When I first looked at the menu, I only had to see “Helles” to know I wanted to taste this lager style. The pint came out a beautiful gold that underlined a gorgeous, sunny Sunday, with vigorous but not overwhelming carbonation and a modest head.
The first sip surprised me: at the exact same moment that I felt the satisfaction of drinking as light a brew as a good lager should be, the smoky flavor hit. I found myself again ten years earlier in the heart of Estonia, sitting in a traditional outdoor wooden sauna penetrated through and through with decades of smoke. For the next split second I thought of hard, smoked sausages, and the sensation washed away.
I described the experience to Blue Palate’s Lindsay, and she pointed at the small print on the menu: “Smoked Helles using house-smoked malts on maple and ash.” Then she took a sip and described the flavor as “liquid smoke”, a hickory flavoring.
Unlike the sauna, whose scent lingered on my body for days despite daily showers, Gunslinging Helles left little aftertaste or bite: it evaporated like smoke, leaving my palate refreshed and curiously thirsty for another sip.
I rarely think to smell beer, but the Gunslinging Helles is the beginning of a new beer-sniffing era for me. The taste experience played out in the nose: a fresh start, followed by a malty middle, and a clean finish.
Word from the Brewer
Gunslinging Helles is yet another German inspired beer for 2011, making this the fourth after our Gose, Offen Weisse, and year-round Engelberg Pilsener. This is a smoked version, inspired by Schlenkerla, the legendary Bamberg brewery. Gunslinging Helles is made with over 160 pounds of Vienna malt that has been hand smoked with maple scraps from the bar top at the Grain and Gristle plus additional ash wood. The aroma is robust while the flavor plays out more delicately, with a smooth malty middle and dry yet soft finish. 4.9% ABV.
American Robotnik’s Brewrating
- Lowdown: I recommend Upright Gunslinging Helles to every adventurous lager drinker as an experiment for a sunny fall afternoon. May go well with the burning of leaves, but I’d rather have it (only one) sitting on a patio.
- Grade: B+
- Read other beer lovers’ reviews of Upright Gunslinging Helles on Beer Advocate >