We break our low ABV standards only a few times a year, and this time it’s for our inaugural Starkbierfest. This seasonal fest takes place every March in Munich where strong beer (starkbier) is celebrated in the form of Doppelbock, a potent malty lager originally developed by German monks who gave up solid food for lent (something about liquid bread I think). Since New England winters are long, and the start of spring doesn’t seem to bring much relief, we felt a traditional starkbierfest was in order - Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, Steckerlfisch from Bambolina, traditional music from the TubaFrau Hofbräu Band and of course, a proper Doppelbock.
Fresh, traditional doppelbock is a one of the great beer drinking pleasures, but we rarely find fresh examples in the US. Fresh is easily solved, but what about traditional? That’s a little bit harder. Coincidently (or ironically?) our brewery was designed for classic low ABV lager, but also perfect for brewing traditional Doppelbock. It would be a shame to let the opportunity to brew one pass us by, so we WENT AT IT. (Capitals for emphasis.)
This was the first beer Brienne Allan and I formulated together, and before we started we tried every available German & US Doppelbock available. The quick take away - German examples were often old and oxidized and the US examples often used crystal or caramalt and resulted in sticky sweet beers. None were in season, so it was a fools task.
So, with that disappointing research, we formulated a beer based on what we envisioned a Notch doppelbock to be - not cloyingly sweet but with a big and deep malt character. All German grain, hops and yeast for ingredients; multiple decoctions, open fermentation, natural carbonation and three months of fermentation / lagering for process; and gravity casks for service.
For the grain, we landed on a combo of Weyermann Barke Munich and Vienna malt only (no pils, no crystal, no caramalt). Barke is a German heirloom / heritage barley recently resurrected and we have really liked the results (also appearing in the Enlightenment German Pils collab). We discussed the mash schedule, and Brienne pushed for a triple decoction, something I’ve only done twice (Lojko Polish Lager and Tenner Czech Lager). The difference between a double and triple decoction is an additional 90 minutes, making the brew day 13 hours in length, but f’ it, she was right. Let the small session beer brewery make one of the few triple decocted doppelbocks in the country.
Note: We brewed this on the day of the first bombogenesis, January 4th. We didn’t lose power, and the surge didn't compromise our seawall. The German monks had our backs apparently. Footage from the first high tide that day.
We put the wort into our open fermenter for the first few days, eventually moving it to a unitank to spund (cap the tank for natural carbonation). It was then moved to our lagering tank in early February, and there it has sat, lagering away. Three months later we have a dark ruby doppelbock that is full bodied and while sweet, it is not cloying. Aromas of prune and light raisin with little to no hop aroma (German Spalt is the hop for those taking notes).
This will be served gravity cask for the fest, and we have ½ liter steinkrugs (ceramic mugs) for the first 260 in the door. And although the Munich brewers only serve Doppelbock in liters during Starkbierfest, we will be limiting Loggerhead Doppelbock to ½ liter pours, except for our steinkrug club. This beer hit 20 Plato, 7.5% ABV, so it is definitely one for long contemplation.
So what’s up with the name, Loggerhead? A bock tradition in German, and at Schell Brewery in New Ulm Minnesota where we clearly stole the idea from, where a hot metal pole (known as a loggerhead) is placed into your bock beer and the malt sugars are caramelized for a much different tastel. We are giving it a shot, and hoping no one gets hurt.
See everyone Sunday!
- Author: Chris
One of three decoctions from brewday: