The long history of maibock — sometimes known as helles bock, or simply “light” bock — dates back to the early 17th century. Maximilian I, the Duke of Bavaria, commissioned a man by the name of Elias Pilcher to concoct a light, hoppy version of a bock-style lager. Today, most Germans see it as a warm-weather exclusive, reserved for outdoor festivals during the month of May (hence the mai in maibock).
Though its flavor is less bready, and more bitter, than traditional bocks — which are generally smooth and toasty, brewed to showcase the malt backbone of the mash bill — maibocks are equally boozy. Hofbräu’s version, for example, the archetype of the style, has an ABV of 7.2%. German imports still set the bar for your standard maibock, but stateside brewers have adopted this Bavarian classic, incorporating it into both their year-round and seasonal offerings. These are the three to seek out from your local stockists.
Carton Brewing Ron’s Steam Bock Haircut
ABV: 6.6% | IBU: 25 | Brewery Location: Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey
Beer Advocate Rating: N/A | Availability: Limited
Brewed in collaboration with Green Flash and Alpine, both breweries based in California, Ron’s Steam Bock Haircut pours amber-orange with a white head. It tastes fresh and clean, with moderate carbonation, and finishes with a hoppy profile and lingering sweetness.
Rogue Dead Guy Ale
ABV: 6.6% | IBU: 40 | Brewery Location: Portland, Oregon
Beer Advocate Rating: 88 | Availability: Year-Round
Though technically an ale rather than a lager (it’s brewed using top-fermenting Pacman yeast), Rogue still classifies this crisp crowd-pleaser as a maibock — and that’s just fine. It pours hazy amber with a good balance of malt and hops near the finish.
Hofbräu München Maibock
ABV: 7.2% | IBU: Unknown | Brewery Location: Munich, Germany
Beer Advocate Rating: 87 | Availability: Seasonal
Hofbräu lays claim to having established the maibock style back in 1614. The color is clear, an opaque amber. It’s also the most malt-driven of the beers listed here, finishing with a mild bitterness. (Though Hofbräu doesn’t advertise the IBU, we’re guessing it’s fairly low — without the natural preservative quality of hops, drink it early in the season while it’s still fresh.)