How to Brew Dunkles Bock

by Steve Thanos | Updated: May 7, 2020

Dunkles Bock or Traditional Bock, as it is known, has a story that takes us back to Einbeck, Germany around the 14th century.

The town of Einbeck had a couple of huge advantages going for them. It was part of a federated trading group, The Hanseatic League.

This allowed them to export for goods they produced, which included beer. Secondly, it was situated in a very fertile land that was produced hops.

This happened to coincide with a time when brewers were making hops a prominent ingredient in their beers. Both of these factors gave the town of Einbeck the authority when it came to brewing beer.

Dark vs. Light

Traditionally bocks were brewed with pale malts and wheat. This made it stand out against the dark beers that were prevalent at the time.

This beer was usually only brewed in winter and then stored cold until the spring. The cold storage increased clarity and decreased bateria.

As quick as the Dunkles Bock was the toast of the town, it fell just as quick. The downfall was three fold; The Thirty Years War, a competing economic leagues that emerged, a fire that destroyed the town of Einbeck.

The good people of Bavaria became very accustomed to this wonderful beer to allow it just to disappear.

Help is On the Way

In 1612, master brewers from Einbeck went to Munich to teach the beery ways of the bock beer. Many of the Munich brewers were used to their brown ales.

The new lagering procedures intrigued the Bavarian brewers.

The beer was quite dark and strong. Now it was bottom fermented and lagered for several months. This helped to create a smooth, clear beer with truly complex malt flavors.

What’s in a Name

It is speculated that the origin of the name derived from two different ideas. In German, the word “Bock” is the word for a male goat. It is believed that the strength of the beer “has a kick like a goat.”

Also, the zodiac sign of Capricorn is overhead each season when the Germans would brew this beer.

Style Characteristics of Dunkles Bock

Appearance

The lagering process gives this beer a beautiful clarity even though it is a dark beer. It is “a real looker” when poured into the glass.

Color ranges from copper to dark brown, with some mahogany highlights throughout the beer. A pretty persistent, large off-white colored head is cream like and quite the contrast to the dark colored beer.

Aroma

Malt is showcased with this beer style. The strong malt nose can be heavy with melanoidins, a compound found when amino acids and sugars are combined at higher temperatures.

There is also a nice toastiness that exists in this beer. There should be very little to no hop aroma. Alcohol may be noticeable with very low fruity esters.

Flavor

The malt complexity really carries this beer. The malt contributes to toasty flavors, but never burnt or roasted characters. Caramel at a very low level may be detected.

Hop bitterness supports the malt backbone without being too noticeable and allows for a drinkable sweetness to be present without it being cloying.

No esters, diacetyl, or hop flavor should be detected.

Mouthfeel

The mouthfeel is smooth. No harshness or astringency is noticeable.

Low to moderate carbonation should contribute to a medium to medium-full body. Some alcohol warmth is present and acceptable.

Food Pairing

With the maltiness of this beer, pairing this beer is fairly easy. Think Tex-Mex, grilled chicken, roasted duck or even pork chops.

An aged Swiss cheese pairs well with a Dunkels Bock as does dark chocolate.

Brewing your own Dunkles Bock

Malt

Like most German beers, Munich and Vienna malts are your choices when considering a base malt. Dark roasted malts and crystal malts should be avoided at all costs.

The dark roasted malts will impart a roast-like characteristic and the crystal malt will give you the wrong kind of malt flavor in your beer.

If you are going to skip the traditional triple decoction process, then you will need to impart some color through specialty malts. Carafa Special II could be considered here.

It is a de-husked version of Carafa and produces rich color, body, and aroma without the harsh flavors and astringency typical of dark-colored grains.

Hops

There is very little hop presence in a Dunkles Bock. Most of your hops will be added at the beginning of the boil. Not surprisingly, German noble varieties are your best choice.

German Northern Brewer, Perle, Spalt, Saaz, and Hallertauer are all good selections.

Avoid anything with a high alpha variety, as they will upset the malt balance.

Yeast

When looking for a yeast for your Dunkles Bock, look for these characteristics: ability to reproduce with a high gravity, be flocculent, and produce very little diacetyl.

A Munch or Bavarian yeast strain should be strongly considered. White Labs WLP833 German Bock Yeast or Wyest 2487 Hella Bock Yeast are both good options.

Mash

As mentioned earlier, a triple decoction was traditionally used when making a Dunkles Bock. A decoction mash involves taking a portion of the mash and heating it up to boiling and then adding it back.

Decoctions can maximize malt flavor, help break down grain cell walls, and it makes filtering easy. 

The conversion temperature will be between 149°-155°F(65°-68°C). The sparge temperature will range from 168°(75°C) and 172°F(75°-77°C) with a grain-bed runoff temperature of 168°F(75°C).

Avoid going above 170°F(76°C) as it will be likely to leach tannins out of the grain husks.

Fermentation

Fermentation should be completed at around 50°F(10°C), with a way of controlling your temperatures.

After fermentation is complete, the beer should be lagered at close to freezing temps for 4-10 weeks. This will give the yeast ample time to settle out.

Martin Keen’s Dunkles Bock Recipe

Grain

  • 71%    10 lbs Munich Type I
  • 21%     3 lbs Pilsner; Floor Malted Bohemian
  • 6%    12.0 oz Caramunich  III
  • 2%    2.0 oz Carafa Special II

Hops

  • 1.00 oz Perle Pellets

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg German Lager (White Labs #WLP830)
Dunkles Bock Recipe Homebrew Challenge

Dunkles Bock also known as traditional. Dunkles Bock was first brewed in the 14th century in the German town of Einbeck. 300 years later it was adopted by Munich brewers. And today I’m going to brew one up. What? It’s Halloween .

Hi, I’m Martin Keen. I’m taking The Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 different beer styles and today it’s Dunkles Bock.

Dark, strong and malty is what we’re going for. You can think of this beer either as a strong marzin or a light Doppelbock. So how do we get there?

Well, typically you’ll brew this beer with either Vienna or Munich malt. Primarily I’m going to use Munich. So I have here 10 pounds of light Munich malt, which is going to be my base malt. And then in addition to that, I have right here three pounds of floor malted Bohemian Pilsner. So I’ll make up my base malts.

Now to add that sort of maltiness that I really want to get from this, I am throwing in a little bit of um, a little bit of CaraMunich III. So I have here 12 ounces of CaraMunich III. and then to get to the color that I want, which is, this is a dark beer.

I’m just going to add a touch of Carafa Special II. So I’m just putting in two ounces of that. So the vital statistics, I am going for an original gravity of 10 67 yeah, quite a big beer.

That should get me a 7% ABV. And then for color, I’m looking at an SRM of about 18 so yeah, it’s dark, strong and malty.

So I’ve been making a few updates to my brewery down here in my basement. Let me show you what’s going on.

Dunkless Bock Homebrew Challenge 6

This is the unfinished basement in my house. Originally this was just a room chock full of like lawn mowers and garden tools and like boxes of junk. And over time I’ve sort of taken more and more ownership of it. So originally it started out just as my brewery, but now I’ve kind of taken over the whole space.

So in addition to being the place where I brew beer, this is also my home office where I work when I’m working from home. It’s also my gym. I’ve got a little bit of weight and aerobic equipment in here and it’s also my video studio. So this is where I shoot the beer tastings here.

And honestly this has now become the most used room in the house for me. I spent way more time here than anywhere else and that includes sleeping in my bed.

So specifically what’s new?

Well, I added these new metal shelves here. Originally I had everything on one plastic shelf and I just needed more room to spread outs and I’ve got everything very accessible and these can hold a bit more weight than those plastic ones I was using.

I’ve now got an extra chest freezer down here as well, which brings my total to three chest freezes that I’m using for fermentation. Each one of these is temperature controlled and having three is great. I can fit two of the SS brewtech brew buckets in each one of these.

But of course I can only set one temperature and as I’m brewing, pretty much every week are the beers that need to be at different temperatures. So having three different fermentation chambers has been great. Now I’m pretty stoked with this video setup as well. I’ve got lights all around me.

I’ve got this microphone here, which I can pull up and down so that it’s in the right spot when I need it. I can push it up when I don’t. And then I’ve got this TV in front of me where I can actually see myself. Um, hang on. So as I sit here looking at my camera, you can see on my phone here, this is what I see in front of me. I get to see the screen and uh, check that the shots are all set up nicely.

So these are all like nice little touches, which just makes shooting a just a little bit easier. Yeah. So that’s really what’s new. What do you think I should add next? I’m thinking maybe a dedicated stand for this green meal.

As you might expect, there’s not a lot going on with hops for this beer. Just bittering hops. I’m using Perla hops. I have one ounce of Perla hops, which I’ll put in the boil at 60 minutes trying to get to an IBU of about 22.

Uh, the gravity for this one ended up just a couple of points over. I got to 10 70. So the yeast is my old friend W L P 8 30. This is German Lager Yeast.

Tasting time, right? You’ve come back for another one. I have. So last time you had a light color base, I thought it’d be interesting to have a bit of a darker one. Um, the, the notes on this guy, this came in at 10 17, so this is the 7% beer.

So this is a bit stronger than the beer you have before. It’d be interesting. It will be, yeah. So, so first of all, let’s take a look at the color. Now. The star guidelines say that you can go anywhere here from sort of a, a light copper through to a really quite dark Brown, really dark Brown.

Yeah. It’s definitely on the Brown side rather than the copper side. Looks a bit colored. Yeah. Even the head. Yeah. Yeah. No, we shouldn’t get any sort of hop aroma.

And I’m not, not getting any hops, but, um, maybe sort of a, a bready malty sort of toasty smell is what you’d expect with this sort of style.

I’m interested in to try. Can we try it? All right, let’s try it. Let’s be stronger than what I’m used to. Yes. But it’s, it’s nice. It is a bit of a meal and a glass. It’s quite a, quite a heavy drink, isn’t it? Compared to a light, a light lager. Um, but I think for, it’s, it’s, uh, December here now and, uh, I think that for this sort of cold weather, this is, uh, a really nice option.

That’s my first strong beer. Yeah. Is a strong one at 7% less, a lot stronger than before, but it’s really a sipping beer.

Oh, is it? Yeah. You see it when it’s, when you go to a pub and you sit there for hours drinking. If you knock these back, then you would be like having to be carted out of the pub. Oh yeah, I’ve got to work on my technique.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.