Beer Styles Defined

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Part Three: Take Your Hands Off Maibock (And Get Your Own!)

The Maibock may just be the best style of beer you’ve never heard of before. A German seasonal available in the spring, the Maibock is a paler version of the traditional bock beer; alcohol-wise, it’s comparable, at least in Germany, coming in around 6 or 7 %. Taste-wise, it scales back the malts and the roasted character significantly and the taste of the alcohol is almost completely hidden. A solid maibock will taste a little grassy, a little toasted, a little sweet, and should have just a hint of hop bite. The most prominent flavor is probably at the end, when you get what I’m assuming is the residual flavor of the lager yeast. It’s an almost indescribable flavor and to my knowledge is unique among beers, but damn is it ever tasty!

What I love about the maibock is that it is essentially the pale ale version of a lager. It has that richer, caramel malt flavor and biscuity attributes that you love about an ale, but it has the mildness and cleanliness of a lager. In my opinion, it’s one of the best balanced styles of beer out there and also one of the most subtle, when done right. The point of the maibock is not to overwhelm you with one prevailing flavor; it’s to introduce a variety of light flavors that come to prominence at different points on the tongue, one following the previous and leading into the next so smoothly that you barely notice the transition.

It’s an insanely difficult style to find. I’ve been bugging Geoff to get one on tap all spring, but most brewers just don’t offer it, and when they do, it’s only around for a couple months anyway. Then, when you finally think you’ve found one, you have to consider the likelihood that the brewery just pumped it out for the novelty factor without meeting the demands of the style. Like the golden ale, the hefeweizen, or the pilsner, the maibock is yet another European style I’ve seen dumbed down by American brewers to be more palatable (i.e. blander) to the mass public while they focus their full efforts on making a tongue-blisteringly hoppy IPA or a barleywine that will give you cavities.

Aside from Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale, there is no widely available maibock sold all year long. And technically, though I enjoy the Dead Guy, it doesn’t really fit the style. While there are things that are “maibocky” about it, the caramel levels are more in line with what you’d expect from an amber… oh and yeah, Dead Guy is actually an ale, not a lager, which sorta kinda defeats the purpose of calling it a maibock.

But, anyway, Bailey’s totally lucked out, and so have you. We’ve got a maibock straight from the 2008 Brewer’s Association World Brew Cup Champion, Bend Brewing. As one customer put it the other day, brewmaster Tonya Cornett is such a great brewer, “if she spit in a glass, I’d still drink it.” Lucky for you, though, this beer tastes nothing like spit and exactly like one of the tastiest maibocks I’ve ever had.

So, come on in and make this maibock yours.

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