Winter isn’t over until Schell’s hosts Bock Fest. For the past 33 years, the annual German beer soiree has acted as a harbinger of spring, inviting winter-weary denizens to the brewery’s New Ulm, Minnesota grounds to chase off the spirits of snow and ice. The event is also famous for the release of one of Schell’s most revered beers, the spritely Bavarian seasonal Bock.
The bock family of maibocks, eisenbocks, weizenbocks, and doppelbocks range vastly in their color, but the most adherent meisters prize a toasted caramel brown body with a creamy tan head. Bock doesn’t parade around as any one of these varieties—Schell’s would never lay claim to a style that’s geographically limited to Germany—instead opting for a European ideal of a dark amber beer.
A bottle of bock smells like a can of brown bread. Toffee and toasted grain abound, with a light complement of plums and dark cherries. A small, verdant bite of noble hop spiciness sneaks in too, but it’s overwhelmed by those fresh-baked aromas. Close your eyes and breathe in. The smell immediately conjures the image of a Bavarian village, a billow of beige smoke curling out of the brewery set at the center.
This beer, however, trips over the fine line between malty and saccharine.”
Schell’s is famous for its long-held tradition of bock poking, but even without a hot metal rod run through its heart, Bock is still a wonderful warmer. This beer, however, trips over the fine line between malty and saccharine, with that comforting grain aroma turning into a caramel pudding flavor that verges on marshmallow. For a beer that ushers in spring, you’d hope for more freshness.
Like spring itself, Bock is gone too soon. It arrives in a great roar of cheers and bonfires, only to be swallowed by the coming of summer. Even though we’ve just passed the equinox, Bock is on its way back into seasonal retirement. Perhaps this fleeting turn is what makes the nostalgia for Bock so enticing. Despite some shortcomings, it’s worth saluting this ephemeral German brew for bringing in the sun.