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Craft Beer Experts Name The Best Helles Lagers On The Market

If you’re a casual beer drinker, you might see the word “lager” and assume you’re in for a crisp, easy-drinking, golden-hued beer. While you wouldn’t technically be wrong, there’s more to your lager than it seems. As with many beer styles, there are myriad subsets including pilsners, American lagers, bocks, Vienna-style lagers, and Helles lagers. The latter variety is what we’re going to delve into today.

The term “Helles” translates to “bright” in German. If you’re a fan of pilsners, but wish your beer was a little maltier, without as much of a hops presence — all while still remaining crisp and refreshing — the Helles lager is for you. A classic Helles lager is usually lightly sweet on the malt end with a nice balance of floral, spicy hops, with very little bitterness. All in all, a great summer beer.

Since we’ve established that the Helles lager is a highly crushable, thirst-quenching beer option for hazy summer days, it’s time actually drink some. Since we want to find you the best possible options, we turned to professionals for help. We asked a handful of well-known craft beer experts and brewers to tell us their picks for the Helles lagers you should be drinking right now. Keep reading to see all of their picks.

The Bruery Ruekeller Helles

The Bruery Ruekeller Helles
The Bruery

Eric Espinoza, bartender at Signia by Hilton in San Jose, California

ABV: 5.2%

Average Price: $13 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

The Bruery Ruekeller Helles. I like this because it’s a nice, local take on traditional Helles. It’s familiar with a full body and bready, but balanced. There’s something just unique enough about this one to make me look forward to cracking open a can when I’m craving something off the beaten path.

Faction Helles Lager

Faction Helles Lager
Faction

Jeremy Marshall, brewmaster at Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Helles Lager by Faction Brewing. I like this beer because Rodger Davis (brewer at Faction) tends to bridge that gap between embracing styles, while also pushing boundaries—but all the while casting a suspicious glance on all the “modern” trends like the Haze Bros or over-hyped hops. A hugely influential Bay Area brewer who has influenced many younger brewers (myself included). Faction knows what they are doing and it’s a lovely place to go visit and absorb views of the Bay Area you simply can’t get anywhere else.

Kros Strain Helles Creek

Kros Strain Helles Creek
Kros Strain

Courtney Servaes, owner of Servaes Brewing Company in Kansas City

ABV: 4.8%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

About three hours north of Kansas City is a brewery that I have absolutely fallen in love with named Kros Strain Brewing. It is located outside of Omaha, Nebraska. While I don’t normally gravitate toward a Helles, they have one that is extremely well done. Whenever I am in the area, I stop by for one of their hazy IPAs or kettle sours, but I always leave with some Helles Creek. It almost reminds me more of a light lager than a traditional Helles because it is mildly sweet and has next to no bitterness to it.

Point Ybel Sanibel Light

Point Ybel Sanibel Light
Point Ybel

Dan Esperon, owner and brewer at Crazy Dingo Brewing Co in Fort Myers, Florida

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Sanibel Light brewed by Point Ybel Brewing. Crisp, clean, and true to style. Just enough of a malty backbone to keep things interesting. One of my favorite light brews. It’s a great, easy-drinking summer Helles and one that you should definitely try if you can find it.

Von Trapp Natur Helles

Von Trapp Natur Helles
Von Trapp

Mike Kelly, senior brewer at Harpoon Brewery in Boston

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $11.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Von Trapp Natur Helles strikes a nice balance between complex yet simple malt profile and traditional noble hop spiciness. It’s the unfiltered version of its original Helles. It has a nice combination of crisp, floral hops and bready, sweet malts.

Hill Farmstead Marie

Hill Farmstead Marie
Hill Farmstead

Matt Canning, assistant manager and beer concierge at Hotel Vermont in Burlington, Vermont

ABV: 5%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Hill Farmstead, Marie. From one of the best breweries in the world comes the palest and most nuanced style of lager. If you don’t know, now you know. It’s an unfiltered, German-style Helles lager brewed using organic malts. It’s hazy, crisp, and very refreshing on a hot summer day.

Weihenstephaner Original Helles

Weihenstephaner Original Helles
Weihenstephaner

Dan Lipke, head brewer at Clown Shoes Beer in Boston

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: $10.50 for a four-pack of 160-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Weihenstephaner Original Helles is the pinnacle of the style for me. Beautiful malty aromas of freshly made bread with a touch of grassy hops. Uber clean taste with a perfect balance of sweet toasty malt and spicy hops. The finish is perfect, not bitter, just a celebration of German brewing tradition.

Bierstadt Lagerhaus Helles

Bierstadt Lagerhaus Helles
Bierstadt

Chris Pinns, tasting room manager at Societe Brewing in San Diego

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $10.99 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

Bierstadt Lagerhaus Helles. The epitome of refined elegance in a glass. No one flavor stands out in this beer. The supreme balance is what truly makes it a great beer for the style. Crisp, thirst-quenching, complex, and highly memorable.

There Does Not Exist 60 Days in Hell

There Does Not Exist 60 Days in Hell
There Does Not Exist

Adam Hall, brand manager at Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City

ABV: 4.7%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

There Does Not Exist – 60 Days in Hell (Bavarian Helles). 60 Days In Hell is their take on a Bavarian Helles, and moving forward it will be the benchmark by which I judge all Helles. Brewed with 100% German raw materials and fermented ice cold. Conditioned for an additional 45 days, the end product is a clean, slightly sweet easy-drinking beer. The beer is so crushable that if you don’t try to take your time, you might miss the wonderful nuances that make this an exceptional version of this traditional style, but you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

Lone Tree Mountain Mama

Lone Tree Mountain Mama
Lone Tree

Ty Nash, head brewmaster at Little Dry Creek Brewery in Denver, Colorado

ABV: 5.6%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

The Mountain Mama Helles from Lone Tree Brewing is all I drink while it’s on tap. The grainy/bready aromas fall into the flavors as you sip while complimenting the hops and finishing slightly sweet. It’s a great example of American craft brewers embracing the style and expanding on it.

Great Central Helles

Great Central Helles
Great Central

Daryl Hoedtke, senior brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago

ABV: 4.7%

Average Price: $9.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Great Central Helles is my go-to. They really know their German styles. Sipping on this beer takes me back to sitting in biergartens in Munich. It’s got a true-to-style malt and bitter balance with a refreshingly clean finish.

Writer’s Pick:

Hofbräu Original

Hofbrau Original
Hofbrau

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: $8.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

It doesn’t get much better than Hofbräu Original. This classic Helles lager is complex and flavorful with a nice sweet, bready, grainy, malty backbone that moves into floral, herbal, and slightly spicy hops. It’s crisp, easy to drink, and perfect for summer sipping.

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