For those of us in the northeast, it may seem like winter is not even remotely close to ending. But, the first day of spring is March 20th, also known as the Vernal or March Equinox. It is now less than a month until spring technically begins. What styles of beer is spring known for? I’m glad you asked. Spring is an important season in the world of beerdom. It’s the time of year when breweries begin their slow crawl towards the lighter fare of late spring, summer and early fall. It’s a time for craft breweries to roll out their special spring ales. But, don’t worry; it’s always the perfect time of year for bocks and stouts.
It’s especially nice to imbibe these two styles due to the fact that it will barely seem like spring come late March. It doesn’t matter if Punxsatawney Phil sees his shadow or not, spring doesn’t come very quickly around here. Where I live, it even snows in early April from time to time. There are no firm guarantees of definite sun and warmth until mid-May at least. So let’s drink up (just to stay warm at least)!
Now, we all think we know a fair amount about stouts, but not nearly as much about its spring rival bock. Stouts are the consummate spring beer due to St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) falling only a few days before the start of spring. Honestly, nothing screams spring more than a nice Guinness on and around St. Patrick’s Day. But, do we really know anything about stouts other than things we learned from Guinness commercials?
A stout is a very dark (sometimes pitch black) beer made from roasted malt, hops, water and yeast. The most common kinds of stouts are Irish stout (Guinness), Imperial stout, Porter (yes, porters are stouts), Baltic Porter, Milk stout, Oatmeal stout, Chocolate stout and Coffee stout.
You like Guinness? Try some of these stouts during the coming months:
Beamish and Crawford’s Beamish Irish Stout (4.10%ABV)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Sierra Nevada Stout (5.8%ABV)
Butternuts Beer and Ale’s Moo Thunder Stout (4.9%ABV)
F.X. Matt Brewing Company’s Saranac Vanilla Stout (4.8%ABV)
The other style commonly associated with spring is the bock beer. To completely understand bock, we must delve into its rich and storied history. It is commonly believed to have originated in Einbeck, Germany somewhere around the 14th century. Today, the city of Einbeck’s motto is even, “Without Einbeck, there would be no bock beer”.
The beer was originally brewed by Catholic monks during lent. The monks fasted during the day and believed that bock beers provided the most energy and nutrients to get them through their days. Even if they were hungry, they still had a little buzz going on to help them make it through their chores and what not.
Another story (that may or may not be true) greatly helps us understand why the goat is often associated with the style. Sometimes, in the case of Genny Bock from the Genesee Brewing Company, it even adorns the can. It is thought that possibly Bock brewers in medieval times thought that the best time of the year to brew the frosty stuff was under the sign of Capricorn. Plus, the word bock means goat in German. But, that’s not the only reason to name a beer after this beloved bearded barnyard animal.
There is also the humorous tale of the nobleman and the knight. There was a drinking contest between a Bavarian Duke and a knight from Brunswick. Each of the two brewed their own bock, but both believed theirs was the most potent. Each sampled a cask of their opponent’s brew. After many a drink, the Duke appeared to remain sober while the knight had fallen out of his chair and was sprawled out on the ground. He claimed that a goat that had found its way into the courtyard had kicked his chair over and caused him to fall. The Duke laughed and said, “The bock that threw you over was brewed by me.”
There are several different kinds of bock. They are traditional bock, Maibock, Hellerbock, Doppelbock and Eisbock.
You can find a ton of bock beers in the U.S. I encourage you to give one of these a try:
Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock (6.7%ABV)
Anchor Brewing Company’s Anchor Bock Beer (5.5%ABV)
Spoetzl Brewery’s Shiner Bock (4.4%ABV)
Otter Creek Brewing Company’s Mud Bock (5.6%ABV)
Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Rockefeller Bock (7.5%ABV)