Doppelbocks: Liquid Bread for Lenten Fasting

Given that it’s the Holy Week, when half the Philippines goes to Church and the other half goes on vacation, I decided to strike a balance of sorts and write about a beer style that is in keeping with the Lenten theme. Doppelbocks are calorie-heavy lagers which were traditionally brewed in Germany by monks who would consume during their periods of fasting. I’ve read that the alcohol content way back when was of course, much less (maybe around 3%) than the relatively boozy modern doppelbock, which hits at around 7-8% a.b.v. Beer has been described as liquid bread, and that label has applied to this style more than any other. It was a good source of carbohydrates and energy for the monks back then, but nowadays, I find drinking these more of a treat to savor than a sacrifice I have to make. I don’t usually drink lagers, as these bottom-fermenting beers tend to be less aromatic and flavorful than any ale. I make an exception for doppelbocks though (did you think I was going to say Dos Equis?).

I received the above Andechser doppelbock dunkel as a birthday gift. Being a dunkel, it was, by definition, relatively dark compared to the standard doppelbock. A thin, tan head crowned the beer when poured, leaving hardly any lacing, but with a visible effervescence despite its deep reddish-brown hue.

As with most lagers, the bouquet of this one was subdued and barely noticeable. Caramel notes strike the taste buds first, ending with some bread and chestnut. It is heavy, but not full-bodied, balanced by sufficient carbonation. The alcohol is also well-hidden despite dropping it at a respectable 7.1%.

The next doppelbock I’ll be featuring is the Paulaner Salvator. This is pretty much ubiquitous in the Philippines – a staple at beer-centric bars and even groceries. It’s also the only one of its style that is readily available. While I haven’t had the opportunity to sample any other takes on the doppelbock, I’d say the Salvator is probably one of the more definitive interpretations of hte style given the reputation of Paulaner as a quality Bavarian brewery. As with Paulaner’s other brews (such as their hefeweizen) the Salvator may not be the best, but it gives a good idea of what to expect with other beers of the same style. The name Salvator (Savior) is a reference to the religious history behind the beer. It is also in keeping with tradition, as doppelbocks produced by German breweries tend to name their beers with the suffix “-ator,” aside from the Christian references.

The Salvator has been another go-to beer for me, especially when I go to places with more limited beer selections. It’s filling and satisfying in terms of price, flavor and “buzz.” Like the Andechser, it pours reddish-brown (albeit much lighter) with a thin head and striking effervescence. Strong roasted, bready malts abound, with a bit of spice making its presence felt. The alcohol is a bit more noticeable as well, although the Salvator is not much stronger than the Andechser at 7.9% abv.

The Doppelbock is a unique style, being a lager with higher alcohol and fuller flavor, colored by a rich history, tradition and religiosity. That alone is reason enough to try this brew. And if that’s not enough, you can always give the excuse that you’re “fasting” for the Holy Week, like all those monks have been doing for centuries, surviving on nothing but water and their liquid bread for forty days and forty nights.

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