Subscriber Exclusive

Style School: The Hallowed Comforts of Doppelbock

Monkish hospitality and devotion gave way to modern commercialism over a few centuries, but this Bavarian product that evolved along the way still has the power to nourish and amaze.

Jeff Alworth Apr 21, 2021 - 9 min read

Style School: The Hallowed Comforts of Doppelbock Primary Image

Photos: Matt Graves/

In a time before strong beers were common, people must have regarded doppelbocks with awe. They were unusual, and not just for their strength—dark and forbidding, with intense layers of malt, a perfume of leather and chocolate, and the warming tickle they delivered with each swallow. Standard bocks were potent potions, and doppelbocks—double bocks—were mightier still. They were extreme beers before extreme beers were cool.

The story of any beer this strong promises to be a good one, and doppelbocks deliver. Yet there are twists and turns that make it an especially satisfying yarn. Unexpectedly, they aren’t related at all to regular bocks, which were originally a specialty of the Hanseatic city of Einbeck before migrating and being reinvented as Bavarian lagers in the early 17th century. Dopplebocks have a more divinely inspired provenance, and they existed for centuries bearing a different name. Their story solves a curious riddle, and along the way it touches on brewing technique, religious devotion, and the grubby hand of commerce.

Sankt Vaterbier

Doppelbocks trace their roots to Munich, or thereabouts. Their story begins with a flock of monks who moved from Italy to a cloister in the village of Au, which was then outside Munich. In 1651, they built a brewery—a common practice at monasteries across Europe. They presumably brewed ordinary beers as part of their regular activities, but it was a special beer for which they are now remembered. Once a year, they brewed a strange, heavy concoction for a Lenten celebration—the Feast of St. Francis of Paola, honoring the founder of their order (the Minims).

Make & Drink Better Beer

Subscribe today to access all of the premium brewing content available (including this article). With thousands of reviews, our subscribers call it "the perfect beer magazine" and "worth every penny." Your subscription is protected by a 100% money back guarantee.