So when I learnt that Austrian brewery Stiegl had also released a Hell, I was intrigued. Partly because Stiegl already has a Munich Helles-style beer in Goldbräu (5%), but also because Austria also has its own, slightly different, beer styles, including one called Helles.
Which would Stiegl Hell (4.5%) turn out to be? As luck would have it, the nice folk at Stiegl’s UK importer, Euroboozer, stepped in to help me try to answer that question. They’ve just introduced Stiegl Hell to the UK market, so were kind enough to send some over, along with a branded glass.
And it’s intriguing. It's pale gold with a light malty sweetness on the nose, along with just a touch of raw bread dough and a hint of floral perfume, all of which one might expect in a Munich Helles. But then on the palate it’s crisp and hoppy-bitter, with hints of dry grass and herbs from those ‘noble’ Central European hops – more like a Pilsner now, except that there’s also smooth malt with a slight sweetness, not the breadiness one might get in Munich, and just a touch of stickiness on the finish.
I’d have this down as an Austrian-style Helles, then, but feel free to go and judge for yourself: I’m told Stiegl Hell is already available on draught from Frontier Pubs sites around London, as well as Bonehead in Birmingham and Junkyard in Nottingham, while retailers carrying the 500ml bottles include Beers of Europe. Expect that list to grow as Euroboozer pushes it more.
*Hell or Helles simply means pale or golden, so it can be used in other contexts, while Munich Helles refers to the actual style of beer. German brewers tend to be cavalier about the distinction though...
**Pils itself only came to dominate the German market in the 1970s, displacing Dortmunder Export. Coincidentally, that was also when Bitter lost out to Lager in Britain.