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Spring is bock at Ottawa breweries

The bock style of beer, a heavier German styled lager, is the perfect liquid analogy for spring.

Big Rig Brewery has been keeping Ottawa stocked with bock through the seasons.

Courtesy Big Rig Brewery

Big Rig Brewery has been keeping Ottawa stocked with bock through the seasons.

Spring is a transitional season. The optimism fueled by warming sunlight is tempered by constantly wet shoes. This is especially true in Ottawa, where the pent-up desire for warmer weather is unleashed on local patios as soon as the weather becomes less than dangerously cold. The bock style of beer, a heavier German styled lager, is the perfect liquid analogy for this transition: It’s weighty enough to shake the winter chill while the uplifting sweet notes promise warmer times ahead.

The story of the bock is a particularly enlightening tale. As legend (or the Internet) would have it, this particular style of beer was originally brewed in the German town of Einbeck. From a mispronounced and shortened Einbeck, beck became bock and a new word was born. In the bustling 1600s, monks would brew this beer specially for the pre-Easter period of Lent, a time of penance and reflection. Because they were expected to fast over this religious period, the monks brewed a beer with a heavier malt-bill that was more filling and calorie-rich to help them through the lean times ahead. Their daily bread became their liquid bread.

Over the years, these trailblazing monks began to develop a moral hangover. They worried that their delicious malt-forward bock brew was, perhaps, too good for these 40 days of atonement. So, they penned a letter explaining their predicament, barreled up a batch of beer and had it all sent to the Pope in Rome for his judgement. As luck, or divine intervention, would have it, the beer’s quality suffered greatly during the lengthy journey through various climates, temperatures and elevations. The sample that arrived at the Pope’s table was a soured rotten beer that was, rightly, found to be disgusting. Believing that drinking this horrible concoction would be an excellent form of penance, the Pope sent word back to the German monks to inform them that their beer held an appropriate level of suffering for this time of year. With that, history had its first ever beer review (*facts unconfirmed).

Thankfully, you don’t have to be of the holy order to drink a good beer. Big Rig Brewery has been keeping Ottawa stocked with bock through the seasons. Currently, they have one style winding down and another on deck. Clearly, brewmaster Lon Ladell is a fan: "It's a classic style I've always enjoyed. We released Bock Me Gently in the winter to create a warming lager that you often can't find in Ontario. With Hoppin' Maibock we decided to put a modern twist on this spring beer – we dry-hopped it with a New Zealand variety to craft something that's fresh and unique. It's the perfect transitional beer – balancing a light touch of alcohol heat for cooler spring nights, but still refreshing and thirst-quenching for afternoons on the patio." Perfectly said.

Local Bock-enings

Cassel Brewery is releasing Switchman doppelbock on March 25, in collaboration with Adam Olsen of Torque Brewery in Manitoba. Olsen won the doppelbock category at the National Capital Homebrew challenge, thereby winning the opportunity to brew with Cassel Brewery. Switchman promises a rich full body, dark fruits and a beefy 7.8 per cent.

Tooth and Nail brewed a bock with a name that will be fun to order: Horn Banger. Named for the battling billy goats that symbolize this style, this deep brown lager would do the monks proud with its nod to German heritage.

Kichesippi’s maibock, Car 696, will be hitting the town April 1. The name references the last street car that was used in Ottawa, which is currently being restored for 'Ottawa 2017' festivities.

Ashton Brewing Company will be releasing their Springbock: Look for it at the Old Mill at Ashton as well as Paddy’s and Quinn’s.

But there’s more to spring than bocks!

Inspired by the blossoming flowers (now I’m starting to take creative license here…), Broken Stick Brewing is working on a new Honey Brown and a Honey Saison for the spring. Stay tuned.

Cartwright Springs Brewery is taking advantage of nature's sweet nectar to make their Maple Porter. No water is used to brew this beer, only maple sap.

Finally, it’s St. Paddy’s Day weekend. Consider replacing the Guinness with a local stout!

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