A malty brew of many hues

THE original bock style is a malty, mildly hopped lager, typically 6% to 7% alcohol as against 5% for ordinary lager. This rich, comforting brew has spawned several varieties. Maibock is lighter — less malty and, for the most part, less alcoholic with more noticeable hop flavor. Doppelbock is richer and maltier and usually more than 7% alcohol. Weizenbock is a strong, malty beer with the fruity-spicy taste of a wheat beer. The strongest of all, in flavor and alcohol, is eisbock, a beer to be sipped very slowly.

Most bocks are imported, meaning that they're less fresh than the best domestic bocks. Look for these beers on tap or from a cold box and beware of beer in green glass bottles (it's susceptible to light damage, which produces a skunky aroma).

Bock beersAllgäuer St. Magnus Heller Bock. This yellow amber bock from the far south of Bavaria has aromas of candy and some herb (mint?) and a warm malt palate but pales next to most in this tasting. 7% alcohol. At Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; Vendome stores in Beverly Hills, (310) 276-9463, Studio City (818) 766-5272 and Toluca Lake, (818) 766-9593. About $2 (16.9 ounces).

Einbecker Ur-Bock. Medium amber in color with a rich malty nose, heavy and faintly sweet palate, a bit hoppy; solid and satisfying. Made in the hometown of the original bock. 6.5% alcohol. At Hi-Time. About $2 (11.2 ounces).

Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock. This irresistible California-made bock lives up to its name with a yellow amber hue. Quite malty and mouth-filling, slightly sweet, with a crisp, attractive note of hops; . 7% alcohol. At Beverages & More stores, http://www.bevmo.com ; Bristol Farms markets, http://www.bristolfarms.com ; Gordon Biersch brewpubs in Burbank, (818) 569-5240, and Pasadena, (626) 449-0052. About $1.50 (12 ounces).

MaibocksAnchor Bock. The plush malt nose on this reddish amber brew has a hint of cherry. One of the best bocks around, rich and sweet on the palate with minimal hops. Fermented with ale yeast. From San Francisco. Released in February; now in very limited supply. 5.5% alcohol. At Beverage Warehouse in Mar Vista, (310) 306-2822; Hi-Time. About $1.50 (12 ounces).

Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock. Light amber color, middling malt with a bright hops flavor. Much less impressive than this brewery's Ur-Bock. Warning: Sold in green glass, keep away from light. 6.5% alcohol. At Hi-Time. About $2 (11.2 ounces).

Hofbräu München Maibock. Medium amber. Surprisingly hoppy, malt mostly in the aftertaste. The Maibock that will be tapped in Munich next week; otherwise, not a great thrill. 7.2% alcohol. At Vendome stores. About $2.50 (16.9 ounces).

Reutberger Josefi Bock. Amber. Honeyed nose, slightly sweet malt palate, solid and enjoyable. Released for St. Joseph's Day, March 19. 6.9% alcohol. At Beverage Warehouse; Beverages & More; Hi-Time. About $3 (16.9 ounces).

Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Made by the well-known Oregon brewery. Pale amber. A bold American take on the style: fragrant apples in the nose, malty palate, medium bite of hops. Made in the style of a maibock (using ale yeast). 6.6% alcohol. Fortunately, this excellent brew is widely available on draft as well as in bottles. About $2 (12 ounces), about $4.50 (22 ounces).

Will-Bräu Maibock. Straw colored, with a malty-bready nose. Medium body, sweetish flavor, mild hops; too much like a regular lager if you're in the mood for bock. From Motten in far north Bavaria. 6.2% alcohol. At Hi-Time. About $2 (16.9) ounces.

Wheat bocksAktien St. Blasius Weizenbock. A pleasant but rather low-key reddish amber wheat bock from Kaufbeuren in southern Bavaria with a mild banana aroma and a diffuse malty palate. 7.2% alcohol. At Hi-Time. About $2.50 (16.9) ounces.

Erdinger Pikantus Weizenbock. This well-known specialist in wheat beers makes a reddish brown weizenbock with an almost tropical aroma of bananas and clove, substantial malty palate and a little tartness. 7.3% alcohol. At Hi-Time Wine Cellars; Red Carpet Wine Merchants in Glendale, (800) 339-0609 About $2.50 (16.9 ounces).

Hopf Weisser Bock. An amber beer with aromas of bananas, clove, maybe a little mint. Mild maltiness; relatively light body. From Miesbach, between Munich and the Austrian border. 7% alcohol. At Bristol Farms markets; Hi-Time; Red Carpet; Vendome stores. About $3 (16.9 ounces).

DoppelbocksAktien St. Martin Dunkler Doppelbock. Red-amber. Malt and dried-fruit nose, medium body, a bit sweet, good balance. 7.5% alcohol. At Beverages & More stores; Vendome stores. About $2 (16.9 ounces).

Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. This red-amber, medium-bodied brew doesn't have much of a nose, but it has a very pleasant malty palate with a touch of sweet spice. 6.7% alcohol. At Beverages & More stores; Hi-Time; Red Carpet. About $2.50 (11.2 ounces).

Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock. The bock that created the doppelbock category. Amber with a caramel-molasses nose, rich malt flavor, elegant restrained sweetness. 7.5% alcohol. At Beverage Warehouse; Beverages & More; Hi-Time Wine Cellars; Red Carpet Wine Merchants. About $1.50 (12 ounces), about $2 (16.9 ounces).

Spaten Optimator Doppelbock. The brownish amber color heralds the caramel and malt nose of this stately beer with a slight dry finish. From a Munich brewery with six centuries of history. 8% alcohol. At Beverages & More; Hi-Time; Red Carpet; Trader Joe's stores; Vendome stores. About $1.75 (12 ounces), $2 (16.9 ounces).

Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock Dunkles Starkbier. This reddish brown "strong beer" has a powerful malt and molasses nose. It's rich and a bit sweet with a hint of hops in the finish. 7.4% alcohol. At Hi-Time; Red Carpet. About $2.50 (16.9 ounces).

Weltenburger Kloster Asam Bock. Mahogany brown. Weltenburg claims to be the oldest monastery brewery in the world. The delicious aromas suggest molasses and dried fruits. Moderately heavy body, sweet palate cut by a little bright acidity. 7.2% alcohol. At Hi-Time; Vendome stores. About $2 (16.9 ounces).

Specialty bocksAecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock (Braueri Heller Bamberg). A well-made red-amber bock that will shock some palates because of its flavoring with smoked malts. Strong, nearly oily nose of beechwood smoke mingled with malt; aggressively smoky aftertaste with a bit of hop bite. 6.5% alcohol. At Hi-Time; Red Carpet; Vendome stores. About $4 (16.9 ounces).

Schneider Aventinus Eisbock. Brown with golden hues. Impressive malt and dried fruit nose, rich body, decided sweetness; a concentrate of bock. Positively coats the mouth. A dessert or after-dinner beer. 12% alcohol. At Wally's in L.A., (310) 475-0606; Beverage Warehouse; Red Carpet; Vendome stores. About $4 to $4.50 (11.2 ounces).

— Charles Perry

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