Here in Maine (and nationally, to a lesser degree), maibocks aren’t a particularly popular style. Outside of Rogue‘s fantastic Dead Guy Ale, the style hasn’t gained much traction stateside outside of the occasional craft brewery seasonal. Hopefully well-distributed, well-brewed beer like Lakefront Brewery’s Big Easy signal an upswing for the German style.
Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery is a famously forward-thinking brewery. The outfit is perhaps best known for producing the first certified organic beer in the US, the Lakefront Organic ESB. Lakefront brews New Grist, arguably the most popular gluten-free beer on the market. The brewery was also the first in the US to bottle fruit beer back in 1992, a beer style that has exploded in popularity since then. Finally, the brewery is “Travel Green Wisconsin” certified, and encourages environmental awareness and environmentally responsible practices.
Lakefront Brewery produces a huge number of ales and lagers, about a dozen of which have won awards in the US and abroad. I found the Big Easy Imperial Maibock Lager at RSVP in Portland at about 9.50 for a six-pack. Fun fact: the Mardi Gras-influenced seasonal came with some beads, which I happily wore while reviewing the beer.
A imperial beer like this begs for a substantial glass, so I drank the Big Easy from a Bavarian Seidel. The pour is a rich, deep gold around the edge of the mug, deepening almost to amber in the middle. While it starts with a nice finger-width and pearl-white head, the foam quickly fades to a slight ring around the mug. The nose is almost all sweet and bready malt, with just a hint of tart fruit and grassy hops. Even though the aroma is on the light side, it hits all the right notes for the style.
At first taste, the Big Easy puts those sweet malts front and center. Full and bready, with sweet notes of caramel start the taste. The style’s signature fruit flavors hit next, with slightly tart apple and fig the most apparent. The brew finishes with a slight alcohol bite and warmth, with a lingering fruity alcohol aftertaste. In terms of mouthfeel the Big Easy is right in the center of the road, with a Goldilocks body and carbonation – not too heavy, not too light.
With May coming soon, I wholly recommend Lakefront’s easy-drinking Big Easy as a spring beer to add to your pantry. Like the Rogue Dead Guy, Lakefront’s brew is a rare respectable American version of the classic German maibock. Since Big Easy occupies the even-rarer ground of being released in sixers (rather than bombers), I’d suggest getting a pack and working your way through it as we roll towards the ever-popular summer seasonals.