Beer Sherpa Recommends: Pints Helles
We come now, tentatively, incrementally, languidly, into the warmer months. (As I write this, a charcoal batting of clouds clings to the city like a death shroud.) As we do, we come to the season of session beers--light, balanced, refreshing. I know some of you will allow me to pry your cold, dead fingers off your bottles of IPA only ... well, never. Happy drinking. For the rest of you, I have a perfect suggestion that functions simultaneously as a liquid aeroplane: the wonderful new Helles from Pints.
The unassuming helles bier is like a good friend--so comfortable and relaxing that you sometimes forget to take notice of it. But when you do, you will find mighty properties hiding in plain sight. Helleses are popular throughout Bavaria, but they evoke the town of Munich especially. I had been making my way slowly south by the time I finally made it into some of the truly mammoth beer halls of Munich and drinking a good deal of helles along the way. But there's a special enthusiasm for helles in the city, and I watched with wonder as relatively slight (and others who were not so slight) slugged back liters of the stuff. They were especially avid in the Hofbrauhaus which, sad to say, has the worst helles in Munich. If you happen to visit, go there for a quick half liter so you can shake hands with the ghosts of the place, but then depart hastily for the nearest Augustiner.
Or you could just go to Northwest Portland and have a pint of Pints' Helles. (Sorry, no liter maßkrug for you.) Helles, for as simple as it is in appearance, is a balancing act of real difficulty. The elements are not shouty; they whisper. But that doesn't mean they aren't distinctive. It took a trip to Bavaria for me to understand German malt--and therefore malt itself--and the liberal sampling of helles biers. Base malts can contribute so much if you let them. In helleses, the bready malts communicate fresh-baked loaves, warmth even. They are soft and round. In middling helleses, the hops are absent or nearly so, but this is wrong. They should lightly spice the beer and enhance the malt's flavors and aromas. All of this is true about Alan Taylor's Helles at Pints--and I'm not surprised that a German-trained brewer knew what to do.
I would take a growler to the pub so that you can take home what amounts to roughly two liters of this summery potion. If you split it with someone else, while you're watching the squirrels steal your cherries, say, you'll have just enough for one proper Munich measure.