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10 Beers for 10 Years: Bock to the Future with Denizens

Denizens Brewing Company will release the DCBeer.com collaboration, Bock to the Future, an American bock beer, on Wednesday, December 5, Repeal Day. American bock beer is largely extinct these days with the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX the best-known brewer of the style, which dates back to pre-prohibition.

Keeping with the theme of making more beer that we’d like to drink, we brewed some malty goodness with Denizens. The beer is rich with notes of chocolate, caramel, and Tootsie Roll, yet is easy-drinking at just 5.2% ABV. It’s the third in our 10 Beers for 10 Years series.

If you’ve ever had Shiner Bock, you know it’s not very strong. At 4.4% ABV, it’s easy to sink a sixer in one Washington Mystics game. Bock beers are typically higher in ABV (from 6% light or dark bocks to 10% doppelbocks) and fermented cool with a lager strain of yeast.

They typically are not hop- or yeast-forward, but focus on malt (pale versions are bready, darker versions have caramel, chocolate, or raisin, and wheat bocks, Weizen Bock, typically have a fuller mouthfeel and body). Bock beers of Germany are stronger than their American counterparts, as Paulaner Brewery’s Salvator Doppelbock is 7.9% ABV and Hofbrau Maibock is 7.2%. However, German bocks tend to taste nowhere near as strong as they are. 

What you might not know is that whereas Shiner Bock is brewed with corn, German Bocks are all-malt. No corn, rice, or sugar. But for many years, American Bock beers had corn, rice, and sugar in them. We know this thanks to recipes donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Their archives house the Walter Voigt Collection, where the recipe for “Bock” came from. It was likely brewed prior to 1939, as by then Voigt was Manager, Purchasing Agent, Master Brewer, and Chemist at New York’s Amsterdam Brewing Co., Inc.

The recipe for the Denizens 10 beers for 10 years collaboration came from Walter Voight, who was later Master Brewer ay Amsterdam Brewing Co. in New York.
Walter Voight was Master Brewer ay Amsterdam Brewing Co. in New York by 1939

A long time ago a Bohemian immigrant, Anton Schwarz, stressed the production of high-quality lager with ingredients like rice and corn. You can get mad about corn or rice, but to this day the biggest breweries in America use them, as do some of the smallest ones. We used rice in Bock to the Future to remain historically accurate, but also to dry the beer out, contributing a medium body despite a rich malt character.

The rice also seems to accentuate the hops, which are mellow, but still present. With Oregon Nugget hops for bittering and Oregon Willamette hops for aroma, the beer has a firm bitterness and a delicate Willmett bouquet. Why Oregon hops? Because the recipe called for it! Really, the recipe calls for “hops from Oregon,” with no hint as to what those hops might be. But we do know that both Nugget and Willamette were grown back then, and so here we are. 

DC Beer is grateful to Julie Verratti and Jeff Ramirez, who agreed to host us and brought this 1930s beer into the 21st Century. Thanks to Dave Vogelpohl for executing the brew and letting me throw hops in. Thanks to Lily Schulz for milling in our grain and setting us up for a successful brew day. Proximity Malt did a stellar job in manufacturing the malt, pale, crystal, and black used in the Bock (but not the rice!). Yeast was sourced from Jasper Yeast, their Andechs strain.

So come try a beer we selfishly brewed for ourselves because we wanted to see more of it in the world. Bock to the Future will be available at the Denizens Silver Spring Barrel House & Beer Garden and their Riverdale Park Production House & Taproom. 

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