The Munich Helles and How to Brew It

Munich Helles

Overview

Now that we’ve reached the wonderfully hot and humid temperatures of mid-July, it is the perfect time to make a Munich Helles. The Munich Helles is a gold German lager with a smooth, malty flavor and a crisp, dry finish. The 2021 guidelines for this style of beer are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.044 – 1.050
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.8% – 5.6%
  • Bitterness: 18-25 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 3-5

Munich Helles Ingredients

Malt

Since the Munich Helles is such a light lager, the quality of both your malt and your brew process will be evident in the final product. The vast majority of the grain bill for the Helles is pilsner malt. A high-quality pilsner malt will help you build the slightly sweet, grainy base you want. In addition to the pilsner malt, I would also add a small amount of either Munich or Vienna malt, based on preference. The Munich malt will promote a fuller body with notes of light caramel, honey, and bread. Vienna malt will similarly promote body and fullness, as well as add a light honey and grainy character with some slight nutty notes. I would keep any other specialty malts at a minimum. You can use biscuit, aromatic, melanoidin, or victory to enhance the malty, sweet, grainy flavor, but no more than 5% of the grain bill.

Hops

The hops used in a Munich Helles are German noble hops. These include Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Saaz, Spalt, and Tettnang. If you are unable to get ahold of any of these, you can also use Fuggles, Liberty, or Mount Hood. I would add in about 17 IBUs worth of bittering hops at 60 minutes. This will give you that noticeable bitterness and dryness that is expected in a Helles.

Yeast

For the Munich Helles:

  • Munich Helles Lager Yeast – WLP860 (White Labs)
  • German Lager Yeast – WLP830 (White Labs)
  • Munich Lager -2308 (Wyeast)
  • High Pressure Lager Yeast – WLP925 (White Labs)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. For the Helles, I added calcium chloride and gypsum to get the Calcium, Sulfate, and Chloride ions where I wanted them. The water profile I used for my Helles was:

  • Calcium – 79 ppm
  • Magnesium – 0 ppm
  • Sodium – 0 ppm
  • Sulfate – 74 ppm
  • Chloride – 86 ppm

If your pH is a little high, I would recommend adding either a small amount of acidulated malt or acid to drop the mash pH into the 5.2 – 5.3 range.

Munich Helles Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon batch of a Munich Helles. The numbers for this beer are included below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.050
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.9%
  • Bitterness: 17.4 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 4.6

Grain Bill

  • Pilsner Malt – 8 lbs (86.5%)
  • Munich Malt – 1 lb (10.8%)
  • Melanoidin Malt – 4 oz (2.7%)

Hops

  • 1.25 oz Hallertauer Mittelfruh at 60 minutes (17.4 IBUs)

Yeast

Munich Helles Lager Yeast – WLP860

Mash

Add your salts and pH adjustment, if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 148 degrees Fahrenheit. We mash the Helles at 148 degrees Fahrenheit for 75 minutes to get more fermentable sugars to promote a dry, crisp finish. For me, the strike water was at 159 degrees Fahrenheit at 2.9 gallons. After 75 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mashing out, begin to sparge until you reach a pre-boil gravity of around 1.044. For me, it was 5.3 gallons.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops in at 60 minutes. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 48 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. My initial gravity was 1.050. I let this free rise to 52 degrees as fermentation starts. I kept it at this temperature for a little over a week. Once the primary fermentation was complete, I pulled off the yeast and let the temperature free rise up to 68 degrees. For me, this took about 5 days. I then held it at this temperature for 2 whole weeks to ensure that fermentation has completed. After the two-week mark, I lowered the temperature by 4 degrees a day until it reached 33 degrees. Once it reached 33 degrees, I transferred it to the brite tank and carbonated it to 2.8 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, I kegged it and let it lager for 12 weeks. Once the lagering is complete, tap it and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Munich Helles recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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