1D – Munich Helles

Another light lager, in gravity only, is the Munich Helles. It is a malt-forward German lager with a bready malt character with some sweetness from the pilsner malt. This beer was produced around the beginning of the 20th century in Bavaria to compete with the Pilsners which were becoming extremely popular at the time. It has more malty flavors with less bitterness and hop flavors then the pilsners. It is what you will find on tap all across Bavaria instead of a pilsner.

Brewing this beer can be a little tricky. You need a little sweetness but the beer needs to be dry and crisp. The sweetness should come from the malt and not from residual sugars. Be sure to use German ingredients such as noble hops and German lager yeast along with a continental pilsner malt. Without these ingredients, the beer just won’t taste correct and probably won’t do well in competition. As with any light beer such as this, pay close attention to your fermentation temperatures, keeping them steady and close to 50° F (10° C), allow for a diacetyl rest to clean up any residual fermentation byproducts, and lager cold, near freezing for a month or more.


  • Aroma: The Munich Helles has a definite malt-emphasized aroma. It is the aroma of fresh lightly toasted barley. It may have a very low background note of DMS from the pils malt, but should not present any fruity esters or diacetyl. There should be no caramel notes in this beer. The noble hop aroma is low to moderately-low.
  • Appearance: The color is medium yellow to a pale golden color with a creamy white head. It is darker than the pilsners.
  • Flavor: Slightly sweet grainy or malty flavors of pils grain are dominate. The noble hop bitterness is low to medium-low and doesn’t quite balance the maltiness, but does support it. Sometimes you will find low to moderate spicy noble hop flavors. The finish is malty and clean. You will find no fruitiness or strong hop flavors and no caramel or diacetyl.
  • Mouthfeel: Munich Helles has a medium body and carbonation, with around 2 to 2.5 volumes of CO2. No astringency should be noticed, just smooth maltiness.
  • Overall Impression: A Munich Helles should be perceived as having pils malty sweetness with low bitterness and only light spicy noble hop flavors and aromas. The beer should finish dry but still retain the malty sweetness typical of the style. Overall impression should be from the pils malt.
  • Comments: This beer is similar to a Munich Dunkel in that it is malt focused without the balancing bitterness of beers like pilsners. Brewing a Munich Helles is a balancing act of attenuation and malty sweetness. Full attenuation is critical as is a clean fermentation since the beer cannot hide any fruity esters or off flavors from unstable fermentations. You definitely need a starter with this beer to insure a clean fermentation. Continental and German ingredients in particular should be used exclusively to brew this beer to style.
  • Ingredients: Continental Pilsner malt, German noble hops, German yeast, moderate carbonate water (use discretion with the water).
  • Vital Statistics: OG: 1.045-1.051 FG: 1.008-1.012 IBUs: 16-22 SRM: 3-5 ABV: 4.7-5.4%
  • Commerical Examples: Weihenstephaner Original, Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Gold, Bürgerbräu Wolznacher Hell Naturtrüb, Mahr’s Hell, Paulaner Premium Lager, Spaten Premium Lager, Stoudt’s Gold Lager

Information for this page was adapted from the BJCP Style Guidelines for 2008 and the GABF style listing for 2007. You can check out the original version of the BJCP Style Guidelines for 2008 by clicking here.

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