4A. Munich Helles

Overall Impression

A clean, malty, gold-colored German lager with a smooth grainy-sweet malty flavor and a soft, dry finish. Subtle spicy, floral, or herbal hops and restrained bitterness help keep the balance malty but not sweet, which helps make this beer a refreshing, everyday drink.

Appearance

Medium yellow to pale gold. Clear. Persistent creamy white head.

Aroma

Moderate grainy-sweet malt aroma. Low to moderately-low spicy, floral, or herbal hop aroma. While a clean aroma is most desirable, a very low background note of DMS is not a fault. Pleasant, clean fermentation profile, with malt dominating the balance. The freshest examples will have more of a malty-sweet aroma.

Flavor

Moderately malty start with the suggestion of sweetness, moderate grainy-sweet malt flavor with a soft, rounded palate impression, supported by a low to medium-low hop bitterness. The finish is soft and dry, not crisp and biting. Low to moderately-low spicy, floral or herbal hop flavor. The malt dominates the hops in the palate, finish, and aftertaste, but the hops should be noticeable. There should not be any residual sweetness, simply the impression of maltiness with restrained bitterness. Very fresh examples will seem sweeter due to the fresh, rich malt character that can fade with time. Clean fermentation profile.

Mouthfeel

Medium body. Medium carbonation. Smooth, well-lagered character.

Comments

A fully-attenuated Pils malt showcase, Helles is a malt-accentuated beer that is not overly sweet, but rather focuses on malt flavor with underlying hop bitterness in a supporting role. Export examples can quickly lose some of the rich malt character that often suggests sweetness. Helles in Munich tends to be lighter in all aspects than those outside the city, which can be more assertive with more body, flavor, and hop character.

History

Created in Munich in 1894 at the Spaten brewery to compete with pale Pilsner-type beers. Currently the most popular style in Southern Germany.

Characteristic Ingredients

Continental Pilsner malt, traditional German Saazer-type hop varieties, clean German lager yeast.

Style Comparison

Similar in malt balance and bitterness to Munich Dunkel, but less malty-sweet in nature and pale rather than dark. More body and malt presence than a German Pils, with less hop character throughout. Similar malt profile as a German Exportbier, but with less hops in the balance.

Vital Statistics

IBU

16 - 22

SRM

3 - 5

OG

1.044 - 1.048

FG

1.006 - 1.012

ABV

4.7% - 5.4%

Commercial Examples

Augustiner Lagerbier Hell, Bürgerbräu Wolznacher Hell Naturtrüb, Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Gold, Löwenbraü Original, Paulaner Premium Lager, Spaten Premium Lager, Weihenstephaner Original.

4B. Festbier

Overall Impression

A smooth, clean, pale German lager with a moderately strong malty flavor and a light hop character. Deftly balances strength and drinkability, with a palate impression and finish that encourages drinking. Showcases elegant German malt flavors without becoming too heavy or filling.

Appearance

Deep yellow to deep gold color; should not have amber hues. Bright clarity. Persistent white to off-white foam stand. Most commercial examples are medium gold in color.

Aroma

Moderate malty richness, with an emphasis on toasty-doughy aromatics and an impression of sweetness. Low to medium-low floral, herbal, or spicy hops. The malt should not have a deeply toasted, caramel, or biscuity quality. Clean lager fermentation character.

Flavor

Medium to medium-high malty flavor initially, with a lightly toasty, bread dough quality and an impression of soft sweetness. Medium to medium-low bitterness, definitely malty in the balance. Well-attenuated and crisp, but not dry. Medium-low to medium floral, herbal, or spicy hop flavor. Clean lager fermentation character. The taste is mostly of Pils malt, but with slightly toasty hints. The bitterness is supportive, but still should yield a malty, flavorful finish.

Mouthfeel

Medium body, with a smooth, somewhat creamy texture. Medium carbonation. Alcohol strength barely noticeable as warming, if at all.

Comments

This style represents the modern German beer served at Oktoberfest (although it is not solely reserved for Oktoberfest; it can be found at many other ‘fests’), and is sometimes called Wiesn (“the meadow” or local name for the Oktoberfest festival). We chose to call this style Festbier since by German and EU regulations, Oktoberfestbier is a protected appellation for beer produced at large breweries within the Munich city limits for consumption at Oktoberfest. Other countries are not bound by these rules, so many craft breweries in the US produce beer called Oktoberfest, but based on the traditional style described in these guidelines as Märzen.

History

Since 1990, the majority of beer served at Oktoberfest in Munich has been this style. Export beer specifically made for the United States is still mainly of the traditional amber style, as are US-produced interpretations. Paulaner first created the golden version in the mid-1970s because they thought the traditional Oktoberfest was too filling. So they developed a lighter, more drinkable but still malty version that they wanted to be “more poundable” (according to the head brewer at Paulaner). But the actual type of beer served at Oktoberfest is set by a Munich city committee.

Characteristic Ingredients

Majority Pils malt, but with some Vienna and/or Munich malt to increase maltiness. Differences in commercial examples are mostly due to different maltsters and yeast, not major grist differences.

Style Comparison

Less intense and less richly toasted than a Märzen. More rich-heavy in body than a Helles, with more hop flavor and higher alcohol. Less rich in malt intensity than a Maibock. The malt complexity is similar to a higher-gravity Czech Premium Pale Lager, although without the associated hops.

Vital Statistics

IBU

18 - 25

SRM

4 - 7

OG

1.054 - 1.057

FG

1.010 - 1.012

ABV

5.8% - 6.3%

Commercial Examples

Augustiner Oktoberfest, Hacker-Pschorr Superior Festbier, Hofbräu Festbier, Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier, Paulaner Wiesn, Schönramer Gold, Weihenstephaner Festbier.

4C. Helles Bock

Overall Impression

A relatively pale, strong, malty German lager beer with a nicely attenuated finish that enhances drinkability. The hop character is generally more apparent than in other bocks.

Appearance

Deep gold to light amber in color. Bright to clear clarity. Large, creamy, persistent, white head.

Aroma

Moderate to strong grainy-sweet malt aroma, often with a lightly toasted quality and low Maillard products. Moderately-low to no hop aroma, often with a spicy, herbal, or floral quality. Clean fermentation profile. Fruity esters should be low to none. Very light alcohol may be noticeable. May have a light DMS aroma.

Flavor

Moderately to moderately strong grainy-sweet malt flavor dominates with some toasty notes and/or Maillard products providing added interest. Little to no caramel flavors. May have a light DMS flavor. Moderate to no hop flavor (spicy, herbal, floral, peppery). Moderate hop bitterness (more so in the balance than in other bocks). Clean fermentation profile. Well-attenuated, not cloying, with a moderately-dry finish that may taste of both malt and hops.

Mouthfeel

Medium-bodied. Moderate to moderately-high carbonation. Smooth and clean with no harshness or astringency, despite the increased hop bitterness. A light alcohol warming may be present.

Comments

Also known as Mai Bock, but there is some dispute whether Helles (“pale”) Bock and Mai (“May”) Bock are synonymous. Most agree that they are identical, but some believe that Maibock is a “fest” type beer hitting the upper limits of hopping and color for the range. Any fruitiness is due to Munich and other specialty malts, not yeast-derived esters developed during fermentation. The hops compensate for the lower level of Maillard products.

History

A fairly recent development in comparison to the other members of the bock family. The serving of Maibock is specifically associated with springtime and the month of May.

Characteristic Ingredients

Base of Pils and/or Vienna malt with some Munich malt to add character (although much less than in a traditional bock). No non-malt adjuncts. Saazer-type hops. Clean lager yeast. Decoction mash is typical, but boiling is less than in Dunkles Bock to restrain color development.

Style Comparison

Can be thought of as either a pale version of a Dunkles Bock, or a Munich Helles brewed to bock strength. While quite malty, this beer typically has less dark and rich malt flavors, and can be drier, hoppier, and more bitter than a Dunkles Bock. Has more of a rich malt character and more alcohol than a Festbier.

Vital Statistics

IBU

23 - 35

SRM

6 - 11

OG

1.064 - 1.072

FG

1.011 - 1.018

ABV

6.3% - 7.4%

Commercial Examples

Altenmünster Maibock, Ayinger Maibock, Capital Maibock, Blind Tiger Maibock, Einbecker Mai-Urbock, Hacker-Pschorr Hubertus Bock, Mahr’s Bock.

5. Pale Bitter European Beer

This category describes German-origin beers that are pale and have an even to bitter balance with a mild to moderately strong hoppy character featuring classic German hops. They are generally bottom-fermented or are lagered to provide a smooth profile, and are well-attenuated as are most German beers.

5A. German Leichtbier

Overall Impression

A pale, highly-attenuated, light-bodied German lager with lower alcohol and calories than normal-strength beers. Moderately bitter with noticeable malt and hop flavors, the beer is still interesting to drink.

Appearance

Straw to pale gold in color. Brilliant clarity. Moderate white head with average to below average persistence.

Aroma

Low to medium hop aroma, with a spicy, herbal, or floral character. Low to medium-low grainy-sweet or slightly crackery malt aroma. Clean fermentation profile.

Flavor

Low to medium grainy-sweet malt flavor initially. Medium hop bitterness. Low to medium hop flavor, with a spicy, herbal, or floral quality. Clean fermentation character, well-lagered. Dry finish with a light malty and hoppy aftertaste.

Mouthfeel

Light to very light body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth, well-attenuated.

Comments

Marketed primarily as a diet-oriented beer with lower carbohydrates, alcohol, and calories. Pronounced “LYESHT-beer.” May also be known as a Diat Pils or Helles, this style is in the schankbier gravity class. Other variations of Leicht class beers can be made from Weissbier, Kölsch, and Altbier; those beers are best entered in the Mixed-Style Beer category.

History

Traditional versions existed as drinks for physical laborers in factories or fields, but modern versions are more based on popular American products in the same class.

Characteristic Ingredients

Similar to a German Pils or Helles, continental Pils malt, German lager yeast, Saazer-type hops.

Style Comparison

Like a lower-alcohol, lighter-bodied, slightly less aggressive German Pils or Helles.

Vital Statistics

IBU

15 - 28

SRM

2 - 5

OG

1.026 - 1.034

FG

1.006 - 1.010

ABV

2.4% - 3.6%

Commercial Examples

Beck’s Light, Bitburger Light, Mahr’s Leicht, Paulaner Münchner Hell Leicht, Paulaner Premium Leicht.
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