German Food and Helles

From Helles and Back: A Taste Tour of Munich’s Celebrated Lager

We are back with another beer review, but this time we go into a traditional German Lager....the HELLES! As a classic example of the legendary beer-makers in Germany, Helles is not just a beer; it's a sip of traditional beer culture. In this blog, we’ll see how well I can brew this style, explore the origins, its distinctive characteristics, and some food pairings.

Full review video at the end!

Munich Helles - Happenstence

A Brief History of Munich Helles

The story of Munich Helles begins in the late 19th century in Munich, Germany. In response to the rising popularity of lighter, more approachable beers like the Pilsners from Bohemia (Czech), Bavarian brewers decided to create their own version. Introduced by the Spaten Brewery in 1894 under the guidance of brewmaster Gabriel Sedlmayr II, Munich Helles was crafted to be a malt-forward lager, but with a gentle hop profile, setting it apart from the sharper bitterness of its Czech neighbor.

The name "Helles" comes from the German word for "bright," reflecting the beer’s pale, golden hue. This style quickly became a staple in Bavarian taverns and biergartens, where it was cherished for its drinkability and subtle complexity.


The Happenstence Helles:

We made this recipe under the BJCP guidelines to obtain an authentic version of this style of beer. I conducted some quick research to find the water profile of the Isar River in Munich and attempted to match it as close as possible with salt additions (mainly Calcium Chloride).

This is because to truly mimic a Traditional European beer that was invented before modern water treatment, you have to replicate the water chemistry of the river it was drawn from traditionally. This affects more than just the taste but also the clarity and how the yeast interact with the beer. It quite literally became the backbone of the beer culture we know today.


Spaten Helles

Tasting Profile: What to Expect

Munich Helles is characterized by a delicate balance that caters to both seasoned beer aficionados and those new to the craft beer scene. Here’s what you can anticipate when you pour yourself a glass:

  • Appearance: A clear, pale golden color with a robust, white head.
  • Aroma: Gentle malt sweetness with hints of bread and a light touch of floral or herbal hops.
  • Flavor: Dominantly malty, with flavors of fresh bread and a slight sweetness. Mild hop flavors.
  • Mouthfeel: Smooth and medium-bodied with moderate carbonation, making it supremely refreshing.

Perfect Pairings: Food That Complements Munich Helles

The subtle flavors and refreshing nature of Munich Helles make it an excellent companion to a variety of dishes. Here are some top picks for food pairings that will enhance your Helles experience:

  • Pork Knuckle (Schweinshaxe): one of the most common Helles pairings, a slow-roasted pigs knuckle/hock in a crispy crackling skin. Sometimes served with a pretzel and sauerkraut.
  • Classic Bavarian Fare: Pair it with traditional dishes like weisswurst (white sausage), pretzels, and sweet mustard for an authentic Bavarian meal.
  • Seafood: The beer’s crispness cuts through the richness of seafood beautifully. Try it with grilled shrimp, salmon, or a light fish and chips.
  • Poultry and Pork: The mild flavors of chicken and pork are a great match for Helles. Consider dishes like roasted chicken, pork schnitzel, or even a hearty chicken salad.
  • Cheese: Opt for mild cheeses like Havarti, young cheddar, or Swiss to complement the beer’s gentle maltiness without overpowering it.


Pork knuckle

More links below for food pairings!


Join Us for a Taste!

To really bring this beer to life, be sure to check out the video review below where my neighbor and I share our personal experiences with the Helles. It's one thing to read about beer, but another to see and discuss it in real-time!

Whether you're a long-time lover of German beers or just starting to explore, the Helles offers a refreshing taste of Bavarian tradition that’s perfect for any occasion, literally. This is the beer you want to try if you like light and refreshing lagers. So, grab a bottle, pour yourself a glass, and perhaps pair it with one of the suggested dishes. Prost!


This exploration into Munich Helles not only showcases its timeless appeal but also encourages you to experience its versatility firsthand. Whether enjoyed alone or with a meal, Munich Helles is more than just a beer; it’s a journey into the heart of Bavarian brewing culture.


Food Links:,For,-a%20number%20of,include%20cheese%2C%20ham%20or%20bacon.


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