By Sarah Jaquay
Spring beers often get short shrift. Perhaps it’s because the season is so fleeting in many parts of the world, including Ohio and Germany—where the concept of brewing special beers for springtime is best-known. Bock beers are most associated with the season. The style got its start in the town of Einbeck, Germany, but Bavarian citizens pronounced the beer “Einbock,” which means “billy goat.” (Celebrated bock brands have goats on their labels to this day.)
These strong dark lagers were brewed by monks as “liquid bread ” which allowed them to drink while keeping their Lenten fast. Some popular subcategories of “bockbier” are Maibock (beer brewed for the month of May)—it often has considerable hop character with similar alcohol levels to a traditional bock (5.7-8 percent)—and double bock (a.k.a. “dopplebock”), a stronger, maltier version (7-13 percent.)
As with any beer style, to present it in the best light means choosing glassware that promotes head development and retention. The foamy head acts as a net for evaporating compounds that create its aromas: hop oils and all kinds of yeast byproducts such as alcohol, fruity esters, spices and other additions (a.k.a. volatiles). Trapping volatiles is what beckons the beer buff to the glass—distinctive aromas that hint at flavors and alcohol levels to come. Desired head retention varies with beer styles, but the online magazine BeerAdvocate.com suggests serving bocks in Champagne flutes as their length and narrow shape enhance carbonation and release upfront aromas quickly. For Maibock and dopplebocks, BeerAdvocate.com suggests German-style mugs or steins. The mug/stein advantage seems to have originated because it’s easier to clink them through repeated toasts without shattering the glassware.
But the late British beer guru Michael Jackson is the last word on appropriate glassware. Cross-referencing BeerAdvocate.com’s categories of glassware to venerable bock brands noted in Jackson’s book, Ultimate Beer, it appears dopplebocks should be served in brandy snifters and Maibock should be served in ceramic mugs—preferably at 48°F.