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The Maibock Blind Challenge

If you read my latest blog post you already know that I really like the style of Maibock, or Helles Bock. Well, I have been fairly frustrated by the lack of commercial Maibock's in Asheville and in general so I gathered up some for a blind taste test. The Maibocks came from all over so I was super excited to try them and see which one was the "winner." I would like to thank my friends Jeff and Tom in Chicago for sending the bulk of the bocks as there were not a lot to choose from here in Beer City this May. It just isn't a sexy style (yet). As you can see above there is a big difference in the colors of these beers and the aromas and flavors varied wildly as well.


Just as a recap, a Maibock, or Helles Bock, is a stronger (higher alcohol) pale, German lager that highlights lighter malts that can be decocted, or boiled slightly then reintroduced back into the mash tun. These malt flavors marry with beautiful continental European hops for a spicy or assertive hop bitterness. The challengers were the following in no particular order:

1. The Cellarest Brigid Oak Aged Maibock 7.4% West Asheville, NC

2. Barrique Brewing and Blending Oak Aged Maibock 7.5% Nashville, TN.

3. Goldfinger's Maibock 7% Downers Grove, IL

4. Riverlands Brewing Company's Spring Rejuvenation Maibock 6.8% St. Charles, IL

5. Crystal Lake Brewing's Maibock 6.5%

6. Pollyana Nose Over Tail 7% Lemont, IL

7. Art History Major New England IPA 6.6% Geneva, IL ;)


Let's just start with stating that this was not an official Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) analysis of the style. It was simply a tasting of a style that I feel is underrepresented. I wanted to see which one tasted the best, not by style guidelines, but by subjective blind tasting. There were three judges total: me, my fabulous wife Patricia and my good friend and beer nerd, Brian. We casually tallied our opinions by pen and paper and picked the best by talking through each beer afterwards one by one. I thought that I knew which one would win when initially gathering these Bocks and I was definitely wrong. That is the beauty of drinking beer blind. You just never know which one will be the best. We carry a lot of biases when we drink and eat and don't even realize it. We did not discuss the beers with each other while tasting but instead loosely ranked the beers that we enjoyed the best. It was really a ton of fun. I have been wanting to do something like this for some time but did not have enough Maibock's to compare. Here are the results.


This brewery is a big favorite of my buddy in Chicagoland and it did not disappoint with this highly drinkable Maibock. I absolutely loved how this brilliantly clear lager was so incredibly drinkable, having a soft and beautiful malt presence, almost honey-like but with just enough herbal hop character and bitterness to back it up. There is no hint of alcohol on this one either making this pretty dangerous at almost 7%. My comment on my tasting sheet was, "I could drink a lot of this one." That is always a good sign. I hope that Riverlands keeps making this beer every spring and maybe year round?! I can hope.

Goldfinger Maibock 7%

This Maibock was also quite lovely and a close second. I thought that this one would finish quite high in this tasting as Goldfinger is known for their attention to detail with lagering. We all agreed that it was a beautifully crafted Maibock however we thought that it needed a bit more bitterness and kind of reminded us of a bread-like Helles more than a Helles Bock. That being said, it was super clear, highly drinkable with a light malt sweetness and a superb balance with the floral continental hops. I had one more can of this and it did not last long. Keep doing what you are doing in lager land, Goldfinger.

The Cellarest Brigid Oak Aged Maibock 7.4%

This is the only beer on the panel that I had already tried before. I bought a howler (32 oz 1/2 growler) because I knew that I would drink the rest of it after the taste test. It is a little unfair to put an oak aged version in the Maibock competition because the oak tannin expression exude certain richer wood characteristics that are non-traditional in the style. This is also a collaboration beer with another of my favorite breweries, Birds Fly South, out of Greenville, SC. Let's be honest here, this was the most complex version out of all of them. By using fig smoked Pilsner malt from Riverbend as well as resting in oak puncheons for 14 weeks, we all definitely picked up on some nice light smoke aromas and flavors that paired perfectly in and with a ketchup based bbq sauce with a brisket dinner. We loved the color of this beer as it was the darkest of the lot and the woody characteristics definitely made this beer complex. It didn't turn out to be the winner as the richness from the wood was overpowering when comparing with other Maibock's. I love this beer and brewery and I will drink it many more times in the future whether it is called a Maibock, or Helles Bock.


Barrique Brewing and Blending Oak Aged Maibock 7.5%

I was super excited to try any of Barrique's beers as they just hosted so many awesome events in Nashville for Craft Brewers Conference last month. They did not disappoint with another oak rested Maibock. This collaboration is with a very famous lager brewery, Bierstadt Lagerhaus, out of Denver, Colorado. The beer was made with German Heirloom barley varieties using a double decoction technique to bring out more malt expression and bread flavor. This one was rested in neutral oak for 11 weeks and has a lighter breadiness than the Cellarest's Brigid. It is also more of a Maibock paler color than the previous oak aged Maibock as well. This beer has a light wood or oakiness that is very appealing and marries quite well with the grain. Overall the beer is quite nice however once again it was deemed a bit too rich or tannic perhaps woody when comparing it to non oak aged Maibocks. I would drink this one again and again however.

Crystal Lake Brewing Maibock 6.5%

This particular brewery I have never been to or heard of before but they made a nice Bock. This beer was very traditional and clear with honey notes and pretty balanced with the hops without being bitter. We didn't feel that it was as malt forward and bitter enough for the style as some of the others but it was a nice drink nonetheless. Crystal Lake's beers will be on my radar moving forward.

Art History Major New England IPA 6.6%

WTF?! Whoops! Well, we screwed up and accidentally put this hazy IPA in the mix. It was very easy to spot as the haze on this heavily hopped ale was much different than the lagers surrounding it. I knew that Art History makes a lot of lagers so I didn't examine the can nor did my wife when she poured all of the beers for the blind taste test. We ruled this one out pretty quickly as it was pretty obvious that it was either a mess of a Maibock or a completely different style of beer. Thank goodness it was the latter. This hazy beer is quite nice but not for this blind tasting. I will drink plenty of Art History's beers in the future. Maybe even a Maibock?!


Pollyanna Nose Over Tail Maibock 7%

It turns out that this beer just won a Silver medal for this particular beer at the biggest international beer competition, The World Beer Cup, in Nashville, TN. It is an easy drinking bready, strong lager with a nice brilliance to it. It isn't too bitter but has a nice sweet malt note and is very easy to drink. There is nice balance of different malts and the noble hops that make this beer fun to drink. Congratulations to Pollyanna on making an award winner!


Evan Rosenberg


Certified Cicerone®

Asheville, NC

828-677-2337 (BEER)

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