It’s the Time of the Season

A story out of Salt Lake laid out a novel idea of bock beer’s origin, or at least purpose. The explanation is that with the exhaustion of winter’s beer (schenck beer, in effect), the lager proper of the later spring and summer provided a different taste, which drinkers found objectionable. To smooth over the transition, the brewers introduced bock beer for a few weeks.

Ostensibly this seems an odd explanation. To mediate two different tastes, you introduce a third taste?

But consider this. Both the bock and succeeding spring/summer lager were aged many months. Winter lager was only aged briefly before release, a week or two. As I’ve discussed often here, new lager can have objectionable tastes connected to primary fermentation, the green flavour. Long aging tended to eliminate the dimethyl sulphide and other rough edges of new lager.

As the story implied, despite that the aged beer was superior, drinkers became used to what they had, so grumbled when the short-aged winter brew was replaced by smoother, stored lager.

And so, maybe the bock eased them into the aged flavour, the sweetness and higher alcohol beguiling them as it were.

All these beer types, by the date the story was written (1908), could be brewed throughout the year due to the ubiquity of industrial refrigeration. But the bock tradition was established by then. So even if the bock origin-story was out of date when written, it may have reflected a much older idea.

Or it could be more mythologizing, which is plentiful in the beer arena, bock’s no less than others.  Still, something in it may reflect an essential truth.

The Germans used (use) the French-sounding saison to describe the beer seasons, hence Bock-Bier Saison, much as the English had their “season-brewed” ale, the Wallonians their saison, the Flemings their sezoen. These shared being made in one season to be stored and drunk in another, and also top-fermentation, even for bock, initially. I think Europe even in the distant past had a common vocabulary in certain arts, hence also stock beer/keeping beer, bière de garde, provisie bier. Perhaps this is why the bock beer season wasn’t called Bock-Bier Jahreszeiten in the German lands.

Anyway, it’s the time … of the season … when the foam runs high… for cheering.

Note re image: the image above was extracted from the original source, here, available via the digitized newspaper resource Chronicling America. The image is included for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property in the source belongs solely to its lawful owner or authorized users. All feedback welcomed.