With gentle carbonation that’s viewable in the pale golden honey-hue, it’s no wonder Helles Lager is a top choice for beer drinkers everywhere.
The line between crisp and bready is perfectly balanced, leading to it being both easy drinking and satisfying.
Here’s everything you need to know about Helles Lager – including which ones to try.
What Is Helles Lager?
Helles Lager is both an active response to perceived competition, and a celebration of marrying different beer brewing techniques. It’s a true culmination of having all the benefits of modern lagers, in a lighter format, and is a beer that amplifies both the simple things in life, while being a masterclass in subtle drinkability.
Hailing from Germany, Helles is what is known now as a traditional lager beer and is most popular in and around the Munich area. It spawned many crafters when it first hit the scene just before the turn of the 20th century, and is notably different from Pilsners, though they do share many of the same characteristics.
How Do You Pronounce Helles?
While many English speakers tend to pronounce “Helles” as – “Heils”, it’s actually pronounced “HELL-us”. It directly translates from German to mean bright and/or pale. An apt description of the Helles beer hues.
What Is The History Of Helles Lager?
While the name Helles may make you think of a beer that comes directly out of Viking folklore, Helles Lager is actually an invention of Bavarian brewers which dates to the late 19th century. It was created as a way to take on the newly popular Czech pilsner. This led to both Pilsner and Helles having an equally long and competing history in the region and leading to the creation of a malty, light alternative to ales.
It is believed that the Germans were worried that they were losing their touch in the beer industry after the invention of the crisp, spicy lagers being produced in the Czech region. These lagers quickly spread in popularity throughout the region. The Bohemian lagers, which many countries know as pilsners, had a spicy take on traditional beers, and German brewers decided to try and create their own version so as not to ‘lose face’ as it were.
Thus, the invention of Helles Lager came about – which in some regions is called Munich Lager. It was given the name Helles due to its characteristic golden hue, and its medium-body, heady pour, made it incredibly popular relatively quickly. It was created in 1894 by Spaten Brewery and was an amalgamation of styles, using a combination of Bohemia, Germanic and British brewing techniques. It is the template from which craft brewers take their cue from in an effort to produce similar, lighter tasting lagers.
What Makes A Lager A Helles? (And How Is It Different To Other Lagers?)
While lagers are known for being crisp and not spicy, unlike pilsners, they are characterised by a distinct maltiness that includes light floral notes while still retaining a clean, crisp appeal. Like most lager varieties found today, Helles beer is made by using a unique yeast variety which helps to ensure its easily differentiated from ales.
Is Helles Beer Good?
The gorgeous golden hues of Helles beer make it intriguing for many, but is it actually good? The answer is a hard ‘hells’ yes (excuse the pun)!
Unless you’re a serious dark beer lover only, you’re certain to find the mix of hops and malt in Helles hit the spot for a dreary afternoon – or a time-out celebrating with friends.
It’s easy to drink and offers the ideal balance between refreshing and satisfying since the malt and hops blend beautifully.
What Does Helles Lager Taste Like?
With an average of 5% alcohol volume, and a medium-to-full bodied appeal, Helles beer is known to have a distinct bread-like maltiness to it, with a very mild hoppiness. It has a smooth flavour and is instantly recognisable thanks to its pale, clear, golden colour.
The light touch of sweetness, combined with a hint of bitterness and the malt and bready tones is what makes Helles such a balanced choice for most activities. It’s just as perfect for hot afternoons and seaside adventures, as it is for those busy nights out with friends. This is a great drink choice if you’re after something other than a standard crisp IPA or richer ale or stout.
Which Breweries Make The Best Helles Lager Around The World?
- Memoria by Hill Farmstead Brewery. It has a 4.7% alcohol volume and no bitterness.
- While – the Helles Beer from the Suarez Family Brewery offers a 4.8% alcohol volume lager, with no bitterness.
- Original Lager by Goldfinger Brewing Company offers a 5.2% Helles. It has an 18 on the bitterness scale.
- Free To Roam by Tree House Brewing Company Lager, have a 5% alcohol volume Helles. It has no bitterness and a gorgeous golden hue to it.
- Alpenglow from Sixpoint Brewery offers a cold-stored Helles Lager, that has its hops sourced directly from family farms in Bavaria. It has an alcohol level of 4.9% and no bitterness.
- Lagerbier Hell by Augustiner-Bräu in Germany is a Helles Beer with a 5.2% alcohol volume. It has no bitterness and is an easily digestible and refreshing option.
- Calvors Helles Lager is a 3.8% AVB, with a very crisp and refreshing flavour. Available in the UK.
- Amber Johannes produced in Poland is a Heller – bock beer mix, with a 6.5% alcohol volume. It’s got a good frothy head, pale hue, and clean taste.
What Is The Most Popular Helles Lager Brand In The World?
According to the beer-rating website Untappd on their blog, the most popular Helles Lager brand is the Lagerbier Hell by Augustiner-Bräu München – which truly is a top choice in Europe with a 5.2% alcohol volume and a bitterness of only 12 IBU. If you look purely at the worldwide customer ranking on their main website Untappd, however, then it is Memoria by Hill Farmstead Brewery which wins hands down. With a gentle carbonation from the refined brewing techniques, it has a 4.3-star rating and tops anything by other listed Heller beer brands.
What Foods Can You Pair With Helles Lager?
Due to the numerous food pairings that do well with Helles beer, we’ve picked a few of our favourites. You’ll notice they are quite similar to Pilsner food pairings, since they share many of the same characteristics. Spicy sausages. Soft cheeses. Fresh, yeasty bread, and even salad and herbed fish pair well with Helles beers.
We think that there’s nothing better than getting together with friends and dining on freshly baked farm bread paired with cheese and some cold meat cuts to balance out the Helles Lager served. It’s a hell of a good brew!
Jake has been a craft beer and homebrew enthusiast since his college days. He loves scouring Europe for unique and unusual hops to add to his beers.
Founder of Jake’s Brew Haven – he currently hosts beer-tasting sessions at select local pubs in Baltimore.
Jump To a Section Below
- What Is Helles Lager?
- How Do You Pronounce Helles?
- What Is The History Of Helles Lager?
- What Makes A Lager A Helles? (And How Is It Different To Other Lagers?)
- Is Helles Beer Good?
- What Does Helles Lager Taste Like?
- Which Breweries Make The Best Helles Lager Around The World?
- What Is The Most Popular Helles Lager Brand In The World?
- What Foods Can You Pair With Helles Lager?