With the Munich Helles and Dopplebock under my belt I’ve gotten over the initial trepidation associated with a lager.  In fact, the first beer that I helped my Brother-in-Law brew as he began his homebrewing journey was a Schwarzbier.  I thought I’d get another one going (since it takes about 3 months).  Looking at the time of year it seemed appropriate to make a Maibock. 

So what is a Maibock?  It can be thought of as either a pale version of a traditional bock, or a Munich Helles brewed to bock strength. While quite malty, this beer typically has less dark and rich malt flavors than a traditional bock. May also be drier, hoppier, and more bitter than a traditional bock. The hops compensate for the lower level of melanoidins. There is some dispute whether Helles (“pale”) Bock and Mai (“May”) Bock are synonymous. Most agree that they are identical (as is the consensus for Märzen and Oktoberfest), but some believe that Maibock is a “fest” type beer hitting the upper limits of hopping and color for the range. Any fruitiness is due to Munich and other specialty malts, not yeast-derived esters developed during fermentation.

Here’s how my Maibock stacks up against the guidelines.

  BJCP Guidelines ThreePines Maibock
IBUs 23-35 28
SRM 6-11 7.9
OG 1.064-1.072 1.066
FG 1.011-1.018 1.016 Est.
ABV 6.3-7.4% 6.53% Est.

So, what was special about this brew?  Well, like any other lager it required a larger than normal starter and a ferment at around 47 degrees.  What was different was the fact that I did a triple decoction mash.

Many beers first used a triple decoction as this method provided an easy way to get repeatable results during a mash without the use of a thermometer.  A triple decoction was also almost a requirement with pilsner and/or munich malt historically being less modified than today’s examples.  Higher modification leads to easier sugar extraction during the mash.

Decoction is basically the process of taking a portion of the mash (mostly grain) and bringing it to a boil to then add it back to the mash to bring the temperature of the mash from one rest temperature to the next.  Here’s what I did…

  1. Mash in with about 3 gallons of water at 70 degrees (13lbs of grain). Hold for 15 mins.
  2. Add 2 gallons of 169 degree water to bring mash to 105 degree acid rest.  Hold for 20 mins.
  3. Decoct 1 gallon of mash, bring to boil for 5 mins and add back to mash to bring to 122 degree protein rest for 10 mins.
  4. Decoct 2.25 gallons of mash, bring to boil for 2 mins, add back to mash to bring to 155 degree dextrinization rest for 20 mins
  5. Decoct 1.5 gallons of mash, bring to boil for 5 mins, add back to mash to bring to mash out temp of 170 degrees for 5 mins.

At this point I then carried out my standard batch sparge where I drained the mash tun, collecting about 2.5 gallons of wort and then added about 5.6 gals of 168 degree sparge water to collect an addition 5.5 gallons of wort in preparation for my boil.

At the end of a much longer brew day (added on about 2-3 hours) I had successfully completed my first triple decoction.   Whether I do this again will depend on how well it comes out… looking forward to the end of May.