This story required a hunt for the best Munich helles lager—a style that rose to popularity in the mid-1800s in reaction to the pale Czech pilsners that had come into vogue in Europe—which proved a fun but challenging research project. Germany produces several noteworthy examples of helles, which translates to “bright,” an apt descriptor for this exceedingly drinkable category of lager. The taste-off deemed Weihenstephaner Original Premium ($4 per 500 mL bottle) the victor, with its iconic lager profile matching Weihenstephaner’s legacy as the world’s oldest brewery, founded by Bavarian Benedictine monks nearly a millennium ago.
It pours a transparent pale-yellow hue with a dense head that releases mild biscuit aromas balanced with bittering hops and a light crispness. This lager is light and refreshing, but not without fleeting complexities almost indecipherable amid extraordinary balance. It is neither too sweet nor too bitter, with delicate flavors of lemongrass, floral hops, and even slightly peppery notes that quickly dissipate as the 5.1 percent ABV liquid refreshes the back of the palate. “Prost!” to the Germans for what may be the world’s perfect lager.