Friday, February 06, 2009

Final analysis: Downdraft Helles

Style: Munich Helles. Original gravity: 1049. Final gravity: 1013.
ABV: 4.7%. IBU's: 19.
(Sample without late hop addition is on the left.)

As much as ales get all the love (and indeed, two of my favorite styles--Altbier and Gose--are ales), I love lagers. While many will argue, I truly feel like if you don't like lagers, you don't like beer. That being said, I think our Downdraft Helles may be the best beer we've brewed to date. But before I get to my tasting notes, I should note that we actually brewed two versions of the Helles. I pumped out half the 10 gallons without a late hop addition and then threw in some finishing hops before pumping out the remaining five gallons. As such, the two kegs are somewhat unique. Here are my notes for each:

Appearance: Both pour a gorgeous, brilliantly clear golden hue with an ample rocky head.

Smell: The Helles without the late hop addition smells, as one would expect, of bread and grain. Underneath the malty sweetness is just a hint of grassy hops. The Helles with the late hop addition is just the opposite... An herbal noble hop aroma dominates, with malty sweetness lingering below the surface.

Taste: The Helles without the late hop addition has a wonderfully soft malt profile to it. It's got that flavor to it where it's hard to pick apart because it simply tastes like... well... beer. The maltiness up front is nicely balanced with just enough hop bitterness, combined with a hint of sulfur and earthy yeast, to keep the finish from being too sweet. The Helles with the late hop addition has a slight hop sharpness on the tongue before the soft, bready maltiness takes over. The finish is about the same as the other Helles, except that it seems a tad drier.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is the same on both... well-carbonated and full, but not so heavy as to keep it from being sessionable.

Overall, I'm really happy with both beers. I'm thinking the beer without the late hop addition is more true to the Munich Helles style, while the late hop addition gives it a little more edge that reminds me of Franconian lagers. Indeed, I think with a slightly less flocculent yeast the late-addition Helles would make a kick-ass Kellerbier. I think the two demonstrate the subtleties that can distinguish one light lager from another. Both are different but delicious. I think the only question is if the late-addition Helles is too hoppy to score well as a Helles in a competition.

So there you have it. This beer will definitely stay in my regular rotation, and I think the overall balance is perfect. The only question for future batches will be if I'm in the mood for a Munich Helles or a Franconian Helles. Prost!


Blogger Ben said...

yum! one day I will try a lager. Both of those sound good!

9:50 PM, February 06, 2009  
Blogger Brian said...

I will say that one quality if a number of lagers, and ales, I appreciate anymore is the smell of barley, breat, biscuit etc etc..

Would love to try one of these, care you swap a few bottles (I've still got to get you some of my berminer weisse)?


5:41 PM, February 07, 2009  
Blogger Russ said...

Sounds like a plan, Brian. Oh, and I haven't forgotten about Two Brothers... I've just been afraid to plan anything with the baby due any day now!

1:24 PM, February 08, 2009  

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