Spring will be Here Soon - Time to Brew a Helles Bock/Maibock!

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Pappers_

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It may be hard to see it right now, here in Chicago, there has been snow in the air every day it seems for the last two weeks and for the last week temps haven't gotten out of the teens, but Spring will be here soon!

Time to brew a Maibock/Helles Bock! I found this recipe in the HBT recipe database. Haven't decided whether to do a decoction or not. If I did, I'd probably go with a 148F step, then 156F, then mash out at whatever it ends up at after the final decoction. But a single infusion at 156F is awfully tempting . . . . .

Any inspired by this? Any other spring beers? Any advice for a first time brewer of a Helles Bock?

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Pappers_

Pappers_

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any time you're questioning whether or not to go with decoction, the answer is always yes.
That's the way I'm leaning, also. For me, its kind of high risk/reward - I've made some excellent lagers using decoction, but have also messed up a couple.
 

monkeymath

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I was going to leave a very unhelpful comment asserting that it should be "Heller Bock" (masculine), not "Helles Bock" (neuter). Then I did a quick google search and found several German references using the form "Helles Bock". What the ... ? It sounds so wrong!

So now I'm still leaving an unhelpful comment, although now it just openly demonstrates my limited knowledge of the German language. Oh well, I might as well confess to my distaste for the beer style, be it masculine or neuter.

I sort of like decoctions, but I think the overall effect is often overstated. A single infusion is not really appropriate for the style, although I wouldn't bet I'd be able to tell the difference. But 156F is very high: I think you should be aiming for a much more fermentable wort, otherwise it'll just be a sweet mess - which is kind of the idea of a Maibock, I know, but you could still try to make something palatable, right?
 
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I was going to leave a very unhelpful comment asserting that it should be "Heller Bock" (masculine), not "Helles Bock" (neuter). Then I did a quick google search and found several German references using the form "Helles Bock". What the ... ? It sounds so wrong!

So now I'm still leaving an unhelpful comment, although now it just openly demonstrates my limited knowledge of the German language. Oh well, I might as well confess to my distaste for the beer style, be it masculine or neuter.

I sort of like decoctions, but I think the overall effect is often overstated. A single infusion is not really appropriate for the style, although I wouldn't bet I'd be able to tell the difference. But 156F is very high: I think you should be aiming for a much more fermentable wort, otherwise it'll just be a sweet mess - which is kind of the idea of a Maibock, I know, but you could still try to make something palatable, right?
I agree about decoctions - I think when they are done well, they can add just a little maltiness to a beer, but its not like you could pick it out in a blind tasting. It can be an enhancement, but its never something that you must do. And if you mess it up, you can ruin a beer pretty easily.

The 156 F mash temp is from the gold medal winning recipe I linked to, above. The style is supposed to finish up between 1.012 and 1.018, so not a sweet, cloying mess, and if you use healthy yeast, lots of it, and have good fermentation practices, I don't think 1.056 will leave you with a mess. Also, remember that sweetness isn't just an absolute number, its also an impression, and the Helles Bock usually has a proportionately larger hop bitterness than a Dunkel Bock, which makes it seem less sweet.

A well made Helles Bock/Maibock is a bigger version of a Helles, more rich malt character but less so than a Dunkels Bock, and without the dark malt flavors. It is also more bitter, crisp and hoppier than a Dunkels Bock. Bigger than a Helles, more easy-drinking than a Dunkels Bock.
 

FromZwolle

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The helles, bock, and helles bocks that i have enjoyed have been a bit sweet on the front, with a clean crisp finish.

As far as the decoction goes, any beer with pils, vienna, or munich as a base will support the extra layer of flavor very well. My personal rule of thumb is the lighter the srm, the lighter/shorter the 'boil' of each decoction should be. Go ahead and darn near candy that doppelbock wort, but go easy on the helles.
 

FromZwolle

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oh, and by the way, i'm pretty sure the chicago spring is getting skipped this year. we'll have one next year.

we *might* catch a short summer in 9 months, but this winter isn't loosening it's grip any time soon.
 

monkeymath

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Helles Bock usually has a proportionately larger hop bitterness than a Dunkel Bock, which makes it seem less sweet.
I'm not sure, most example I've had were lacking in bitterness and drowning in sweetness. But surely some are more balanced. A homebrewed version with decent bitterness and some herbal-floral hop character might actually be nice.
However, to my palate, the character of lager yeast just isn't pleasant at higher gravity. I prefer Weissbierbock by far. But that's purely a matter of personal preference.

Honestly, I don't see a lot of Bockbier consumed here in Munich. During "Starkbierzeit" (literally 'the time of strong beer', sometimes also alluded to as 'the fifth season') you will find it on the menus in pubs and restaurants [oh the distant memories!], but I don't feel like it's overly popular. And I've never seen anyone with a crate of Bockbier at home. But that's just my impression, I don't have any actual numbers to back it up.
 

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Funny you should mention this @Pappers_ my Helles Bock keg just kicked last night. It was an accidental as I overshot my OG by almost 10 points and then the yeast decided to have a field day and brought the 1.060 wort down to 1.008.

It was my best beer to date...malty and sweet in the front with that lager yeast, clean crisp finish.

I also did a step mash, 145° 30 minutes 158° for 30 minutes and no mashout...one of the twins woke up early so it was drain and start the boil.
 

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Do it! I just kegged my Helles Bock. My recipe was very similar. I opted for 86% Pilsner, 8% Munich , 4% acid, and 1% melanoidin. My single infusion mash temp came in lower than I wanted at 149F, but the huge WLP833 pitch chewed it down from 1.073 to 1.014 for a 7.7% monster. (Still dialing in my system efficiencies) it’s still clarifying right now.

F11FE189-0F28-49EE-BC49-1FF456895C7F.jpeg
 

Yooper

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Now I am craving a maibock.
I haven’t done one recently, but my last one I did decoctions, and started with an ultra-quick protein rest at a higher temperature, 133F I believe. Then immediately pulled the decoction and when to 147F for 30 minutes and finished up at 156F if my memory serves. It was wonderful. I think my recipe was pretty straightforward and similar to the one linked to.
 

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I was going to leave a very unhelpful comment asserting that it should be "Heller Bock" (masculine), not "Helles Bock" (neuter). Then I did a quick google search and found several German references using the form "Helles Bock". What the ... ? It sounds so wrong!

So now I'm still leaving an unhelpful comment, although now it just openly demonstrates my limited knowledge of the German language. Oh well, I might as well confess to my distaste for the beer style, be it masculine or neuter.

I sort of like decoctions, but I think the overall effect is often overstated. A single infusion is not really appropriate for the style, although I wouldn't bet I'd be able to tell the difference. But 156F is very high: I think you should be aiming for a much more fermentable wort, otherwise it'll just be a sweet mess - which is kind of the idea of a Maibock, I know, but you could still try to make something palatable, right?
Agree...kinda'.

First off, my German is terrible also. That said, I love the style (Maibock, Helles, etc).

OTOH, to me detoction is a waste of time and effort, fraught with significant potential for failure. Two to 4 oz. of melanoidin in a 5 gallon batch achieves the same result in the finished beer. That's your Risk/Reward.

Brooo Brother
 

Sammy86

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That is a beautiful looking beer!
Thank you! Took four weeks with gelatin to clear up...i forgot the whirlflock in the boil so it took a little longer but it was damn good!

Sent it in to a comp hoping to get some feedback and hardware...very proud of it!
 

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Very good food (or should I say beer) for thought. I am 2 weeks past my planned next brew, which happens to be a Maibock. I plan to get to that in a day or two.. It is interesting to read and compare the comments and personal opinions on decoction mashing. Personally, I love to do decoction mashes, but usually only do them for Czech or Bavarian styles. A waste of time? For me, it adds interest to the process, increases brewhouse efficiency, improves head and head retention, enhances flavor, and color. But then I nearly always do step mashes, so it's little extra work for me. No difference in flavor or character? There is a divergence of opinion, on this. Some say you can only approximate the character a decoction mash adds, while others disagree. I think it often boils down to personal tastes, likes and dislikes. Brew on!
 

beersk

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Agree...kinda'.

First off, my German is terrible also. That said, I love the style (Maibock, Helles, etc).

OTOH, to me detoction is a waste of time and effort, fraught with significant potential for failure. Two to 4 oz. of melanoidin in a 5 gallon batch achieves the same result in the finished beer. That's your Risk/Reward.

Brooo Brother
Agreed. I haven't done a decoction since 2015 for the very specific reason that is really isn't worth the effort. Fun to do once or twice, but that's about it. But, this makes me want to go watch 2 episodes of Brewing TV: The Decoction Dunkel episode and the Maibock episode. Sigh, good times.
 

Brooothru

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Agreed. I haven't done a decoction since 2015 for the very specific reason that is really isn't worth the effort. Fun to do once or twice, but that's about it. But, this makes me want to go watch 2 episodes of Brewing TV: The Decoction Dunkel episode and the Maibock episode. Sigh, good times.
So far I've totally resisted the urge to attempt a detoction mash, which is unusual for me since I love a new challenge. It just looks like a potential goat roping contest, with marginal upside. When I'm looking to overdose on maltiness without drowning in cloying crystal sweetness, I just chuck in a few ounces of melanoidin. I suppose some day I'll have to brew parallel batches using both techniques to see if I can detect (or 'detoct') the difference.

Brooo Brother
 

cactusgarrett

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Any advice for a first time brewer of a Helles Bock?
You could not rely on the decoction to hit rest temps, if you wanted to include a decoction but have it low risk. When i do this, I'll single infuse (usually 150-154F), then do a decoction to hit mashout (despite batch sparging). That way if I'm off on temps (usually due to varying weather), it's not that big of a deal.

However, for all my German beers (especially lagers), I'll decoct while employing the Hochkurz mash schedule (144F, 160F).
 

beersk

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So far I've totally resisted the urge to attempt a detoction mash, which is unusual for me since I love a new challenge. It just looks like a potential goat roping contest, with marginal upside. When I'm looking to overdose on maltiness without drowning in cloying crystal sweetness, I just chuck in a few ounces of melanoidin. I suppose some day I'll have to brew parallel batches using both techniques to see if I can detect (or 'detoct') the difference.

Brooo Brother
By the way, it's "decoction" with a "c". Either way, the only real reason decoction was ever used was because of undermodified malt. Nowadays, malt is so modified that is never necessary. It'll give you a boost in efficiency but won't do much else. It might give you a small boost in malt character, but in my opinion, not enough to warrant the effort involved.
 

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Agree...kinda'.

First off, my German is terrible also. That said, I love the style (Maibock, Helles, etc).

OTOH, to me detoction is a waste of time and effort, fraught with significant potential for failure. Two to 4 oz. of melanoidin in a 5 gallon batch achieves the same result in the finished beer. That's your Risk/Reward.

Brooo Brother

I was in a homebrew club for a while.
They would all go on about a decoction and how important and necessary it was for certain styles. I got to thinking about how the breweries do it around me that made great beer, no decoction, not practical on a large scale, just a bit of melanoidin. So at a meeting one time, I sent a beer around the room, made a comment or two as to how much trouble a decoction was and then had a poll as to if a decoction had been done on said beer. The general consensus from most of the crowd, even the self proclaimed "experts" was, indeed a decoction had been done on the beer. I revealed that there had been no decoction, and had used melanoidin, the "experts" were mad that they had been wrong and been made a fool of, according to them.
Needless to say, I'm no longer a member of that club and have since moved out of the area, due to a change in employment.

The pros don't do it, why should anyone else?
 

Vale71

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The pros don't do it, why should anyone else?
They do. Maybe not in the US but in Europe they certainly do. Pilsner Urquell still uses the triple-decoction schedule they've been using since the 19th Century (that's not a typo!). I never got even close to cloning it until I tried a very intensive double decoction schedule.
 

Dr_Jeff

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They do. Maybe not in the US but in Europe they certainly do. Pilsner Urquell still uses the triple-decoction schedule they've been using since the 19th Century (that's not a typo!). I never got even close to cloning it until I tried a very intensive double decoction schedule.

I stand corrected.

Are there any in the United Stated that do?
 

Darwin18

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Any inspired by this? Any other spring beers? Any advice for a first time brewer of a Helles Bock?
Absolutely. I just picked up my ingredients for a Czech Lager and American Light Lager to brew next week. Hopefully should be ready to drink sometime in April/May and by then the weather should be perfect.
 

Dgallo

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I stand corrected.

Are there any in the United Stated that do?
I believe both van trapp in Stowe, VT and Ommengang in Cooperstown, NY do
 
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Dog House Brew

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I can’t believe I’ve never done a decoction. Talk myself out of it every time. I may do this now that I have a 5g setup again. Love this style for sure.
 

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I made a Golden Bock a couple years ago but wasn't too happy with it. I was also trying to make a Sierra Nevada Glissade Clone. That recipe looks promising and It's really making me want to try another hand at it.
 

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Thinking about tackling this style myself for the first time this year, once it's warm enough to brew. No stranger to bocks in general, or decoctions, so no issues there. Haven't finalized it yet, but in the works.
 

cactusgarrett

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Not to derail the topic, but for decades a local brewery around me has put out a yearly blonde doppelbock. It inspired me to give it a shot two springs ago and I absolutely want to do it again. For it's first iteration, it wasn't a clone, per se, but it was an amazing version:

 
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So we ended up doing a double decoction. Its been in primary for two weeks, checked on it today, had gone from 1.069 to 1.014, 7.3% abv. Not a hint of diacetyl. Color was perfect and it tasted good, also. Grainy pilsner, clean (no esters), enough bitterness to keep it from being sweet, no fusels, pretty easy drinking for such a big beer. Did a closed transfer to a keg and put it in 34F fridge. Will leave it there for a week, see how much it clears, if needed, I'll add some finings, set a few days and then carb.
 
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