“Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier” is the fourth of the Heller-Trum brews I have drank for the sake of informing my beloved readers at BaDoink about their beverages. It’s not as good as the Weizen I reviewed last week, and it certainly isn’t as magnificent as the first two I reviewed (the Märzen and the dopplebock). But it is a great lager and I do recommend it. Also, it is appropriate to note that this brew is not truly a rauchbier, as one might assume, considering it comes from the rauchbier masters of brewing and has similar packaging. It is boiled in the same copper kettles and bottom fermented by the same yeast as their rauchbiers. And that’s as close as it gets to the smoke.
This is also the first Helles Lager I have ever reviewed. According to my research, the Helles Lager was invented in the 1800s in Germany as a response to the booming and “threatening” popularity in that country of the Czech style pilsner. “Helles” means “bright”. And the Helles Lager was brewed as a one-up attempt to satisfy the drinkers’ thirst for the Czech pilsner and at the same time improve upon its balance and malt profile. I don’t know just how successful it was, but it is reasonable to believe it worked to an appreciable degree.
Reviewing this beer objectively is a challenge for me, because through no fault of my own it contains a flavor note that reminds me of an awkward and nightmarish childhood memory: the well water at my Grandma’s house in New Castle, Pennsylvania; and subsequently my Grandma herself, who, I regret to say, has always been one creepy old broad.
The liquid is indeed bright, and yellow, but it does have an odd appearance as a slight brown murkiness is also present. Its aroma is very faint and presents sweet grains and a touch of smoke. The head is bright white, and when I poured the brew it rose energetically above the rim of the glass into a thick pillow, and gently settled down into the liquid leaving a thin, white sheet on top. Up front the flavor is typical of a fresh lager: sweet grains, rice, pungent hops, and mixed citrus fruits, but it also has a smoky malt taste.
Between the initial flavor and the aftertaste is when it invokes frightening flashbacks for me. It hits hard with a mineral and well water flavor that probably is not an issue with anyone who has never been to my Grandma’s house. Her water had a complex array of profiles of its own, including a shit profile. It literally smelled and tasted like shit. Fortunately this beer does not smell or taste like shit, but it carries that strong metallic mineral flavor that sends my mind straight to my Grandma’s apple orchard when I hadn’t yet started puberty. It then finishes with a touch of smoke and a really nice touch of hoppy bitterness. The aftertaste is mild, but superb: sugar, butter, barley, and just a little bit of smoke and bitterness. The texture is smooth, creamy, and very fizzy. It’s refreshing and cool. Lacing is mild, but noticeably thicker and foamier than one would expect for a light, bright lager.
The upfront flavor is great. The aftertaste is great. But I simply can’t circumvent that massive flavor obstacle that is my Grandma. I love my Grandma because she’s my Grandma, but it is futile to resist my true and sincere thoughts: she always did and always will scare the living shit out of me. Her voice sounds like a cellar door accompanied by spooky Scooby Doo organ music and her countenance closely resembles the lovechild of the Crypt Keeper and Yoda, with massive dentures that look like headstones and spectacles that look like a pair of goldfish bowls. The food she cooked (and still does cook I imagine) was also so rancid it would make a pig vomit and wash its mouth out with its own feces. She also levitates and hovers, I fucking swear to Christ. I hope she doesn’t read this, because if she does she’ll hop on the first broomstick to Chicago to suck out my soul, I guarantee it. I’d feel safer if I put on a yarmulke, moved to Damascus, and sketched a picture of Muhammad eating out Captain Kangaroo’s asshole.
I’m locking my fucking doors tonight.
Munich Helles Lager