Are you a season drinker? Many beer enthusiasts who enjoy a variety of styles tend to make their selections based on particular times of year or events. Summer is great for lighter, refreshing styles like Koslch, Pilsner or Saison. Fall is time for Oktoberfest beers. The Holiday Season begs for spiced Christmas beers. Winter calls for hearty Stouts or Baltic Porter. What about Spring? I dare say most beer drinkers do not associate a particular beer with Spring, but I submit to you Maibock. It’s not apparent why, maybe pale Mexican lager overshadows it because of Cinco de Mayo, but Maibock is overlooked by most breweries and beer enthusiasts as the essential Spring seasonal beer.
Before getting into what Maibock is, we should touch on a little background. Bock style beers are strong (Starkbier) beers that originated in Germany. In his seminal guide to the world of beers The Beer Bible, Jeff Alworth describes Bocks as “Germany’s sipping beers”. They encompass Helles/Dunkles Bock, Dopplebock and Eisbock (a distilled beer). Many beer drinkers are familiar with world class Doppelbock offerings like Ayinger Celebrator and Paulaner Salvator. These rich, full bodied lagers were originally brewed by Franciscan monks for sustenance during fasting. If you are really lucky, you may have a local brewery that will make a Doppelbock from time to time. Then there is standard Bock. When looking for standard Bock, you’ll find them in either a lighter colored Helles Bock or darker Dunkles Bock. Where does Maibock fit into all this? Maibock (Mai is German for May, Bock means buck or goat – that’s another blog post!) is a Helles Bock brewed to be drunk – you guessed it – in the Spring.
Maibock is lager (bottom fermented) beer brewed using mostly Pilsner and Vienna malts with caramel or Munich malt added for color. Hops are Noble varieties, typically Saazer. The results are a malty beer with a grainy, light toast backbone supporting a spicy or, sometimes floral, hop aroma and flavor. It will be medium bodied with a distinctly clean lager finish. ABV’s land between 6% and 7.5%. Think of it as a fuller bodied, more rich and stronger version of Helles or Amber lager.
In the United States, Maibock can be a bit of a challenge to find. Not many breweries pay attention to it with the popularity of pale lagers and IPA. If you are interested in trying this style out, and I highly recommend you do, start looking for them in late March into April. Hofbrau Maibock is one that is fairly readily available if you have a bottle shop that is well stocked with imports. Even better, if you have a lager focused brewery near you, that’s a great place to try on fresh on tap. Some excellent examples can be found at Dovetail Brewing (IL), KC Bier Co. (MO), Rosenstadt Brewery (OR), and East Brothers(CA). My personal favorite is a wonderful collaboration between Creature Comforts Brewing (GA) and Burial Beer Co. (NC) named Culture Keepers. You’ll find my review of it here.
It’s pretty hard to compete with Cinco de Mayo, especially in North America, but I’d love to see Maibock make a bit of a comeback as a more available seasonal beer in Spring. If you have a favorite or you local brewery makes one annual, be sure to give them a shout out in the comments.
Thanks for reading and until next time…Let Us Drink Beer!
Remember, always drink responsibly!