This script is from the second season of Beer Notes, which you can listen to at beernotes.org.
It’s finally Spring, and for most craft beer lovers, this change of season also means a change in the beers we prefer.
Gone are the spicy and boozy beers of winter, the coffee stouts, double bocks, and barley wines. Spring, the season of cherry blossoms and daffodils, is the season to welcome Maibocks and Marzens. This week on Beer Notes, we are exploring the Maibocks, or “helles bock” as it is also known.
Bocks originated in Einbeck, Germany which was part of a regional trade federation known as the Hanseatic League. This alliance, formed in the 13th century, allowed Einbeck beer to be widely distributed and to become well-known. Einbeck became known as “beer city,” as it produced world-renowned beers in the 14th century.
While most beer-producing regions at the time were turning out very dark and murky brews, Einbeck brewed with ⅓ wheat, resulting in beers that were lighter in taste and color. According to even Martin Luther, “The best drink known to man is called Einbecker Beer.”
These beers later became known as “bocks,” probably when Bavarians misheard the name “Einbeck.” As pale lager became popularized in the 19th century, bocks too began to take on a lighter shade, and eventually the legendary Hofbräuhaus tavern of Germany would produce the first Maibock for their May Day celebration.
“Mai” is the German word for May, the month when these beers were typically produced. Maibocks are lighter, crisper, and more hoppy than the malt heavy winter bocks, but they still have a relatively high alcohol content of 6-7.5%.
Next time you’re sipping a Maibock at a spring festival or May Day Celebration, reflect on its centuries-old history – And be sure to pair your Maibock with spicier meats, seafood like steamed mussels or shrimp, and for dessert, spiced pastries or carrot cake. For Beer Notes, this is Anne Neely.