Bocks from Belleflower, Tributary and Schilling. Photo by Ben Lisle

“The best drink one can know” is a bock beer. Or at least, that’s what religious reformer Martin Luther declared when he was summoned to defend himself at the General Assembly in Worms in 1521, with a jug of Einbeck-brewed beer in tow.

The first commercial bock beer was brewed in Einbeck, a town in central Germany. In the 14th century, bocks would be shipped to Scandinavia, Russia, Britain and Flanders, according to beer historian Conrad Seidl. Like Luther, drinkers were impressed by the beer’s quality, which was assured by a peculiar form of oversight. Einbeck’s burghers were allowed to make their own beer; however, they were not permitted to own a brewhouse. Professional brewers would bring the city-owned kettle to the homes of these brewing burghers. There, they would oversee the brewing process, certifying its integrity before the beer would be sold or shipped abroad.

By the early 1600s, bocks were being brewed in Bavaria, and a number of versions emerged, ranging in color, sweetness and strength. The defining quality of a “bock” these days is its strength, making them suitable companions for the transition from spring to summer. The “Maibock” – paler in color and a little hoppier than most bocks – is quite literally a beer for May.

Maine’s bock harvest has been a little meager this year, perhaps reflecting some of the challenges facing craft brewers in a tighter market. But in addition to the many German imports on offer, bock lovers can find a handful of local interpretations that are well worth their time, forecasting warmer days ahead. (And with a little luck, maybe a few more will bloom.)

Belleflower Maibock, Belleflower Brewing Co.

STYLE: Maibock
ABV: 6.8%
NOTES: This lovely beer featured at the brewery’s first “Maifest” about a week ago. It pours a pale amber. Floral, honied and malty, with a hint of plum. The alcohol is present, but humble, in this medium-bodied, balanced beer. I only hope they made enough to sustain me through the month, because this went right into my rotation.

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Pilsbock, Tributary Brewing Co.

STYLE: Bock
ABV: 7.9%
NOTES: This collaboration between Kittery’s Tributary and Portsmouth’s Liar’s Bench Beer Co. is quite distinctive – a pilsner on steroids. Deep gold in color, the boozy nose grabs your attention. A touch herbal, with pear accents, it is smooth-bodied with a bitter and boozy finish. Big and aggressive, it’s got some swagger.

Eineybock, Schilling Beer Co.

STYLE: Foeder-lagered Bock
ABV: 7.2%
NOTES: If you’re not drinking lagers from New Hampshire’s Schilling Beer Co., you are missing out. The aptly named “Eineybock” is a collaboration with San Diego’s North Park Brewing. This brown amber beer is rich with flavors of bread crust, molasses, toffee and dried fruit. It is brightly carbonated, with a buzzy finish. Two months spent in an oak foeder lends a composed, rounded mouthfeel to this hearty, but elegant bock.


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