Home / German Beer Styles / Münchner Helles
The first golden lagers were brewed in Plzen, Bohemia, in the 1840s, but the golden lager style spread rapidly worldwide and gave rise to different styles, including Helles (pronounced Hell-es), which is German for "bright". Helles was a response to the incredible popularity of the Pils style beers, and the fears of Munich (München) brewers that they would lose sales as drinkers switched to pale beers brewed elsewhere. Munich brewers started brewing Helles in the 1890s. The water in and around Munich has high levels of carbonates, causing hoppy beers to taste excessively harsh and bitter. As a result, Munich beers tend to be maltier than those found elsewhere, and this is evident in the taste of Helles. Pilsner-type beers brewed around Munich also have more sweet maltiness, and some are closer to a Helles style, though labelled as a Pils -- Kaiserdom Pils is a good example.
Helles lagers are distinctive from Pilsners in that they have a noticeable malt sweetness, with a delicate balance of spicy hops, but much less bitter than a Pilsner. Though they are served cool, there is a delicious, comforting, soft warmth in the malty flavour.
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Last updated: 16th May 2002
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