May Day

Hooray hooray it’s the first of May! Outdoor drinking starts today!

Those were the very words uttered by your intrepid liquor reporter earlier this month, when I rolled out of bed on a warm and sunny morning. Well… the morning was pretty much over by the time I rolled out of bed, but you get the idea.

A young lady of very recent acquaintance was nudged towards wakefulness by my outburst, sitting bolt upright and mentioning something about me looking much better at last call the previous night at the Chestermere Landing, but even that didn’t dampen my spirits!

The first of May is a good time to start out patio drinking season right, and since I had to run errands in the city, I made a beeline for the Ship & Anchor in downtown Calgary, well known for the best patio on the prairies.

Back in the days of my squandered youth, the Ship & Anchor was affectionately known as the Lip & Chancre, the Whip & Spanker, and a host of others far too torrid to repeat here.

The patio certainly did not disappoint on the first day of May, being full to capacity by early afternoon. A bit of live music on the stage made for the perfect accompaniment to the quintessential May beer.

And what, you may ask, is the quintessential May beer? Maibock of course!

It was a happy coincidence that Paddock Wood Brewing out of Saskatoon had just run off a limited release of a Maibock styled beer to celebrate the beginning of patio drinking season, and there was plenty of stock behind the bar.

Those who do not sprechen sie Deutsch should pronounce Maibock as “my bock”, which literally means “May Bock”, as in the Bock for the month of May.

For those not in the know, Maibock is a full bodied German beer that is traditionally released in May. The true origins of the Bock name have been lost in the beer-soaked mists of time, but the most popular assumption is that Bock is a corruption of the word Einbeck, the small Bavarian town that invented this particular style.

Interestingly, Bock is also the German term for a male goat, so the high-alcohol brew is often assumed to have the kick of a billy goat. Further in line with the whole goat mythos, Bock is normally brewed while Capricorn (aka the goat) is ascendant in the heavens, so you’ll just have to pick the story you like best.

Back in the middle ages, Bock was traditionally brewed in the Winter or Spring seasons, using dark roasted malts and very little hops. This resulted in a slight caramel flavor in the beer, and very little bitterness.

Remember, this was in the days before refrigeration, so beer could only be brewed in the colder months, as the wild yeasts and microorganisms in the air during the summer would spoil the beer.

That’s where Maibock comes in. In preparation for the coming of spring, a large batch of beer would be brewed up around Easter, then saved for the spring festivals to celebrate the arrival of the warmer seasons. Since this beer was cracked open at the beginning of May, it became known as Maibock.

Eventually, a particular style evolved for this first beer of spring, with a much paler color than the traditional Bock beers. Like other Bocks, Maibock is still a high-alcohol beer, generally around 6-7% ABV. While all Bocks have a relatively sweet taste, Maibock is slightly more hoppy, with a cleaner and slightly spicy and aromatic finish.

Living up to its name, the Maibock from Paddock Wood weighed in at 7% ABV, so it is noticeably stronger than your average beer.

For those bad at math, 2 of these bad boys is equivalent to around 3 regular bottles of beer, so your humble narrator had to pace himself to avoid slipping under the table.

This limited release Maibock from Paddock Wood is available on tap in a few places, but you can find the six-packs at well stocked booze merchants, but only for a short time, making them highly sought after by the beer nerds of the province.

If you’d like to try one, high-tail it to your local well-stocked booze merchant, to pick one up before they are gone.

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