With so many local and national options available to beer lovers it is important for each brewery to set themselves apart from the competition. There are a few ways to do this, but the most common is by making the best beer of a particular style or by focusing on a subset of beers that aren’t brewed by many American brewers. While most small American brewers have started with ales, which require shorter time to ferment, lagers are starting to make a comeback. There are now a few lager-only breweries in New England, including the Von Trapp brewery in Stowe, VT. Johannes Von Trapp started his brewery at his family lodge with the goal of bringing the flavorful varieties of lager that he loved to drink in Austria to patrons in his home state of Vermont. While some American lager breweries make completely new takes on lager styles, often incorporating high ABVs and heavy doses of American hops, the Von Trapp Brewery makes very traditional European lagers. While the lack of hop-forward IPAs might turn off some drinkers, I believe there is a strong market for these beers as many drinkers still appreciate a well made and flavorful lager. There are also fewer Dunkel lagers than IPAs on the market, so there is less in-style competition. Von Trapp is clearly doing something right, they recently expanded capacity and started to distribute their beers in Massachusetts. One of Von Trapp’s flagship beers is Helles Lager, a bright and sessionable golden lager sold year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Von Trapp Helles Lager pours a clear bright yellow with a solid white head. The scent is mild, some bready malt and floral hops. The flavor is very balanced, no one component dominates. The hops are very old world, grassy and earthy with a crisp bitterness in the finish. The malts add touches of biscuits, grain and honey. The beer is very light and easy to drink, sessionable at 4.9% ABV. The finish is distinctive of a lager beer, crisp and clean with minimal aftertaste. Von Trapp Helles Lager is a good choice for day drinking on a warm afternoon, it’s full flavored but goes down smooth and isn’t too boozy. I like seeing some small American brewers tackle traditional European lager styles, it’s a nice change of pace from hop-bomb IPAs and heavy imperial stouts. I look forward to sampling some of the other Von Trapp lagers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.