Even though we know the days are getting longer, it's still reassuring when the first Mai Bocks begin arriving on local shelves. These lagers are traditionally brewed in the dead of winter and aged until spring. And now, just when the seasonal melancholy is about to become oppressive, these incredible bock beers start to emerge from lagering. Sprecher Brewery is one of the first local beer makers to offer a little bit of "may bock" springtime.
What is it? Mai Bock from Sprecher Brewing Company.
Style: The Mai Bock (also called a German-style Helles or Heller Bock) has a deep golden to clear copper color and a moderate to strong malty aroma. Its flavor should emphasize the malt, with only light hoppiness to create a well-balanced beer. The name is a reference to the springtime serving of the brew. Its other name, helles, refers to the light or pale color, not its body, mouthfeel or alcohol content. Mai Bock is medium-bodied and overall a very clean-tasting beer that commonly ranges from 6.5% to 7.5 % ABV.
Background: This April, Sprecher celebrates the 25th anniversary of its incorporation in 1985. The brewery first made its Mai Bock in 1986. It features Caramel, Pale and Wheat malts with Mt. Hood, Willamette and Tettnanger hops. The beer is aged about two months before it's released, with a modest 6% ABV. Sprecher Mai Bock received a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 1988. It's sold in four-packs of 16-ounce bottles for about $8.
Sprecher's Restaurant & Pub in Middleton (1262 John Q. Hammons Drive) officially opened on January 25, and the Mai Bock is scheduled to go on tap there beginning on February 1. While the new pub isn't directly affiliated with the Sprecher Brewery of Glendale, it was given rights to the name and images by brewery owner Randy Sprecher. Even though he isn't an investor, the place is quite a tribute to his brewery, with logos, tap handles and more than a dozen of his beers on tap. It also offers Sprecher root beer and the company's line of gourmet sodas.
- Aroma: Light, but a firm malty nose.
- Appearance: Copper, with a light chill haze. A marbled, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and soft.
- Taste: Solid, smooth caramel maltiness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Maltiness, but overall clean. A light, lingering warmth.
Glassware: The footed pilsner is the perfect glass for this beer. Sprecher Mai Bock has a bright copper color and smooth tan head, and this style brings a touch of sophisticated presentation, while the inward taper gently coaxes the aroma under the nose.
Pairs well with: This is a fantastic meal beer. Its malty flavor will cut through German sausages or pair well with roasted meats. It has enough malty profile and modest alcohol that it'll handle well-seasoned and medium-spicy dishes. With cheeses, try this malty brew with a SarVecchio, or well-aged Emmentaler or Swiss.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Sprecher Mai Bock is a smooth, malty seasonal brew that ranks among the best local renditions of the style. I really like it for its solid flavor and subtle amount of alcohol in the finish. It has great versatility at the dinner table, especially this time of year when there are many comfort foods, rich in meats and broths, to blend with the caramel maltiness of this brew. This "May" bock will bring a little warmth to the winter doldrums.