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It’s Spring! Bock to Brighter Days

While March can be a tricky month weather-wise, it does have a lot of perks – There’s International Women’s Day on March 8th (which happens to coincide with the Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day), Daylight Saving Time and moving our clocks ahead on March 10th, St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, and the first day of spring on March 19th. Once spring hits, the very next day, March 20th, is Bock Beer Day!

Bock beer is German in origin and there are distinct subcategories that include Maibock, Helles Bock, Heller Bock, Doppelbock, Weizenbock, and Eisbock. Originally, the Bock-style of beer consisted of a beverage that was dark, heavy, sweet, strongly malted, unfermented and with a low alcohol content – close to what a Doppelbock is today (although ours today typically hails a higher ABV of 7-12%). It was first brewed by monks in the northern German town of Einbeck in the 14th century. During the Lenten season while the monks fasted during the Feast of the Holy Father – an 8-day festival at the beginning of April – they would consume the Doppelbock-style that they brewed and named “Sankt Vaterbier” or “Holy Father beer,” as food was forbidden. Essentially, it was “liquid bread” due to its belly-filling, sweet nature. 

Eventually this style of beer migrated its way south to Munich. Due to the different dialects of German in the northern vs. the southern part of the country, “Einbeck” was pronounced differently in Munich: “ein bock.” One of the meanings for “bock” in German is “goat” and thus gives reason as to why labels and advertising motifs of many Bock beers feature goats and of course lends to how Bock earned its name. 

It was a brewer from Einbeck, Elias Pichler, who was hired in 1614 by Hofbräuhaus in Munich to brew an “inspired” version of the monk-brewed original, and one that has eventually been adapted into the Bock we know today – the Maibock. While, some Bock beers are dark, the Maibock, Helles Bock, and Heller Bock tend to be paler in color, and not as heavy, but are still strong in malty character and contain mildly hopped flavors. Traditional German Biergartens brewed these lighter Bocks specifically to usher in spring and warmer weather. 

The Hofbräu Maibock served today in 2024 is still brewed from the same 400-year-old recipe. It is deep amber in color, contains roasted malts and bold-yet-smooth notes of dried fruits, dark caramel and toffee. At 7.2% ABV, 31 IBU, it is dry, full-bodied, and contains depth with an earthy hop finish. The Hofbräuhaus in Buffalo, NY has this beer available on tap seasonally from February-April. Their Doppelbock is also typically available late winter/early spring. 

Additionally, in keeping with the spring brewing tradition, the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich taps its first barrel of Maibock every year during the last week of April to herald in the month of May. Following in the OG’s footsteps, the American Hofbräuhaus’s around the country do the same thing, within the same timeframe. Therefore, keep an eye on Buffalo’s Facebook page for their upcoming Maibock event. There’s no time like the present to hop on out to Western NY to get your springtime beer on!

Eisbock or “ice bock” hearkens from the Kulmbach district of Germany and is created by partially freezing a Doppelbock and removing the water content (ice) in order to further concentrate the flavor and increase the alcohol content, which can range from 9-13%. The resultant brew is dark and rich with prominent flavors of prunes, plums, and raisins. Weizenbock is the wheat version of Bock and traditionally utilizes 40-60% wheat instead of 100% barley. There are both pale and darker versions but both are malt-centric with medium-to-full bodies with the alcohol content ranging from approximately 6-9%.

Useful & Fun Facts: Bock beer should be served at 50-55°F (slightly warmer than refrigeration temps), and poured into and consumed from a stemmed pokal or goblet in order to fully open and appreciate all the associated flavors of the beer. The beer tempers spicy dishes, pairs well with cheeses and sausages, and even complements chocolate desserts. 

Another Bock, slightly closer to home: Genesee Spring Bock by Genesee Brewing Company (Rochester, NY). 5.2% ABV. Light, yet full-bodied with a slightly sweet, malty finish, Genesee has been brewing this for a spring-release every year since 1951! Basically, it is a great transitional beer from winter into spring and while you can purchase it this season at nearly any supermarket and convenience store that sells beer, it is worth the trek out to the Rochester Genesee Brew House for a bite and brew right off the tap. (They also sell tons of Spring Bock merch featuring a goat too!) 

Spring is in the air, so go get your Bock Beer Day on this March 20th – Cheers!

Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!