For May, what beer is more natural than a Maibock?
The German bock tradition originated seven hundred years ago in the northern-German town of Einbeck and was later picked up by brewers in Bavaria who created the Maibock variant. They pronounced the name of the town as “ein Bock” which means “a goat” in German. As a result you’ll often seen the image of a goat on bock labels.
Maibock is an offshoot of the traditional bock and is associated with springtime and often the end of Lent (time to get drunk!). Similarities include a medium/high alcohol content, usually in the 6 – 8% range, and the golden to light-amber color. Where Maibock differentiates itself is in the hops. While still maintaining the strongly-malted profile of bocks, Maibock introduces additional hop notes for a more balanced taste and a drier finish. You’ll still find bock’s bready and toasty malts, but with a side of bittering, spice and pepper from Noble hops.
Maibock serves as a wonderful transition from heavy, malted winter beers into lighter, hoppier summer beers. With the increasingly longer days, this style provides a great metaphor for coming out of the darkness into the light!
When a friend scheduled a brewery crawl up in Longmont I had some reservations, given the remoteness of the location. However, I’d enjoyed Wibby Brewing at a few festivals so I made the effort to drive way up north and overall was pleased with the results. At heart, Wibby is a German-style brewery, which provides a preview of the beers you’ll encounter. The brewery is also all about about the outdoors with huge areas of tables and games but a rather cramped taproom; in other words, best to visit during warm weather.
BEER LINEUP: As mentioned, Wibby has a focus on German styles and you’ll find plenty of helles and dunkel being thrown around. However, likely in deference to current tastes, they also pour several IPAs, a red and other non-German styles.
ATMOSPHERE: The setup includes a HUGE outdoor area with several seating sections plus a game area. The small indoor taproom definitely encourages taking the party outside. The overall design is relatively cookie-cutter; rustic/industrial with brewing equipment at one end and garage doors opening to the patio on the other. One novel concept is direct bar ordering from the patio. The crowd seemed younger and happy to be chilling out with some brews and bar games. With no kitchen, Wibby’s hosts food trucks to satisfy customers’ hunger.
SERVICE: The service was reasonably fast and the bartender was friendly.
NEIGHBORHOOD: The area is currently very industrial but appears to be transforming rapidly, with a huge apartment complex going up across the street. It’s just a couple of blocks from Longmont’s main street so a visit can be combined with some shopping and dining. It’s also within a longish walk or a short bike ride or drive to several other breweries so a pub crawl also works as an option. They have a parking lot plus plenty of street parking (for now, at least). One additional transportation note: The Brew Hop Trolley runs on weekend days for those too tired or drunk to walk, bike or drive the route.
STANDOUT BEER:Moondoor Dunkel. At a German place I had to go native. This mahogany/brown beer hits you with heavy roasted malt and lots of it! Notes of chocolate along with the medium body keeps it from being overwhelming, though.
March brings springtime and slightly warmer temps, but many days still have a nip in the air, which makes Altbier a great fit for this month’s beer. Altbier lightens things up from the thick, alcohol-heavy beers of winter and bridges the gap to lighter summer beers. While not a hard and fast rule, Alts were traditionally more often made in the winter and spring months so if there’s a season for it, now’s the time.
Historically, Altbier has come from Dusseldorf and the surrounding region of Germany. It differentiates itself from other German lagers in that it uses top-fermenting yeast but still ferments at cool temperatures like bottom-fermenting lagers. The cooler temperatures result in a slower and longer fermentation. Alt means “old” in German and may refer to the longer time that it takes to make the beer or that the use of top-fermenting yeast is an older method of beer-making.
The longer fermenting and conditioning time produces a smooth, balanced beer with an amber to auburn color rarely straying into brown territory. The initial aroma should be clean and slightly malty with the potential for very light fruit esters or hop spiciness. The flavor stays true to the aroma with modest maltiness and possible hints of fruit, spice or herbs from Noble or Spalt hops. Body will be medium and alcohol will fall into the low/medium range and should not be noticeable.
Rarely, you may run across a stronger and more flavorful version called Sticke Alt. This variant has another percent or so of ABV and a more hops-forward taste.
Congratulations to Seedstock Brewery, which scored two brews in Beer Connoisseur’s top 100 of 2018 list! Their Dusseldorf Alt came in at #3 and their Oktoberfest took the 33rd spot. Seedstock was the only Denver-area brewery to make the list and in recognition of the honor has re-released the Dusseldorf Alt, which is currently on tap at their West Colfax Avenue taproom.
Located in the CU Denver student union across from the Pepsi Center, Tivoli Brewing Company has a lot going for it with an innovative taproom design, a patio with spectacular views, wonderful service and a German-inspired taplist. The only downside is that it seems kind of stranded, bordered by major streets and highways, far from other entertainment venues and lacking any sort of energy once students go home for the day.
BEER LINEUP: The German-themed beers cover a broad range from traditional German styles to other styles that the brewery has given a German flair with specific hops, yeast, or additives.
ATMOSPHERE: The steampunk-style industrial taproom located in the former Tivoli Brewery features a unique seating area spread on several levels among brewing equipment, exposed pipes, and other industrial artifacts. However the real star of the show is the patio, which faces the downtown Denver skyline and offers beautiful views, particularly at sunset. On a weeknight the vibe quickly drops off from busy student/staff happy hour time to a virtually deserted taproom with an empty and slightly sad feel after 7 p.m. I would expect that nights of Pepsi Center events present a totally different feel as well. Fortunately Tivoli has a full kitchen so you do not have to forage across campus for food.
SERVICE: Even though we were seated at the far end of the patio, our servers showed up frequently and delivered our food and drink orders very quickly. The servers for both our table and the bar were exceptionally friendly and helpful with beer and food information and recommendations.
LOCATION: Tivoli seems stranded in the middle of the campus and heavily trafficked roadways. It’s really not very walkable to anywhere else unless you happen to be going to a Pepsi Center event. You can access it via light rail and a short walk from either of the Pepsi Center or Colfax at Auraria stops, or pay for parking in the nearby garage or at meters. Realistically, unless you happen to be a student on campus this is a destination brewery.
STANDOUT BEER:Sigis Wildhorse Bock Style Ale. This is one of the German-inspired beers and not 100% true to style but still very tasty. The thick-bodied, opaque, reddish/copper beer offered up heavy roasted malt with no noticeable hop flavors. While it is a little darker, heavier, and maltier than I’ve ever tasted in a German beer, it managed to pull through the yeast flavors, carmel sweetness and alcohol of a typical bock. While perhaps this beer would be most enjoyable on a chilly fall evening, it also works reasonably well as summer sipper given the moderate ABV.
Based on the name alone you should guess that Prost Brewing is all about German-style beers, but a taproom visit will strongly confirm that. From their German-themed Highlands taphouse to the strict Germanic brewing process and seasonal beer rotation, Prost stays true to all things German. Traffic and parking in the area can be challenging but Prost distributes most of their beers locally so if the taproom seems too much trouble, you can get many of their beers at bars and liquor stores.
BEER LINEUP: German and, well, more German. That’s their thing and they’re proud of it. The seven standards and seasonal rotaters all conform tightly to their styles.
ATMOSPHERE: The indoor taproom sports a Bierhall theme with German decorations and communal tables. The cavernous space can get loud, but during warm weather you can opt for the outdoor tables, although they lack any German charm. You won’t mistake the roar of I25 for a relaxing German Biergarten, but the spectacular views of downtown help compensate. Prost usually has food truck and if not Avanti is 5 minutes away.
SERVICE:Overstaffed, so excellent. With true German efficiency one server poured and another rang the transaction to deliver beer in near-record time. Staff also usually rotates around the indoor tables if you want to skip the trip to the bar.
NEIGHBORHOOD:The red-hot real estate market in Prost’s I25 & 20th St. location causes the area to change monthly. The immediate neighborhood is developing quickly and you can now incorporate Prost in a bar- and restaurant-hopping walking tour. Or you could keep it simple and combine Prost with the Avanti complex across the park for an afternoon of sipping and sampling food. The major downside of the development is the utter lack of parking. Between new apartments, Avanti, and Prost’s loss of their parking lot you may have to search a while for a spot.
STANDOUT BEER: I can’t pick just one. Having spent lots of time drinking German beers in Germany I can say that that Prost nails each and every style. If you have a vision of your favorite German beer then that’ll be your standout. However if you don’t like the German style, then you should probably take a pass on Prost.
West Colfax has long sat in the shadow of popular East Colfax, but several breweries including Seedstock Brewery now provide some entertainment options along that stretch. Located at Colfax and Lowell, Seedstock focuses on German and Czech styles served in a comfortable taproom or on their patio.
BEER LINEUP: The menu definitely leans toward Czech and German beer styles, but also offers other options including at least one IPA for the hopheads. Seedstock brews a good balance of traditional styles, lesser-known old-world styles, and experimental twists on tradition such as Vanilla Espresso Stout.
ATMOSPHERE: We happened to visit during a boil so the air was thick with tempting malty smells. Aside from that, Seedstock felt chill and the taproom looks like your typical brewery with sturdy seating which opens to the production facility. The good-sized patio feels relatively insulated from Colfax and offers sun during the day and a firepit for chilly evenings.
SERVICE: The service was very relaxed. Despite a rather large crowd the single bartender took everything in stride and provided friendly and efficient service. It seemed like bar service only.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Gritty section of W. Colfax. Seedstock straddles the neighborhood between N. Federal and Casa Bonita so you can observe all kind of randomness . . . or not, depending on the hour and day. For most people this will be a drive-to brewery, which fortunately sits close to major thoroughfares like I25 and features at least some parking.
STANDOUT BEER:Lichtenhainer – This smokey/sour German style was supposedly popular over 100 years ago. While I wouldn’t rate this my favorite beer by any stretch, it stands out as a very unique beer and a pleasant offering for some tastes. The light-bodied beer contains medium sourness and a smoky (think smoked cheddar) flavor. I say contains vs. combines because the two flavors seem to fight it out in your mouth; one minute sour, the next smoky. It makes for interesting drinking and should you decide on more than one, the 3.8% ABV won’t sneak up on you. Even if it doesn’t sound like your thing, you ought to try a sample.