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Craft Beer Times | Discover California Craft Beer: Unveiling the Secrets of Clean, Crisp Helles – The Mercury News

Discover California Craft Beer: Unveiling the Secrets of Clean, Crisp Helles – The Mercury News

Discover California Craft Beer: Unveiling the Secrets of Clean, Crisp Helles – The Mercury News

California Craft Beer: What the Helles is That Clean, Crisp Beer?

The Rise of California Craft Beer

In recent years, California has become synonymous with exceptional craft beer. Breweries are popping up all over the state, offering an array of unique flavors and styles that appeal to beer enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. One particular style that has gained significant popularity is known as the “Helles”.

What is a “Helles”?

The word “Helles” is a German term that translates to “bright” or “light”. Originally hailing from Munich, Germany, this beer style represents a traditional Bavarian lager that is known for its clean, crisp taste and golden appearance. It is often described as a malt-forward beer with a subtle hop bitterness that is balanced and refreshing.

The Characteristics of a Helles Lager

Helles beers are known for their clean and clear appearance. They exhibit a deep golden to light amber hue with brilliant clarity, allowing the drinker to appreciate the color and effervescence of the beer. The aroma is typically mild, showcasing a gentle maltiness with notes of fresh bread, honey, and a touch of floral hops.

When it comes to taste, a Helles lager is remarkably balanced. The malts provide a smooth and bready sweetness, while the hops contribute a mild bitterness that adds complexity without overpowering the palate. The finish is clean, crisp, and dry, making it an incredibly quenching beer on a hot California day.

Why is Helles Lager so Popular in California?

California’s love affair with Helles beer is no surprise. The state’s warm weather, outdoor lifestyle, and diverse culinary scene provide the perfect backdrop for this refreshing beer style. Helles lagers are incredibly drinkable, making them a favorite choice for both seasoned beer connoisseurs and casual drinkers looking for something lighter.

Furthermore, the craft beer movement in California has paved the way for innovation and experimentation within the classic Helles style. Many local breweries have put their own unique spin on the traditional Bavarian recipe by incorporating local ingredients or adding a modern twist to the brewing process. This has resulted in a plethora of exciting and dynamic Helles variations that showcase the creativity of California brewers.

Notable California Breweries Crafting Helles Beers

1. Livingston Beer: Known for their flagship Helles lager, Livingston Beer has perfected the art of brewing a classic German-style beer. Their Helles is clean, crisp, and incredibly refreshing.

2. Mother Road Beer: Based in Flagstaff, Arizona, Mother Road Beer offers a California Common-style Helles lager that combines the best of both worlds. It’s a slightly fruity and hoppy interpretation of the traditional style.

3. Golden Road Brewing: Located in Los Angeles, Golden Road Brewing has gained a reputation for their diverse range of craft beers. Their Helles lager is a crowd favorite, giving a nod to the classic German style with a touch of West Coast flair.


As the craft beer scene continues to thrive in California, the popularity of Helles lagers shows no signs of slowing down. This clean, crisp beer style appeals to a wide range of beer drinkers, offering a refreshing and balanced option for any occasion.

Whether you’re soaking up the California sunshine on a patio or pairing your beer with delicious local cuisine, a Helles lager is the perfect choice. So next time you’re faced with the question, “What the helles is that clean, crisp beer?”, remember that it’s a taste of California craft brewing at its finest.


Dustin is a writer about craft beer and a professional brewer in the city of Chicago. He has written for several magazines and has over a decade of experience in the beer industry. He is currently working on a book about the history of beer in Chicago.

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