Boozy, yet damn near refreshing, German Maibocks are the perfect Spring to Summertime Lagers.
If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer like yours truly, the month of May isn’t exactly a favorite of the dozen. The weather also doesn’t know what the heck it’s doing, switching back and forth between chilly breeze to Dante’s melt-your-face-off inferno, with a couple dashes of thunderstorms spread throughout. May makes me wanna to drink a lot of beer.
Those crafty Germans thought of everything, making a beer exceptionally tailored to deal with this manic month: the Maibock. I consider myself one of the biggest cheerleaders of the Maibock style, as it unites my love of easy drinking Lagers culture with a touch of honeyed sweetness and spicy hops.
Maibock literally translates into “a strong beer of May,” and with an average ABV between 6-8%, it certainly lives up to the moniker. Here’s how the Germans do it:
Malts: Maibocks are drier and more light golden in color than the usual sweet, malty Bock style. Honeyed flavors from Vienna, Pilsner, or Munich malts are present, but they’re far less caramelized than in Dopplebocks. It’s not an easy balance to achieve as the use of decoction mashing (a method of intensifying flavor in Lagers) must be carefully performed as to not overcook the malts with roast character.
Hops: Maibocks are also hopped more liberally than other Bocks. They often include herbal, spicy German noble hops like Tetnang, Hallertau and Hersbrucker. The noticeable, but balanced hop bitterness curbs the sweetness and keeps the finish crisp.
Booze: A Lager reaching 6-8% ABV is certainly no sessionable wimp, but the trick is to make it feel and taste like a crushable beer. Tradition dictates a starting gravity of 1.064, yet the finished beer must be considerably refreshing. Woah.
In other words: Maibocks are boozy enough to stave off potential Spring chills, yet crisp enough to keep you refreshed in the sun. In other words: witchcraft. In yet even more words: the ultimate transitional beer, like a Spring version of the Octoberfest. Why isn’t this an all-year beer style, might I ask? Cruelty, I say.
If you’re looking to get into the Maibock Game, you should definitely try a few German-bred ones from Ayinger, Hofbräu, or Einbecker to get a sense of the classic build. In true American fashion, US-brewed versions can range with respect to tradition like those from Capital Brewery (they’ve won a boatload of GABF medals for German beers). They can also be hoppier like Santiam’s 1859 (when in Oregon, one must hop!). Or they can break a few rules and be made with Ale yeast and much darker malts like Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale.
For more super-nerdy technical history stuff on Maibocks, read this awesomesauce All About Beer article.
Written by Ed Moore
Featured image by @s3th on Unsplash.com