- BJCP Style: Munich Helles
- ABV: 5.0%
- IBU: 16
- Hops Variety: Saaz
- Malts: German Pilsner, Munich and Melanoidin
- Brewery: Akademia Brewing Co.
- City: Athens, GA
- Aroma: Spicy/Floral; Grainy
- Appearance: Brilliant, Clear Gold, Fluffy White Head, Good Retention
- Flavor & Aftertaste: Spicy, grainy flavors. Semi dry with restrained bitterness
- Palate: Medium Body, Semi-dry, Crisp clean short finish
- Style Representation: Slightly darker than traditional Helles
When I think of a beer drinker’s beer, the Munich Helles style immediately comes to mind. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) describes them as a “clean, malty, gold-colored German lager with a smooth grainy-sweet malty flavor and a soft, dry finish”. Hops aromas can be spicy, herbal or floral and have just enough bitterness to balance out the malt. If you want to try a beer that would be considered a benchmark for the Helles style, I suggest you try Paulaner Munich Original Lager, Weihenstephaner Original or Hacker Pschorr Munchner Gold; all of which are world class beers. What you will find is these are not boring, watered down tasting lagers like Budweiser, Miller Light or Coors. Craft beer breweries are now finally starting to catch on to these wonderful drinking lager beers and we are seeing more and more of them popping up around the country. I recently visited the tap room of Akademia Brewing Company in Athens, GA and discovered their gem of a Helles.
The brainchild of Co-Founder and Head Brewer Morgan Wireman, this Helles was initially produced by the female employees of Akademia for the Dames and Dregs Festival in Atlanta. They named the beer Tell Them To Go To Helles. The goal of the festival is to celebrate the role of women in the brewing industry. I really enjoyed this beer and wanted to know more, so I inquired with Morgan about its development.
Morgan explained that, when he wants to develop a new recipe, he always starts with a lot of research. The Helles style was one he had been wanting to make for some time and the upcoming festival; being held in the hot, sticky summer months of Georgia, afforded a great opportunity to do follow suit. After some thorough research, including the book Bavarian Helles by Horst Dornbusch, he decided to make a fore runner to what we consider the traditional style.
When your server brings you this Helles, the first thing you note is the nice head retention and the slightly darker tint than most beers of this style that you may be used to. It is a clear, gold color and exhibits good head retention. That is no accident. Instead of using 100% pilsner malt, he added Munich malt and a small amount of melanoidin malt. Those tweaks improved the head retention, darkened the color a tad and increased the malty character. The result is one fine drinking beer.
This beer expresses some nice subtle herbal/spicy aromas from Saaz hops that harmonize with the grainy and bready aromas from the grain bill. Flavors are also spicy and grainy but not too strong or off putting. It is semi-dry and moderately carbonated on the palate, finishing soft and dry. It was such an enjoyable beer with the prime rib sandwich I had ordered, that I immediately began inquiring about to-go packaging. To my great disappointment, they were not planning to package it to-go. You could fill a crowler; but I did not have one available to me at the time.
Akademia Brewing Co. is a brewpub on the east side of Athens, GA (home to the University of Georgia). They have a limited, but good food menu. Morgan became interested in craft beer eleven years ago and started homebrewing shortly thereafter. His passion for craft beer lead him to co-found Akademia Brewing Co. in 2017 with Matt Casey. Morgan’s favorite beers to brew are stouts; but he enjoys drinking Traditional German beers, especially Kolsch . I have found that to be the case with a lot of brewers – they enjoy the variety in brewing IPA, Porters and Stouts; but they prefer sessionable lager beers when they are hanging out and relaxing. The beers that Morgan brews are creative and good quality. I think the Helles would make a great addition to their year around line up, so I hope they consider adding it permanently. In my opinion, they are an quite underrated brewery and certainly well worth the visit if you are in the area.
*I would like to extend a special thank you to Morgan Wireman, Co-Founder and Head Brewer at Akademia Brewing Co., for entertaining my questions and providing insight for this article.
Thanks for reading. Until next time…Let Us Drink Beer!