Brewing Doppelbock: Tips from the Pros

Doppel is German for double and, although these beers aren’t double the strength of a normal bock, their specific gravity is usually above 1.070. Homebrewers who want to take a shot at this classic style need to start brewing now — lagering should take at least three months. This month’s professional tips are perfect for getting next year’s doppelbock off to a great start!

Brewer: Dan Carey, New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, WI

The flavor of an excellent doppelbock can be described as clean maltiness. The beer should be quite rich, almost bready. The malt should be dominant. The alcohol character should not be off-putting; neither should there be any astringency in the beer. In a doppelbock, there is a fine line between getting full flavor, maltiness and drinkability, or missing it altogether.

Good malt is the key to strong beer, so be conscientious of what you purchase. Use a low-protein malt, less than 11.5% protein. European or European-style malts are the best. Munich malt can make up 65% of the base malt. The other 35% should be Pilsner malt (see recipe). Be careful with using too much dark caramel malts, as they have a tendency to be astringent. Lots of people are going to disagree with me on this but, especially with a decoction beer, caramel malt doesn’t help the doppelbock.

We do a decoction mash and, because of that, we have a relatively thin mash of 3.5 parts water to 1 part grain. Proper decoction mashing for a doppelbock means something like 15 minutes at 120 °F (49 °C), 20 minutes at 144 °F (62 °C), 20 minutes at 158 °F (70 °C), and then mash-out at 170 °F (77 °C).

When you start sparging, you will get hydrometer readings around 1.070. We stop sparging in the neighborhood of 1.024 (which means the last runnings are heavier than with a normal brew). This gives us a full kettle with a gravity of about 1.060. But, to get to the gravity we need to start fermentation, we need to extend the boil. For a doppelbock we boil 3.5 hours. This yields a gravity of 1.076.

Doppelbock brewers need discipline throughout the fermentation process. First, you’ll want a very healthy yeast. Choose a well-attenuating lager yeast that produces low diacetyl. Pitch the yeast at 46–48 °F (8–9 °C) and then allow the beer to free-rise to 52 °F (11 °C) until fermentation is complete. Hold this temperature for a couple of days. Following this schedule will help minimize the production of things like diacetyl, which produces off-flavors. Lager at least three months.

Because the yeast will be required to perform extremely well to ferment all the sugars, make sure you aerate the chilled wort very well. Oxygen is key to helping them do their job.

Here’s a recipe that yields five gallons/19 L of cold wort after trub separation.

Dan’s Doppelbock

(5 gallon/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.076 FG = 1.020
IBU = 22  SRM = 15  ABV = 7.5%

9 lbs. (4.1 kg) Munich malt (10° L)
4.75 lbs. (2.2 kg) Pilsner malt
2 oz. (57 g) dehusked chocolate malt (400 °L)
Saaz, Spalt, Styrian Golding, Hallertau Mittelfrüh or Tettnanger hops
German lager yeast

Step by Step
Mash in at 120 °F (49 °C) for 10 minutes. Heat to 144 °F (62 °C) and hold for 10 minutes. Remove 1.2 gallons (4.5 L) of (thick) mash. Heat this to 158 °F (70 °C). Hold 15 minutes, then heat to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes while stirring. Recombine boiled portion with main mash and stabilize heat at 158 °F (70 °C). Hold for 20 minutes. Remove approximately 1.2 gallons (4.5 L) of (thin) mash. Boil 15 minutes while stirring. Return to main mash.

Stabilize main mash at 170 °F (77 °C) and transfer to lauter tun. Recover 7.5 gallons (28.4 L) and boil down to 5.7 gallons (21.6 L). Add noble hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil to achieve 22 IBUs. Cool wort to 46 °F (8 °C), then rack clear wort off cold break.

Pitch double the recommended pitch rate. Start the culture the day before in approximately one liter of sterile, aerated wort at 46–48 °F (8–9 °C) until fermentation is noted. Pitch this cooled, aerated wort. Let fermentation free rise to 52 °F (11 °C) until complete. Hold at 52 °F (11 °C) for two days. Cool to 42 °F (6 °C). Rack off settled yeast. Hold at 42 °F (6 °C) for two to three weeks. Cool to 32 °F (0 °C) for a minimum of eight weeks. Bottle as normal.

Brewer: Alec Mull, Kalamazoo Brewing Company in Kalamazoo, MI

Doppelbock is one of my favorite styles, but it is a tough beer to make. You have to pay total attention to many things in order to get it right.

First and foremost, you need to pitch healthy yeast to make a good doppelbock. As a general rule you want to pick a yeast strain that has maltier characteristics, rather than one that is crisp or dry. Bavarian, Bohemian or Munich strains usually work well. I like Wyeast 2124, 2206 and 2308, or White Labs 820, 830, 838 or 920. But almost any healthy lager strain can make a great doppelbock.

It is very important to get the terminal gravity right — I shoot for about 1.020. If your beer ends up above this, it means you’ll have too much residual sweetness. Adding 10 percent caramel malt will help your beer come in with a good terminal gravity.

On the other hand, if your recipe has too much fermentable malt — like Munich and Pilsen exclusively — you’ll have too much attenuation, and your beer will ferment down below 1.020. Now you’re stuck with a beer that’s heavily alcoholic.

Many brewers use too many malts in this style, and their beers are too complex. I recommend using only Munich (50 to 75%), CaraMunich 60°L (10%) and Pils (15 to 40%). Malt is so well-modified these days that you can do a single-infusion mash. A mash temperature of 155° F is perfect. Yes, I said it: A single-infusion mash can and will produce a fine, malty doppelbock.

Malt is the showcase, so hops are a lesser concern. Low- to mid-20s on the IBUs will balance the sweetness. Perle and Northern Brewer are good choices. Avoid hops that leave a footprint, like Chinook or Centennial or Cascade.

Here is a recipe for five gallons of traditional German doppelbock.

Alec’s Doppelbock
(five gallons, all-grain)
OG: 1.088  FG: 1.020 IBU: 22

11 lbs. two-row Munich malt (10° L)
3 lbs. Pilsen malt
2 lbs. CaraMunich malt (60° L)
0.5 oz. Perle hops (7% alpha acids) (add 60 minutes into boil)
0.5 oz. Hallertau hops (4% alpha acids) (add 90 minutes into boil)
German lager yeast

Strike to mash at 155° F. Rest the mash for 60 minutes. Collect runoff slowly until you hit 1.075 gravity. Boil for two hours. Aerate with twice the normal amount of oxygen. Pitch twice the normal amount of healthy yeast. Start fermentation at  50° F and let rise to 55° F  near the end of fermentation. Lager near 30° F.

Issue: November 2002