Bock Story

Prohibition killed the bock. Bocks are rich, grainy, and worst of all, German. When breweries got running again 78 years ago today, they were making beer for drinkers used to Bevo, Vivo, and watery gin. The target market would not have appreciated a beer named after a goat.

A very few breweries resurrected it successfully. Shiner’s bock — brought to Texas by way of Cairo by a German brewer named Kosmos — is so popular today that Anheuser-Busch and Michelob are chasing its fame with their own versions. (Big fans of Rahr’s Bucking Bock, we were tricked into getting A-B’s ZiegenBock by a bartender bragging that it was “only available in Texas.” He didn’t tell us tourists that it’s brewed by Pabst.)

But for the most part, if a brewery made a bock — and most didn’t — they just poured a little caramel coloring in their regular amber ale. When craft breweries started bringing back forgotten styles like brown ales and wheat beers, they passed by the bock. Anchor’s Fritz Maytag vowed never to make one. “He said bocks were what breweries made when they cleaned off their floors once a year,” our friend and Anchor brewer Mark Carpenter said.

A hop grower friend of Fritz’s threw a bock party every spring in honor of his vines’ first sprouts. The beer he served was all imported — there were no American bocks worth drinking. When he died, Fritz brewed his first bock in his honor, and today it’s one of the best around.

Side note: That grower was John Segal. We met his son, John Segal, Jr., who took over the ranch, at Lagunitas a few weeks ago. He was wearing the family belt buckle: custom-made sterling silver emblazoned with two hop cones.