, a corruption of the name Einbeck. Later, discontent with the strength of Bock style beer, monks developed an even stronger variant known as Doppelbock, meaning double Bock. This beer was so laden with nutrition that some dubbed it “liquid bread.”

Now, these beers were so delicious that the monks began to wonder if they were contrary to the spirit of Lenten penance. Being faithful sons of the Church, they decided to consult the pope. On the journey to Rome, however, the beer was subjected to extreme weather conditions, causing it to spoil and turn sour. When the pope tasted it, he was so appalled by the spoiled beer that he immediately deemed it an excellent Lenten penance.

Seeing as beer has a long history as Lenten fare, I thought I would suggest five Bock style beers to sustain you during the long dark days until Easter.

  1. Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock – Founded in the  year 1050, the Weltenburger brewery is one of the oldest monastic breweries in the world. While it is sadly now a corporate operation, the brewery still makes a high quality Bock, which is no surprise when you’ve nearly 1,000 years to practice.
  2. Salvator Doppel Bock – Salvator Doppel Bock is one of the first monastic Doppelbocks, brewed by the Paulaner brewery in Munich. This beer is dangerously good—it was once banned by the government because villagers complained that it was causing drinkers to become too lively.
  3. La Trappe Bockbier – De Koningshoeven Brewery, commonly known as La Trappe, is a world-famous Trappist brewery founded in 1884. The brewery has grown heavily commercialized in recent years, but they still make an excellent Bock.
  4. Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel – The Andeschser Doppelbock is considered by many to be one of the best Doppelbocks in the world. Brewed in Andeschs, Germany by the Benedictine Monks of St. Boniface, it is one of the few successful monastic breweries still owned by monks.
  5. Weihenstephaner Korbinian – The Weihenstephan brewery is considered by many to be the oldest breweries in the world. Founded in the year 725 by St. Corbinian, Weihenstephan Abbey began brewing beer in the year 1040. The brewery is now owned by the state of Bavaria, but its Korbinian Doppelbock is one of the finest in the world.

There you have it: Five delicious Bock-style beers for the remaining weeks of Lent. If you’re really feeling brave, maybe next year you can imitate one courageous soul who decided to follow the monks of yore by subsisting on beer alone for the entirety of Lent!

What are your favorite Bock or Doppelbock style beers?

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Sam Guzman

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  1. Alex Johannigman says

    I haven’t tried any of these, so I’ll definitely need to give them a shot. Thanks for the recommendations. Unfortunately I gave up beer instead of dessert this year, so they’ll need to wait for the Easter season.

  2. jannelaine says

    As a fellow beer-lover, but more ardently, a devout Catholic, this article is an absolute disgrace. Is this the sense of penance you would be proud of to show Jesus and your fellow man?

    • Rich says

      It’s good to know you’re more “ardent” than the rest of us, jannelaine. Mr. Guzman is taking his cues from the practices of German monks. I’m thinking their Lenten ardor was more than sufficient.

    • gillineau says

      ‘absolute disgrace’. I really don’t think you’ve gone far enough in your condemnation, O merciful Taliban. May I suggest ‘Crime against all that is good’? Or ‘Quintessence of wickedness’?

      Take it easy.

    • David D. Jones says

      Only a woman would find anything wrong with this learned treatise on appropriate lenten practices. One is truly gratified to observe the ardor of the lenten practices as observed by our ancient brothers.

    • mindpulp1 says

      Shiner Bock is pretty tasty, not to mention a staple in my home, but nowhere on the level of those listed in the article. I would suggest Abbey Brewing Co.’s Monks’ Dubbel Reserve. I’ve heard great things about Monks Tripel Reserve, but haven’t found any yet.

  3. Eric Weldon says

    Jannelaine seems like a lover of tradition, just like me. So, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph I will allow her to buy me a Weihenstephaner Korbinian.

  4. Jim says

    Here in Montana we have Bakken Bock Dark Doppelbock Lager, brewed in Missoula. I don’t know how it compares, but it is not Coors Light.

    • Kate says

      I use to live in Hamilton, MT , grew up there! Bitterroot Valley has some great brewery’s with dark brews!

    • emma lou says

      I’m no connoisseur of beer, but Kettle House in Missoula has a great dark beer – Cold Smoke. It’s called a Scotch Ale – very smooth – hint or roasted barley – taste includes a bit of coffee and peat sensation. Better than Moose Drool or Guinness or so some of my beer-drinking friends believe. And, no, I’m not from Montana. From Arkansas. For the past few summers I have brought Cold Smoke home and will only share it with a few.

  5. Tony says

    I must admit, the concept of getting tipsy during Lent seems contradictive. I would’ve thought that things like alcohol contributed to the whole ‘carnivale’ atmosphere on maundy tuesday. I guess if 700 yo German monks are saying otherwise then who am I to question it.

  6. William Arthur Wheatley says

    Let’s add Shiner Bock to the list. The little brewery in the little town of Shiner, in Texas, an area settled by Bohemians, brews the only true bock beer brewed in the USA. It’s not a Belgian beer, but it is quite good.

  7. Jeri-Lynn Woods says

    I think this post is a hoot, myself – but I must admit I decided not to share it with my brother-in-law, who is a Protestant and might get the wrong idea about Catholics! (By the way, Sam, I’m from Milwaukee myself – Wauwatosa, to be accurate – and I remember the smell of the breweries in the air, a thick, yeasty smell. Not completely pleasant, but a great improvement over the smell of the nearby pulp mill where I live now in Castlegar, BC Canada!)

  8. Kieran Maxwell says

    Hi Guys.,

    As an Irishman writing on the eve of St Patrick’s day, I must say I thought this blog was great craic, which is an Irish word meaning a good laugh! I’ll be tweeting a link to the blog for sure!

    Might actually hunt out a bottle or two of this bock beer for the big celebration tomorrow!

    Happy St Patrick’s day everyone!

    God Bless
    Kieran

  9. Tim Scheidler says

    I’ll just stick with my Hoffbrau Haus Doppelbock. Brewed on site in the very first Hoffbrau Haus outside of Munich (in Newport, Ky). Love it!!

  10. Paul Norton says

    I brew my own doppelbock. I don’t drink it for sustenance during Lent but it’s a fine way to celebrate Easter. 🙂

  11. J Lee says

    Sam, some friends of mine own a small brewery (Kozy Yak) a couple hrs north in Rosholt, WI. They’re having their annual Bock Party tomorrow 3/21. Road Trip??

  12. Somebody's Momma says

    Hey, David D. Jones, check your small minded self. I a woman who was thrilled to see Weihenstephaner Korbinian’s label when I took this article to the store to stock up for Lent because it has the bear from Pope Benedict’s coat of arms.

  13. Anthony says

    There is an old story that a German abbot concerned whether beer was a proper drink for Lent, sent a barrel of it to Rome for testing. The wine drinking cardinals took one sip and congratulated the abbot on his monks extra Lenten penance,

  14. Fr Joseph McShane says

    There is a tradition that the Francicans from Eastern Europe had the same practise. Excellent article Mr. Guzman! Love it!

  15. Mikko says

    Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel is the best bock I have ever drunk. Sadly, I can’t find it anymore. Not even big german beer online shops have it.

  16. Ryan says

    I went to Total Wine today to try to find some of the beers on this list. Unfortunately, I could only find #1 on the list, Weltenberger Kloster Asam Bock. A few sips in, and I can vouch for this one as a great tasting dopplebock…great article and thanks for the suggestions!

  17. Gil Michelini says

    I read this article a few years ago and though someday, maybe I will do that. Well, this is the Lent for it. I am on day 6 of my Salvator Doppel Bock fast. First few days were rough but staying focused on the Lord is helping. I’m looking forward to the best Lent ever!

  18. Mark says

    Being in America I am wondering how I can find out the nutritional content of these beers. Fasting from all food for forty days will kill most of us, however, some saints have been sustained by ONLY THE HOLY EUCHARIST. Since I have not attained that high degree of holiness I suspect that the monks would drink enough to sustain themselves as they still had to perform daily duties and tend to the monestery. The alcohol content would effect them based on their non lenten consumption and other factors. I would suspect that the monks would be versed in sacred scripture and understand the sin of drunkeness and therefore would not overindulge in the drinking the beer. So back to the first question, “How can I find the nutritional content of these beers?”

  19. Mark C says

    Spaten Optimator has always been my favorite, but I look forward to hunting down some of these mentioned in the article

  20. Thomas Lark says

    Actually, “bock,” auf deutsch, means “ram,” and it’s a cognate of our English word, “buck.” The original intent was that these beers were “ram tough,” to cite the car company advert. But otherwise a good article. And yes, Weihenstephan makes wonderful beer

  21. Milton says

    I might suggest that to properly follow a wholesome Lenten Bock fast, the penitent brew their own beer. That allows them to specifically dedicate it towards a holy cause rather than turn a commercial item into a penance. Bock fasts can be a very good sacrifice for Jesus, but must be free from any other motive or agenda. E.g., an alcoholic should not partake in a Bock fast.

  22. Ciara says

    Wow, incredible weblog layout! How lengthy have you ever been blogging for?
    you make running a blog look easy. The whole look of your site is magnificent,
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