Originally Posted on May 12, 2017
Welcome to Beers of Europe’s Beer Classification Guide. In this series we walk you through different beer styles, opening your eyes to the origins of the type and how it has developed over the course of its history. For the home brewers amongst you, we include the brewing specifications for the style and food pairings, as well as what makes it different from others. Finally, we give you the best examples of the type that you can buy straight from our website. The last entry covered a style that originates from the city of Cologne, Kolsch. This week we continue looking through lager styles, where we travel from Cologne to Munich, to look at the beer that made it one of the world’s biggest brewing cities. Today, we take a look at the helles.
Origins and History
The Germans have been brewing for a thousand years, and are undoubtedly one of the world’s best brewing countries. They have a rich history of brewing beers with colour and complex flavour to them. Then, in the nineteenth century, they get wind of a new style, all the way from Plzen, Bohemia. They have brewed what would become known as a pilsner, a much lighter style than what was being brewed at the time. Large Munich brewers, including those at Spaten, began experimenting with their beer, trying to produce as paler beer as they could. Eventually, through trial and error, they were able to create the helles, a malt based version of the pilsner. Although still considered today to be a fairly young style, the Germans are truly the masters of the style.
A helles is typically around the 5-5.5% ABV, and has a low IBU of 20-25. It is pale gold in colour, which it acquires from the light malts of Pilsner and Munich, which are then balanced by German Noble hops. The helles normally leads with the malts, resulting in a medium bodied lager with a prominent bread note. It can be served in a variety of glasses, with steins, flutes and tumblers the best types of glassware. The serving temperature should be 7-8⁰C and compliments Indian cuisine, aside from traditional German foods.
Augustiner Lagerbier Helles
This is a perfect example of the helles category. One of Munich’s big six breweries, the Augustiner Monks began brewing in 1328. The brewery has changed hands many times whilst consistently producing top quality beer. They have become known across the world for their Lagerbier Hell, which we recommend to anyone who wants to try a top class beverage. You can find Augustiner Lagerbier Helles here;
This Greek beer was founded by Loannis Fix in 1850. He had moved back home to Greece following several years in Munich. Having enjoyed many a helles in Munich, he brewed the countries first beer under his family name, FIX. This is a 5%ABV light lager with a perfume aroma and fruit flavours. High quality ingredients and modern methods guarantee a superb tasting beer perfect no matter what time of day. You can pick up Fix Hellas here;
Despite its relatively young age, this style has taken Munich by storm. The entirety of the Big Six, Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau Paulaner and Spaten all have their helles as their flagship beer. It hasn’t quite gripped other breweries around the world, possibly due to the simplicity of the style, but the German helles that are exported are enjoyed the world over. It is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, ensuring its quality and that’s exactly why it is so popular.
Article by Matthew Keeley-Smith