In both 2015 and 2016, I found myself in New Orleans within a week of its Mardi Gras festivities. This year, I'll be home, but I figured I'd keep the tradition alive by enjoying the Mardi Gras Bock from Louisiana's Abita Brewing Co. a full two weeks — to be consistent — before the holiday itself.
Abita is somewhat hit or miss for me, but this beer is unquestionably the former. It's a maibock: a German-style amber lager that's essentially a more substantial version of a helles bock. These beers are usually consumed in the late spring (in German, mai refers to the month of May), but Abita's seasonal maibock is available from January to March.
Light copper in color and with a creamy white head, Abita's Mardi Gras Bock has the distinctive caramel-sweet aroma of a bock beer, with an underlying spiciness, courtesy of German Perle hops. The flavor is exceptionally well balanced, with a subtle, earthy bitterness playing against a rich, malt-driven base.
Abita's take on the maibock style is a nice choice for late winter. It's full-bodied and sits on the stronger side at 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, but it's very crisp and not overly sweet, making it equally suitable for warm weather drinking.
Don't expect anything to jump out at you when you try this beer — its strength lies in its subtlety. It's one of the best brews on the Abita roster, and it's only around for another month or so. Grab a few now, and get a head start on Mardi Gras.
Justin Grant, Times correspondent