Doppelbock and Dunkel are both fantastic beers tailored to unique audiences. Interestingly, millions of barrels have been sold between these two beers. But which should you go with, and which is superior?
Doppelbock is a lager with a rich, sweet, and malty taste, and low to medium bitterness and hop presence. On the other hand, Dunkel is a dark lager that tastes like nuts, bread, and coffee and has low bitterness and soft hop presence.
The rest of this article will explain factors you can use to determine which is better, such as flavor, mouthfeel, alcohol volume, and smell. We’ll also dive into the history behind both beers to give you some more perspective.
Origin Of Both Beers
Doppelbock is more or less a Bock. “Doppel,” in many parts of Germany, means double. So, although it is technically a bock, a doppelbock is almost twice as strong and significant as the traditional bock.
Paulaner monks in Munich, Germany, were the first people to brew this beer. In the Lenten season, these monks popularly brewed this beer as an alternative for bread. This proved to be highly successful during this fasting period.
In fact, this beer became so popular that it’s still in existence to this day. Doppelbock was less sweet, less attenuated, and had a lower amount of alcohol than other types of beer. It was called “liquid bread” due to all these features.
Bock originated in Northern Germany in the city of Einbeck. As this beer began to circulate, it was popularly called “Einbock,” which loosely translates to “billy goat.” Since then, the name has stuck and has been in circulation to this day.
Over time, brewers figured out a way to improve the style of their beers while still using the same amount of ingredients. They practiced extended cooling methods to their fermentation process, which led to the creation of maltier and more robust variants of bock. Today, this is what is called doppelbock.
On the other hand, Dunkel originated from an ancient region of Germany; Rhineland. It’s one of the oldest types of beers around. Dunkel is derived from the word Dunk, which is a word also originating from Germany. The term Dunk refers to a small hill in a swampy area.
Dunkel is a beer used for several types of dark german lagers. Interestingly, it was the original style of Bavarian villages. The most common type of Dunkel is Munich Dunkel, which was introduced in the 16th century. During this time, Munich Dunkel became the first codified and regulated beer.
Not surprisingly, Dunkels became the beer being produced the most worldwide. Millions loved it, and it lasted about 300 years before lighter variants of lagers were produced.
Looking at this history, you’ll realize that Doppelbock and Dunkel both have rich, century-long histories. This fact makes it easier to understand why they are some of the most commonly produced beers today.
The flavor is a highly essential part of any beer’s quality. No matter how attractive a particular beer looks, no one will buy it if it has terrible taste. Doppelbocks have a rich, sweet, and malty flavor that many beers fail to match up to. Its malt taste is due to the heavy presence of pale malts and other malt ingredients.
Doppelbock ingredients include chocolate malt, barley malt, hops, yeast, and little amounts of milk. All these combine to give it a rich taste that is famously known among millions worldwide. But, perhaps the most essential ingredient for doppelbocks is the malts.
The darker versions of doppelbock have a malty taste that’s much more noticeable than lighter variants. However, the lighter versions are a little crisper than darker doppelbocks.
Because of the inclusion of chocolate, doppelbocks have a chocolate undertone and, occasionally, a dark fruit character. When you taste the doppelbock, you will notice that it has a certain level of sweetness, coupled with a little amount of hop presence. Not surprisingly, this flavor profile makes it a fan favorite in Germany and beyond.
Similarly, Dunkels contain lots of malts, which makes them have malty flavors. However, unlike Doppelbocks, they occasionally taste like bread that just came out of the oven, chocolate, and even licorice, depending on its manufacturer.
Additionally, it has a moderate amount of hop presence and an equally low level of bitterness. Brewed for its sweetness and smoothness, it goes well with lots of Bavarian food. Dunkel’s ingredients include malt, hops, yeast, and water. The combination of these ingredients gives Dunkel its distinctive flavor profile.
So, if you want a malty flavor with a moderate amount of hops and bitterness, go for dunkel. On the other hand, if you want beer that tastes malty with the inclusion of other flavors, it’s best to go for Doppelbocks.
Mouthfeel is another essential criterion to consider when trying to decide what beer style is better. Doppelbocks have much higher IBU rates than traditional bocks, ranging from 17-27 IBU. This is relatively moderate when compared to the IBU levels of other alcoholic beverages.
For those who don’t know, IBU—short for International Bittering Units— is a metric you can use to determine the bitterness of a beer. IBU levels can be as low as 5 or as high as 100. As you can see, this metric helps lots of people make more informed decisions on which beer to choose. In addition to taste, IBU levels also affect the aftertaste of beer.
On the other hand, Dunkels have IBU levels 16-25. Upon comparing these two ranges, you can infer that they have pretty similar bitterness profiles, which contributes to their mouthfeels. More often than not, these beers are “fizzy” and “crispy” on the tongue.
Like its taste, Doppelbocks have strong hints of malt in its aroma. Also, you can smell some amounts of caramel in its lighter variants. You may also smell some quantities of chocolate, with little to no hop aroma.
On the other hand, dunkels also smell like malt but are mixed with different aromas like roasted coffee, honey, and chocolate. Thus, these beers are slightly similar when it comes to smell.
Smell, like some other factors on this list, is subjective. Some people may prefer the scent of caramel, while others prefer roasted coffee’s aroma.
Brewing Process and Ingredients
Doppelbocks and Dunkels are both lagers, which means that they undergo a pretty similar brewing process. Lagers are beers that undergo a bottom-fermenting yeast brewing process. Typically, this process is done at temperatures that range from 41-50°F, which depends on factors like the brewers making them.
During this brewing process, one ingredient is common to both beers; barley malt. Barley malt is considered one of the most useful beer ingredients in the world, as it helps reduce fat and sugar and hastens the fermentation process. It is so helpful that many brewers have commonly called it “the brewers ingredient.”
Alcohol volume, commonly abbreviated as ABV, is the amount of alcohol you can find in a particular beer. Alcohol volumes for beers can be as low as 3% or as high as 13%.
Doppelbocks commonly have ABV volumes of 7-10%. In other words, this means that you can get drunk on about 3-4 cans of any doppelbock beer.
Dunkels, on the other hand, have much smaller ABV volumes— most Dunkel beers have an ABV volume of 5%. You would need between 6-8 cans of Dunkel beer to get drunk.
So, if you want something that can get you drunk faster, go for Doppelbocks. Conversely, if you want a beer that takes you a bit longer to get drunk, go for Dunkel beer.
Aesthetics is another huge reason why people may prefer one beer over the other. More aesthetically pleasing beer will always get more customers than their less aesthetically pleasing counterparts.
Doppelbock beer has a wide range in appearance. Its color ranges from a rich golden to a dark brown color. If you hold doppelbocks to the light, darker versions may display some bright, ruby colors. Additionally, many doppelbocks have plain white bubble heads because of their moderate level of carbonation.
On the other hand, dunkels are characterized by colors ranging from deep copper to dark brown. Occasionally, these beers can also have a red or garnet shade. Dunkel beers have the word “Dunkel” boldly imprinted on their bottles and cans.
Popular Examples Of Each Beer Style
Because these beers are so popular, they are produced by dozens of breweries worldwide. Although light and dark doppelbocks exist, they are still generally called doppelbock. That said, some examples of doppelbock include Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Sunking Afternoon Delight, and Capital Dark Doppelbock.
On the other hand, some examples of dunkel include Andechser Dunkel, Augustiner Dunkel, and Erdinger Dunkel.
Looking at all these features, it’s pretty challenging to try and determine which beer is better. They each have their own varying set of characteristics that make them unique. Because of their uniqueness, they are tailored to suit different specific audiences.
In the end, it all comes down to subjective taste. Some people prefer the doppelbock because of its ability to get them drunk faster, while others prefer the gentler tone of the Dunkel.