Brewing, as with overthrowing the Ottoman Empire, takes planning. Certain beers taste better at certain times, like Pilsners in the summer, and Russian Imperial Stouts in the winter. There are also many seasonal beers that really shine at a specific time of year. Brewing a specific beer just once a year gives it something special, and reminds you of seasons past. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you enjoy drinking pumpkin beers in July) the rising popularity of these seasonal beers has meant a mad rush to be the first one on the shelf. This has resulted in Oktoberfests being released in April, and being sold out by the time you’re ready to celebrate Prince Ludwig’s nuptials in late September. Who wants to drink a fresh Helles Lager after shoveling the snow out of their driveway? Ok, I do, but you’re missing the point. Thankfully homebrewers are not at the mercy of commercial breweries’ production schedules to get their favorite seasonal beer in the actual season it was meant to be consumed.
This section of the Fermentation Proclamation will focus on getting your seasonal beer into the fermenter on time so it will be ready when the season arrives. Walk this path with us, friends. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Right around late January or early February, my mind starts wandering towards strong lager beers. And also freshly baked pie, but this is a beer blog. Also quite frankly, pie tastes good in any season. The arrival of late winter just begs for strong beer. At this point in the season, I’m already cloud-headed from multiple tipples of strong Stout and Barleywine. But the temperatures in my house being on the chilly side are inviting me to brew some strong lager beer. Strong lagers have the distinct character of being easy to drink, and not chewy like Imperial Stouts or Barleywines. So along those lines, they are great for enjoying in the Spring and Fall as the seasons change.
One of my favorites to enjoy as Old Man Winter fades into Suzy Spring is Maibock. Maibock (or May Bock in English) is a traditional German strong lager typically consumed when the harsh winter has subsided, but it was still too cold to sit in the beer gardens enjoying large mugs of Helles Lager and wheat beers. As the name suggests, this time of year would fall in May. Maibocks share some traits with Bocks and Doppelbocks, but are typically paler in color while holding onto the same robust strength. Where Maibocks differ is the very low addition, if at all, of specialty malts. Also, they are a bit more generously hopped. They are not quite the malt-bombs that Bocks and Doppelbocks are. Being a strong lager beer, fermentation is going to take a touch longer. But most importantly, these beers greatly benefit from extended cool aging so that their flavors can come alive when the season hits.
My take on this style utilizes a touch of toasted malt and a dab of honey to brighten the flavor and aroma. Also the hops are forthright in the brew, but in a German kind of way. Saying this beer is too malty is like saying Point Break wasn’t an awesome flick. This is a delicious beer to enjoy during long-sleeve t-shirt weather. Make sure you give this beer at least two months of aging time in the carboy, bottle or keg.
This is Maibock (Get Your Own)
6.6 lb Briess Pilsen LME
2 lb Briess Pilsen DME
½ Cup of Clover Honey
½ lb Weyermann Munich Malt
¼ lb Briess Victory Malt
1 oz Admiral Hops
4 oz Saaz Hops
2 oz Tradition Hops
Wyeast 2112 or White Labs 810 (two packages needed for this beer)
Fill kettle with 1-2 gallons of water, heat to 160 F. Remove from heat then add the crushed grain (in a muslin bag, no more than a ½ lb per bag). Steep (just like a tea bag) for 30 minutes. Remove the grain bags, and then bring to a boil.
Once at a boil, remove from the heat and add ONE can of liquid malt extract and both pounds of dry malt extract. Do NOT add the second can or honey at this time.
Stir until completely dissolved, and then bring back to a boil
Once up to a boil, start timer for 60 minutes and add 1 oz of Admiral hops
After 45 minutes of boiling (15 minutes left in the boil) add 2 oz of Saaz hops.
After 50 minutes of boiling (10 minutes left in the boil) add 1 oz of Tradition hops.
After 55 minutes of boiling (5 minutes left in the boil) add 1 oz of Saaz hops.
After 58 minutes of boiling (2 minutes left in the boil) add 1 oz of Tradition hops.
After 60 minutes of boiling, turn off heat, and add the last can of malt extract and honey. Stir until dissolved, and then add the last ounce of Saaz hops. Put the lid on your pot, and start to cool the wort (the stuff in your pot) down to room temperature.
Pitch at least two packages of yeast and let ferment at 58-65F
When fermentation stops (confirmed by your hydrometer), bottle or keg as usual and let sit at least 2 months before enjoying.