What the Hell Is a Helles?

Vic lagHey even though we act like it, we admit we don’t know everything. And one thing that’s cool to know more about is the kind of beer that you’re drinking. Every craft beer style has its own backstory, a hometown, and a reason why it came about. It’s all part of a beer’s DNA and we think that matters.

So welcome to the latest in our ongoing series (drum roll please…) “What the Hell Is a Helles?”

The Basics:

Well, first and foremost, it’s a Lager…but a unique and distinctive one. The Helles-style Lager was originally developed around Munich in the late nineteenth century by Bavarian brewers to compete with the hugely popular Czech Pilsner. The Germans feared they were losing their beer “cred” to the crisp and clean lagers from bohemia (that we commonly call Pilsners in the states) and the Helles Lager was their answer. Although both beers can share a spicy hop bitterness that many associate with the classic Pils, traditionally the Helles Lager is a bit breadier and exerts more malt-forward characteristics than its Czech rival. Sometimes referred to as a “Munich Helles Lager,” this classic beer is medium-bodied, pours heady, and has a striking golden color.

Relatively young by brewing standards, the “Helles” (which means “bright” in German) Lager was championed by and evolved out of the Spaten Brewery’s marriage of British, Bohemian, and German brewing techniques and made its debut in 1894. The Helles Lager is an integral part of brewing history and a predecessor to the golden lagers that are so widely consumed around the world today.

Helles-Style Beers We Like and You Might Want to Try:

Dc505Schlafly Summer Lager – (Saint Louis, MO) – “A brilliant American craft beer take on the Helles style and a great place to start.”

Victory Lager – (Downingtown, PA) – “This is one of their flagships and it’s available year-round.”

Hangar 24 Helles Lager – Redlands, CA – “West-coast Helles in a can – you’ve got to love that!”

Our Take:

Nothing says summer like craft beer’s golden lagers – so many of which are decendents and variations of Munich’s Helles Lager. It’s a flavorful yet refreshingly uncomplicated style and one of the world’s most common and popular beers. Inherently sessionable due to its relatively low ABV, these Lagers lend themselves to early afternoon and hot weather drinking. The Helles Lager is what we’d call a classic “lawnmower” beer – and it’s the perfect refreshment after a hot summer day of working in the yard and a vacation standard built for drinking many!

For more in our ongoing “What the Hell Is?” series, check out:

What the Hell is a Kölsch?

What the Hell is a Rauchbier?

What the Hell is a Gruit Ale?

What the Hell Is a Märzen?

About AmericanCraftBeer.com

AmericanCraftBeer.com is the nations' leading source for the Best Craft Beer News, Reviews, Events and Media.
Scroll To Top