It’s May, and it’s — of course — the month of the maibock.

For many craft beer lovers, our preferred beers change with the seasons. Gone are the days of the winter lager and the coffee stout; fruity beers and sours are making their way back onto the shelves.

Heavy beers that sit in your stomach and keep you warm on cold winter nights are officially out of style, at least for the time being. The spring/summer half of the year, at least on the East Coast, is all about being active. Whether it be through a high-intensity game of beach volleyball or just hanging out with friends and family at a Memorial Day barbecue, this is the time of year for light and refreshing beers to shine brighter than the springtime sun. 

Mai what?

Maibocks are a good transitional beer between the extremes of winter and summer brews, even if traditional bocks were brewed mainly for winter consumption. To truly understand the mystery of the maibock, a brief history lesson is in order.

Bocks originated in Einbeck, Germany, a place also known as “beer city” that 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 1/3 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.

So, as usual, we can thank the Germans for this particular beer. Next time you’re sipping on a Maibock at a spring festival or May Day Celebration, reflect on its centuries-old history — it’s come pretty far since the 14th century.

Try this

Devil’s Backbone’s Maibock. It’s just called “Maibock,” but sometimes the simplest explanation is the best, and this hazy orange bock with bready/honey notes simply gets it right. This is the spring release of the Virginia brewery’s seasonal lineup which clocks an ABV of 7.4 and IBU of 28.

If you’re looking for a little more creativity, at least in the name, Wit’s End Brewing Co. in Colorado just released Mai the Fourth Lager, so there’s that.

Maibocks pair well with spicier meats, seafood like steamed mussels or shrimp, and for dessert, spiced pastries or carrot cake. 

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