Akademia Helles | ABV 4.8%
BJCP Style: Munich Helles
CraftBeer.com Style: German Style Helles
CraftBeer.com Sensory Style: Crisp & Clean
Hops: Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Tettnang or Saaz
Malts: Pilsner, Munich & Melanoidin
Brewery: Akademia Brewing Company
City: Athens, GA
(A quick note on Sensory Style: A recent, very thought provoking article from CraftBeer.com (It’s Time to Rethink How We Talk About Craft Beer Basics) by Mirella Amato introduced the idea that separating beers into Ale or Lager categories really doesn’t help newer craft beer consumers determine what beers they may or may not like to try. Sensory Style is actually more informative. I tend to agree with this, so I have introduced CraftBeer.com’s Sensory Style categories, in addition to beer style, to help someone reading my reviews get quicker understanding of the overall experience they should expect from the beer. Sensory Style is divided into six broad categories: Sour/Tart/Funky, Crisp/Clean, Dark/Roasty, Malty/Sweet, Hoppy/Bitter and Fruity/Spicy. If you would like to explore these more on your on, you’ll find them here: CraftBeer.com Beer Styles. Go ahead and explore, you’ll find they work quite well.)
Appearance: Clear, brilliant deep gold. White fluffy head with good retention. Medium carbonation
Aroma: Malty, grainy and mildly spicy
Flavor & Aftertaste: Malt forward with primarily grainy and bready flavors. Sweet backbone. Restrained but present bitterness. Soft, well rounded finish. Not biting or abrupt.
Palate: Medium bodied. Mild carbonation. Short, clean finish that is also pleasant and soft.
Some of my ancestors, generations ago, immigrated to the United States from Germany. Maybe it’s that part of my German heritage that is calling out to me, but I think German style Helles should be the official beer of the state of Georgia. At least for the summer time, anyway. For the craft beer enthusiast, what is the quintessential “go to” beer for this time of year? Kolsch or Helles or Blonde Ale? Around here Kolsch would be good choice, but it can be a little scarce. Helles is my choice and local breweries are starting to turn out some very good ones that are brewed consistently throughout the year. Line Creek Maverick and Tucker Brewing Company Tucker Lager are two that immediately come to mind. If I were forced to pick the best of the bunch, I would have to give an edge to Akademia Brewing Company’s Helles. The only downside is that it is not available a good part of the year. Let’s take a closer look at Akademia’s Helles.
My first taste of it was at the Athens, GA brewpub almost exactly a year ago. It went terrifically well with the prime rib sandwich I had that evening. Ever since that time I have been dying to revisit it, but it had just not worked out (Athens is about an hour and a half drive from me). When I found out a couple weeks ago I was going to be in Athens, I quickly looked up Akademia’s website to see if the Helles was available and…shazam! To Go crowler pickup, here I come!
What is it about Akademia Helles that sets it apart? Visually it is a beauty. It pours out a brilliant, clear deep gold culminating in a fluffy white head with good retention. Its color actually strikes you at first, because you expect it to be a bit more pale. Head Brewer Morgan Wireman explained the variation to me in a correspondence last year. He stated he was going for a “pre-Helles” version. The Helles we are most used to today was introduced in 1894 and the grain bill consisted of almost all Pilsner malt. Wireman added Munich and Melanoidin malt to complement the Pilsner. The Munich malt added depth to the malt flavor and aroma. The Melanoidin aided head retention and add a touch more red to the color. The result is a highly flavorful, refreshing beer with a touch more color, body and aroma that your typical Helles. Add to it an ABV just under 5% and you have a high quality lager that is very sessionable.
Flavor-wise, it is malt forward, showing off a nice malt base of grainy and bready notes. It’s low on bitterness, but exhibits enough to give it good balance. It’s soft, medium bodied and finishes clean and crisp.
Currently, Akademia’s Helles is available either on tap at the brewpub or you can purchase a 32 oz. crowler To Go. Even better, go for lunch or dinner and grab a pint or two with your meal. The food is first rate.
Thanks for reading, until next time…Let Us Drink Beer!