Maibock: Brewed for Spring

Transition from hearty winter beers to this amber-hued brew, perfect for spring.

If only you could brew and bottle spring. Well, thanks to the beer-making skills of 17th century Germans, who first created Maibock, or “May beer,” you can order it by the keg.

Designed to celebrate the thaw, the amber-hued Maibock is a true transitional brew, meant to pivot the palate from the heartier, more viscous dark beers of winter to the crisp and light straw-colored pours of summer.

And thanks to the craft beer movement and beer garden boom here in the U.S., this once under-the-radar seasonal is fast becoming a springtime staple at bars, local breweries and in the beer aisles.

“It’s amazing, in the last few years demand for Maibock—a relatively obscure beer outside of Germany and Austria—just skyrocketed in the U.S.,” says Martin Zuber, brewmaster for both Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr in Munich.

Indeed. In 2008, Hacker-Pschorr sent 40 kegs of Maibock to the U.S.; in 2012, it sent nearly 600. And a bigger order is expected this year.
“Its sudden popularity makes sense,” says Zuber. “First, American craft brewers embraced it, which has helped fuel its popularity. Plus, it’s a very complex and nuanced style, yet very approachable, and very easy to drink.”

With strong caramel and cereal aromas, hardly any bitterness and a slightly sweet finish, it’s similar to Deutschland’s other seasonal standout, Märzen, the stuff served at Oktoberfest. But unlike its fall foil, which boasts low Budweiser-like potency, or about 5% abv, Maibock clocks in at about 8% abv.
That’s uber strong.

“We call it the ‘velvet hammer effect,’ because it’s so smooth going down, but really potent,” says Chris Erickson, director of brewing operations at Snake River Brewery in Jackson, Wyoming, which makes one the best Maibocks in the states. “It’s officially called The Discombobulator, but when we started brewing it 18 years ago, a very responsible customer rode his bike here, had a few, then couldn’t pedal past the parking lot and ended up with a few stitches. We then nicknamed it Hospital Bock.”

Bottom Line: If you want to see summer, be sure to drink this scrumptious spring beer slowly.

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