KILDARE BEER COLUMN: Seasonal beer makes Lenten fast an Easter celebration

Brewin' up a storm

Susan and Judith Boyle


Susan and Judith Boyle


KILDARE BEER COLUMN: Seasonal beer makes Lenten fast an Easter celebration

Wexford brewery Yellowbelly Beer serving their seasonal beer from a chocolate Easter egg at the Franscian Well Beer Festival over Easter weekend

Another Easter has passed. A few shards of leftover chocolate eggs lie in their foil and post-Lenten pints have been supped.

Traditionally, many Catholics in Ireland abstain from alcohol or observe some form of Lenten fasts during the 46 day before Easter Sunday. In light of this tradition, some might be surprised to learn that, in the past, imbibing beer was a practice encouraged during Lent.

Historically, at this time of the year, special beers were brewed to ease hunger pangs during strict Lenten fasts.

While eating bread was strictly forbidden, liquid nourishment in the form of beer was not considered breaking your fast.

During the 17th century, Paulaner monks of Neudeck ob der Au outside Munich, Germany, a brewery well known for their presence at Oktoberfest, developed a rich-and-malty doppelbock-style beer to sustain them.

Beer as we know, is packed with carbohydrates and essential vitamins, making it a calorie-rich source of nutrition. Even now, across Europe, this extra nutritious and often quite potent, (usually above 6%abv), Lentenbock or Maibock can be enjoyed at this time of the year.

Bock was an incredibly popular style of beer that originated in the town of Einbeck.

In 1368, Einbeck joined the Hanseatic League (also known as the Hanse or Hansa), which was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns.

This lead to the broadening the distribution of beer from Einbeck to as far as Antwerp in the west, Riga in the east, Stockholm in the north and Munich in the south.

Not content with imported beers, in the 17th century Munich brewers adapted to this new lager style of brewing and started making their own Einbeck style beers.

In their Bavarian accent, citizens of Munich pronounced "Einbeck" as "ein Bock", which means "a billy goat", and so the beer became known as "bock".

To this day, a goat often appears on bock labels as a visual pun.

Bock is still a very popular style of beer in the Netherlands. Dutch bock differs in style from German bock and tends to be a seasonal beer brewed in the autumn but there are also special spring, summer or winter bocks.

The malty, rich beer works exceptionally well with food, pairing excellently with typical Dutch foods such as gouda, smoked meats or sausage.

Friendly beer

In Ireland, bock is not a particularly popular style of beer, which is a pity as it is a very food friendly drinkable beer style.

If you are curious to try a bock, Tipperary brewery White Gypsy make a German Dopplebock (RRP €8.50, 750ml, 7.5% ABV).

It’s dark and delicious, with some toffeeish sweetness and pairs well with an earthy camembert or a nutty cheddar. Its good carbonation cuts well across a pungent blue or a creamy goat’s cheese, and it is an excellent match with savoury cured meats and smoked fish.

Judith Boyle is a qualified chemist (MSc) and accredited beer sommelier. Susan Boyle is a playwright, artist and drinks consultant. See
Both sisters are proud to be fifth-generation publicans. Their family business is Boyle’s bar and off-licence in Kildare town