Maibock lager best to drink as weather warms up

Maibock lager. (Photo courtesy of rossbrownfoot.blogspot.com)

Maibock lager. (Photo courtesy of rossbrownfoot.blogspot.com)

Jordan St. John, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:21 PM ET

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In Canada, we periodically complain about the weather. This year we’ve had really good reason. That was the longest, coldest winter in my lifetime replete with ice storms, polar vortexes and entire weeks where it didn’t get much above twenty below. It’s a hard-earned spring this year.

Fortunately, there’s a beer for that. Maibock is a style of German lager that’s usually served during the month of May. I am not entirely sure that Old Man Winter isn’t going to decide to pull a victory lap on us, so I vote that we don’t waste any time.

Maibock is essentially an amped up version of a Munich Helles, which is why it’s sometimes called helles bock. It involves taking helles, a refreshing balanced lager that a lot of North American lagers emulate, and turning up the volume. It has more hops, more alcohol and a little more malt character than the basic model. Because it’s a comparatively new style by German standards, examples can be pretty varied.

One of the most common examples of the style that you’ve probably seen on shelves is Holsten’s Maibock. It certainly meets the criteria of being bigger than their normal lager, but it lacks something in charm. At 7.0% alcohol, it has a head that disappears almost immediately after pouring and presents a trickle of carbonation. The aroma is red apple and the finish is grassy, and it has more in common with a malt liquor than anything else. Mostly it’s good for context.

What you really want are more adventurous attempts at the style.

Somewhat perversely, one of the most popular versions of Maibock is Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale from Oregon. While it maintains the slightly higher alcohol content, the darker malts create an auburn body and the hopping is considerably more vigorous than traditional European examples. The use of ale yeast is especially confounding. For all of that diversion from the template, it remains thoroughly enjoyable and approachable to a broad cross section of beer drinkers. In point of fact, if you’re just getting interested in craft beer, Rogue Dead Guy is an excellent early choice.

In terms of Canadian products, you should be on the lookout for Grand River’s Dog Stalker April Bock, currently available across Ontario. As with all of their beers, there’s a component of husky grain that’s reinforced with toffee and some slightly plummy notes.

If you’re in Alberta, you’ll be able to find Hofbrauhaus Munchen’s Maibock on shelves now right now. It’s one of the better examples of the style going. If you’re willing to wait a month to celebrate spring, you’ll find Alley Kat’s Maibock on shelves in May, as is traditional.

Jordan St.John writes about beer at Saintjohnswort.ca


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