NOTE: In the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines, Munich Helles is now classified as Style 4A in Category 4 Pale Malty European Lager which contains malty, pale, Pilsner malt-driven German lagers of vollbier to starkbier strength. While malty, they are still well-attenuated, clean lagers, as are most German beers.
Another light lager, in gravity only, is the Munich Helles. It is a malt-forward German lager with a bready malt character with some sweetness from the pilsner malt.
This beer was produced at the end of the 19th century in Bavaria to compete with the Pilsners which were becoming extremely popular at the time. In fact, it's exact date of origin and brewery of origin are well known.
Spaten brewery sent out the first cask to its Munich customers in 1895, after a year of testing at Hamburg on the North Sea. It has been the most popular beer in Bavaria up until recently when the Weissbier passed it in popularity in the beer gardens and beer halls.
It has more malty flavors with less bitterness and hop flavors than the pilsners. It is what you will find on tap all across Bavaria instead of a pilsner.
Brewing this beer can be a little tricky. You need a little sweetness but the beer needs to be dry and crisp. The sweetness should come from the malt and not from residual sugars.
Be sure to use the freshest German ingredients you can find, such as noble hops and German lager yeast along with a good continental pilsner malt. Without these ingredients, the beer just won't taste correct and probably won't do well in competition.
As with any light beer such as this, pay close attention to your fermentation temperatures, keeping them steady and close to 50° F (10° C), allow for a diacetyl rest to clean up any residual fermentation byproducts, and lager cold, near freezing for a month or more.
Information for this page was adapted from the BJCP Style Guidelines for 2008 and 2015, and the GABF style listing for 2007.
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