Our beer this week is Paulaner Salvator, the original doppelbock. Samichlaus Classic from a few months ago was also a doppelbock, but it is brewed to an extraordinarily high strength. Schneider Meine Hopfenweisse is made with wheat and an inordinate amount of hops. Schlenkerla Eiche is made with smoked malt. So, I’d like to go back to the origins of the style to take a closer look at its history and the characteristics of a regular doppelbock. The history of Salvator (Latin for “Savior”) begins with the foundation of a Roman Catholic order in Munich around 1634. The order named itself after Francis of Paola, an Italian friar born in 1416 who founded the Order of Minims. One of the vows which members of his order took was that of year-round abstinence from meat and animal products. One of the purposes of this practice was to restore Lenten fasting, a practice which many Roman Catholics had abandoned by the 1400s. The practice of fasting is essential to the history of beer, as for many centuries it was produced at European monasteries as a source of nutrition for monks during times of fasting. The beers of the time contained large amounts of protein and carbohydrates, making them very substantial.
Doppelbock, German for “double bock,” was preceded—as the name implies—by bock, a style which is believed to have originated in 14th-century Einbeck, Germany. The beer at the time was most likely brewed with large amounts of barley and possibly wheat which aided in its preservation while the beer continued to ferment during transportation, resulting in a potent product. One story as to how Einbeck bockbier made its way from northern Germany down to Munich and the Paulaner monks is that a duke from Brunswick, betrothed to the daughter of a Bavarian aristocrat, wanted it to be served at his wedding. It soon gained popularity in Munich, and eventually a brewer from Einbeck was hired to brew it locally. By the time the Paulaner monks began brewing their own starkbier (“strong beer”) around 1635, summer brewing had already been outlawed in Bavaria, a change which resulted in cool-fermented lagers becoming the predominant style in the region. As a result, when the style spread to the south, it was brewed as a lager rather than an ale. For nearly 150 years, the beer was consumed only by monks and the ruling family. In 1780, the Elector of Bavaria finally gave the monks permission to sell their beer. Sales did not last long, however, as the Paulaner brewery fell into disuse in the early 1800s when Napoleon Bonaparte decreed that churches and monasteries could no longer own property. In 1806, a brewer began to rent the property and resume production, ultimately acquiring the property in 1813. The earliest documented reference to the name “Salvator” was in 1835. By 1890, imitations had cropped up, frequently with the same name. Around 1895 the name was trademarked, but brands continued to append the suffix “-ator” to their names. Some examples still available today include Spaten Optimator and Ayinger Celebrator.
Paulaner Salvator appears hazy and orange-mahogany in hue with a pale khaki head. The aroma is pleasantly fragrant with toffee and tart raisin in the foreground while some doughy bread wafts about. The flavor is rich and creamy and tastes of sweet, toffee-like malt with some offsetting bitterness. There are subtle notes of spiced rum and tart raisin but it doesn’t have as much of a dark, dried fruit character as some other doppelbock beers. It’s also not very boozy despite the 7.9% abv, making it easy to drink. It’s full bodied with low carbonation, but has just enough fizz to keep it from feeling viscous or cloying.
It’s surprising that such a smooth, full-bodied beer could have such a light malty taste. Whereas darker, fuller-bodied beers often taste of coffee or chocolate with notes of prunes, berries, and the like, the sweet, lightly toasted grains in Salvator clearly come through. The toffee-like quality is really a palate-pleaser. Hops hardly seems to factor in at all except for the minimal bitterness they bring. Paulaner Salvator makes for a fine go-to beer if you’re in the mood for a strong, malty German lager.
Today’s beer was purchased at Yamaya in Ota, Japan.