Helles beer was conceived as Germany’s rebuttal to the Bohemian-made Pilsener. At the time of Helles’ inception, Pilseners were all the rage and German brewers feared that the light, crisp, bright beer might put their brews out of business. Instead of rolling over and dying, they struck back with a similar—although maltier—lager and, as if to drive home the point that it was à la Pilsener, they named it “helles”—the German word for “bright.” Today, Coloradoans can enjoy Helles thanks to breweries like Pug Ryan’s Brewing Company and their Hideout Helles (6.9% ABV).
Color: Clear and coppery like a well-polished penny, Hideout features a creamy, off-white head.
Aroma: True to the style, Helles features a bit more malts than its competition, Pilsener. The malty aromas waft up from the glass and betray subdued but nonetheless noticeable traces of green apple.
Taste: Once again, a green apple-like quality flashes up but immediately gives way to an even more ephemeral spark of hops which, in turn, subsides to the toasty, malty backbone of the beer. There’s a spiciness permeating the beer, too, almost like cinnamon. It’s a mild spice but it has a presence.
Mouthfeel: Hideout features a little more weight than a Pilsener but it is still, overall, a light beer that finishes moderately dry.
The battle between Pilsener and Helles has long since called a cease-fire but the warriors remain. In today’s craft beer market, it’s not necessary to choose between the two; they’re both well-established and neither will push the other into extinction. However, to best understand any conflict (even a long-gone conflict), one must see both sides of the argument. Try a Pilsesner, try a Helles, and decide for one’s self which is the superior beer!