Munich Helles Lager
A Munich Helles Lager (“Myoo-nik Hell-us”), often referred to as simply a “Helles”, is a vibrant golden lager first brewed in Munich, Germany in 1895 at Spaten Brewery. These beers were created as Germany’s way of competing with the rising popularity of Czech Pilsners that were brewed during that time.
While there are similar characteristics between a Munich Helles Lager and a Pilsner, such as their zesty hop elements, the former is softer and is far more malt-oriented than a Pilsner. The Helles Lager is in fact more similar to the Munich Dunkel (“Doonn-kel”) meaning “dark” in German, and is essentially a darker version of the Munich Helles which means “bright” in German. The three main ingredients in this beer are moderately carbonated water, Pilsner malt and German noble hops, which come in a variety of styles.
The Munich Helles Lager is generally sweet on the nose and has distinct Pilsner malt aromas with a hint of spicy hops. Similarly, the palate can be described as having a subtle sweetness to it accompanied by the predominate malty flavors that exhibit toasted, bread-like elements. Although the malt presence is evident on the palate, there should be a good balance with the hops without causing bitterness. These beers are clean, moderately carbonated with a smooth mouthfeel that ends in a malty finish. Munich Helles are pale gold to light straw colored and never cloudy with a thick buttery head. They have an ABV range of 4.5 - 5.5% and IBU’s of 16 - 25.
Numerous beers of this style have been included in our Craft Beer of the Month Club, including a Munich Helles Lager from Penn Brewery in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania which won 4 Gold Medals from the Great American Beer Festival. They’ve been brewing German-style beers since 1986. This style will undoubtedly be featured again in our monthly beer club. Prost!
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