adventures in craft beer and real food

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tasting Notes: Sprecher Maibock

In celebration of the month of May, Pint and Fork is pleased to announce that it's Maibock season. Every week this month, a different Maibock will be reviewed. For the non-beer crowd, you should still stick around. There's an interesting IMBB event planned for May 19.

It's also asparagus aspirations month, which will give me a chance to hopefully learn some new preparations. Such as making sauce hollandaise for the first time.

Enough with the commercials already!

Maibock is a type of bock beer that's brewed in celebration of spring. Bock beers fall into the lager category, and are typically characterized by moderate bitterness and full malted flavor. You probably have seen beers with goats on the label. That's a bock.

The style has an interesting history, as is recounted in an amusing story in Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table. Apparently the German city of Einbeck became famous for its bocks in the middle of the fourteenth century. The Bavarians didn't like being outdone by the north Germans, so they sought to regain respect as brewers. Beer, you have to remember, was a staple of life, and was therefore a key trading commodity. Duke Ludwig X of Bavaria hired a brewmaster from northern Germany to set up shop in Munich. It was there that the first Bavarian bock beers were brewed. Over time, the Bavarians became known for producing bock beer to rival that in the north. This victory was hastened by Duke Maximilian I who invited Einbeck's head brewmaster to Bavaria only to detain him there. By 1614, the HofbrÀuhaus was selling bock beer to the public.

Maibocks are often confused with hellesbocks. Although both styles have much in common, Maibocks are usually lighter in color and body than hellesbocks.

Prior to Prohibition, nearly every brewery in the US served a credible bock beer. So what better place to begin on my search for good Maibock than in America's great brewing city of Milwaukee?



The Sprecher Brewing Company has been churning out this fine brew as a spring seasonal since 1986, just one year after starting out. Since then, the beer won a bronze at the 2004 American Beer Festival. As a result of the brew's longevity and awards, I had high expectations for this pint of beer. Like all of Sprecher's beer, this beer came in a 16 ounce bottle.

A variety of aromas burst from the bottle as soon as it was cracked open. A strong malt and yeast profile was most prominent, reminding me almost of hefeweizen. There's a strong bread aroma in there, too, followed by a much fainter smell of grannysmith apples. This only makes sense since the brewers put some wheat into the malt.

The color appeared copper in the ambient light of my room, but I quickly saw that it's a very pale yellow when held against the scrutiny of direct light. Really, the color is very appealing. Ample carbonation raises a moderate head upon the pour. The head persisted for a few minutes and then receded to form a beautiful ring around the glass. No lacing was visible as the beer was consumed.

Unsurprisingly, this beer reminded me of a helles ("light lager") as it has a distinct liquid bread character to it. All of the flavors seem to be in that same family. There is yeast dancing on a stage of solid malt. There's also a very slight earthy taste to the beer that becomes more apparent as the beer warms up. The taste experience is very lengthy, and the flavors become more profound but fainter the longer you wait. At 6% abv, this beer is of authentic strength and is surprisingly easy to drink. A moderate dose of hopping comes through to provide a hit of bitterness. Although I'm horrible at hop analysis, the most prominent hop seems to be Mount Hood. In all, this beer is very well balanced and holds true to the Maibock style. My only criticism is that the hopping is a tad too severe for the style, as are many American craft brews.

Because of the extent of the hopping, it's not obvious what would partner well with the beer. Although hamburgers with onions, or meatballs would make for a tasty combination. The bitterness of the hops would hook onto the meat, while the bready character would mirror the taste of the bun. I think Mexican dishes that involve beans would be worth a try. The earthiness would correspond to that of epazote, while the hops would be a good partner for brighter flavors that many Mexican dishes have.

Sprecher's Maibock is an excellent interpretation of the Maibock style. Assertive and true to form.

1 comment:

LDub said...

An idea for asparagus: asparagus + lardon (basically thick-cut bacon) + lots of pepper makes a mean quiche combo (I used canned asparagus and it came out well, but fresh would be infinitely better)