Tag Archives: Helles Lager

Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As Helles

Sam Adams (and other larger craft brands) are in an interesting place in the evolving beer culture, trying to balance the needs of their regular customers with the fickle tastes of beer geeks. Many of these beer geeks got their start drinking Boston Lager and Sam seasonals, but some shy away from the brand now, and the increased competition in the market has hurt Boston Beer Company’s bottom line. It will be interesting to see how they adapt, I would love to see them brew fewer regular releases and then start a line of experimental/one-off brews to flex their creativity and excite the beer geeks. One of the core parts of the Sam Adams lineup has always been their seasonal beers, Summer Ale, Octoberfest and Winter Lager have represented their respective seasons for as long as I can remember. The one seasonal that has been through many iterations is the spring, they have tinkered with a number of options without settling on one. This spring Sam Adams is doing something slightly different, they are going to have two seasonal beers. In January and February you can try Hopscape, a hoppy wheat beer, while Fresh As Helles, a Helles lager brewed with orange blossom, will be available in March and April. They were kind enough to send me some samples of both, they will be sold on draft and in 12 oz. bottles

sam-adams-hopscapeSam Adams Hopscape pours a hazy straw gold with a minimal white head. The scent is mild, some citrus and pine from the hops. You also get some hops in the flavor but not as much as I expected, notes of grass, lemon and resin along with a crisp bitterness. This is balanced by some malt flavor, hints of wheat bread and cereal. Hopscape is light bodied, very easy to drink and not too boozy at 5.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with just a touch of hops lingering on the tongue. I like the idea behind Hopscape, wheat beers can mix very well with New World hops, but I really would have liked more hop flavor and aroma. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.

sam-adams-fresh-as-hellesSam Adams Fresh As Helles pours a clear bright orange with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of bready malts and floral hops. The flavor is well balanced with a clean lager drinkability. The malts add touches of biscuits, crackers and bread dough. This is complemented by a solid hit of noble hops, hints of cut grass and herbs along with a crisp bite in the finish. I don’t get much orange blossom flavor, I wouldn’t have picked out the ingredient if it wasn’t on the label. Fresh As Helles has the clean finish you expect from a lager, and at 5.4% ABV you can put down a few. These precise and flavorful lagers are a specialty for Sam Adams, many of their best beers fall into this category, and I’ll definitely enjoy a few of these as winter turns into spring. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest


Jack’s Abby House Lager

A few weeks ago I wrote an article on house beers, the types of beer you keep around the house for all occasions. My readers seemed to agree with many of my selections, or they didn’t disagree enough to comment on it, but there were a few other beers that people suggested. One was Jack’s Abby House Lager, a Helles lager modeled after the landbiers of Franconia. This is a worthy choice for a house beer, the name suggests that is just what it was brewed to be. I have enjoyed this beer before, but I already included two Jack’s Abby beers that I was more familiar with in my seasonal section of the article. One added bonus to keeping House Lager as a house beer, it is a great way to introduce macro-lager drinkers to a more full flavored beer that isn’t going to overwhelm them with hops. Jack’s Abby House Lager is available year round on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans. I enjoyed this pint on one of my first grill-days of the year!

Jack's Abby House LagerJack’s Abby House Lager pours a clear bright yellow with a massive white head. The scent is mild, some bready malts and floral hops. This is a clean, refreshing and very easy to drink lager beer. There is some malt flavor, touches of white bread, biscuits, crushed grains and just a hint of sweetness. There are also some Old World hops, notes of grass, herbs and pine. The beer is light and crushable, but still packs a little punch at 5.2% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean, just what you’d expect from a well made lager. I know that a large segment of the beer world focuses their praise on huge hop flavors or boozy stouts, but there is something to be said for a well crafted lager, and this is a great example of the style. This will certainly be a part of my regular house beer rotation. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:

Jack’s Abby FraminghammerJack’s Abby trIPL, Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint CustodyBREWERY OVERVIEW, Jack’s Abby Maibock Hurts Like HellesJack’s Abby Hoponius UnionJack’s Abby Barrel-Aged FraminghammerJack’s Abby Bride MakerJack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAMJack’s Abby Copper LegendJack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass RisingJack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil BrewJack’s Abby Wet Hop LagerJack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner

Von Trapp Helles Lager

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 LagersVon 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.


Idle Hands Heide

In shocking news last week Idle Hands and Enlightenment Ales, who had merged into a single operation a couple of years ago, announced that they were closing their brewery in Everett. The company isn’t going out of business! The space they use was sold to the development group building the casino in Everett and the facility is going to be torn down to help build a new access road. While Idle Hands had been considering an eventual move to help grow the business and expand capacity, the timing wasn’t great and the notice they were given was pretty short, which will lead to a lull in production. They are in the process of securing a new facility, and in the meantime the generous team at Night Shift is letting them contract out some space and equipment to continue production of part of their lineup. You can find out more information HERE. I have always thought that Idle Hands and Enlightenment Ales was amongst the most underrated local breweries as they make a wide range of delicious and innovative beers. I urge everyone to support them as they go through this transition, head to the brewery at the end of the week and stock up on some of their beers, or pick them up at a local bottle shop. Idle Hands has expanded their lineup considerably over the last year. At their inception they focused primarily on Belgian style ales including Triplication, their outstanding abbey-style tripel. Recently they have added a bevy of German inspired lagers to their lineup, including their house lager Heide. Idle Hands Heide is a Munich Helles lager, a pale colored and easy drinking table beer that is sold on draft and in 500 mL bottles.

Idle Hands HeideIdle Hands Heide pours a clear straw yellow with a mild white head. The scent is a mixture of earthy hops and some pale malts. The beer is a classic lager, smooth, clean and very light bodied. There are some grassy and floral hops that also add a pleasantly crisp bitterness. This is complemented by the light malts, touches of cracker, freshly baked bread and a hint of honey. At 4.6% ABV Idle Hands Heide is very sessionable. The “house lager” designation is perfect for this beer, it’s both full flavored and easy to drink, the kind of beer that does the job for all sorts of occasions. Pick this up and continue to support a great local brewery as they go through a difficult transition! Hoppy Boston score 4.25/5.

Previous Idle Hands Reviews:

Idle Hands Riding ShotgunIdle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aisonIdle Hands Triplication