Haifisch – Munich Helles


This beer was brewed on 05/14/16.  So, lets start with the name.  Haifisch is the German word for shark.  This is a German, specifically Bavarian, style of beer.  I’m a huge nerd, specifically for beer and sharks.  So I felt this to be a fitting name for my first crack at a Munich Helles!

If you aren’t familiar with the style Munich Helles, its a real beer drinker’s light beer.  If one was to go into a beer hall in Bavaria and say “Ein beir, bitte (One beer, please.)” you would almost certainly receive a glass or stein of Helles.   Hell is German for light, bright, or pale.  So while this is a light beer, its not a “Lite” beer if you know what I mean.  While crisp and easy drinking, this beer isn’t the watered down light Marcro lagers many here are used to, and you shouldn’t see the use of adjuncts like corn or rice in it.

Pilsner Malt is the star of the show in a Munich Helles, and it should be what you primarily taste in the final product.  Ideally, you want a German variety of Pils for the most authentic flavor.  I went with German maltster Avangard for my Helles, but there are several others readily available.  In addition to Pilsner malt, you can add a bit of character with the use of Vienna or light Munich malt.  I went with Vienna malt in my version here, so I could use a full pound for character without a lot of color contribution.  Adding Vienna or Munich will add a nice depth of bready malt flavor and complexity rather than using entirely Pilsner malt, though you certainly could go full Pilsner malt if desired.  Other malts that would be appropriate for the style may be carapils, melanoiden malt, and that’s probably about it.  I went with carapils in mine to help add a little body and head retention.  I did a single temperature mash rather than a traditional step or decoction mash.  I went with Vienna for my added maltiness, but a small amount of melanoiden malt can help simulate the flavors added from doing a traditional decoction mash.  A Munich Helles should be malty, but not sweet.  To avoid this, DO NOT use any caramel malts or crystal malts other than carapils, they have no place in this style!

German noble hops are ideal in this style, though they shouldn’t contribute much the flavor and aroma.  I like Hallertau for a Helles, but Tettnang would work nicely as well.  Unfortunately, my LHBS was out of German Hallertau, so I had to go with US grown Hallertau hops.  They should still contribute a very mild floral and spicey note, and they’re only used as a 60 minute addition here, so hopefully there won’t be much of a difference in the end.  I didn’t do a flavor or aroma hop addition, but you could if desired.  If you were to choose to do so, use restraint!  The crisp, clean malts are the star of the show in this style.

Any clean fermenting German lager yeast with good attenuation should work in this style, and I’ve read others having success with Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager.  This is my first time using it, so I’m anxious to taste the results!  I pitched two packs in a two liter starter the day prior to brewing.  I’m sure I’m still under the recommended cell count, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to build a bigger starter up and my LHBS didn’t have more than two packs.

Water for this style should be soft and light on the palate without any mineral characteristic coming through.  I didn’t follow any particular recipe, nor did I aim to emulate any specific example of this style, but after looking at a number of recipes,  I figured this will be a great Helles recipe.


This is not how May should look…

Brew day was smooth, but the weather sucked.  I had just shaved my beard and I felt like I instantly lose my brewers cred for that, so I apologize for the pictures.  Its growing back, so I feel like my beer will automatically improve when it fills in again 🙂  I had my friends Jason and Steve to help me out, and we actually had two batches going at once.  I’ll post the other batch, a new batch of my imperial stout ISO: Whalez Bro!  in the coming days.


I mashed in at 150 for an hour, sparged, boiled for 90 minutes and chilled down to 60 degrees.  I took my hydrometer sample and hit my desired OG of 1.050, hell(es) yes!  I pitched my 2 liter starter and set my fermenting chamber for 48 degrees.  I noticed fermentation was active at the end of the next day.


Staying next to the burner for heat while bringing the kettle to a boil, it was only 50 degrees out in May!

I’ll let this beer ferment around 50 degrees for a week and a half, step up to 65 degrees for a diacetyl rest, and then transfer the beer to a secondary to lager.  I’ll drop the beer about five degrees a day until its about 35 degrees, and I’ll leave it there until I have an open keg.

Here’s my water profile and recipe:

Ca+2                  Mg+2                 Na+               Cl-                   SO4-2            HCO
55.9                    7.8                     5.2                69.0                 16.8               8.168

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.050 SG
Estimated Color: 3.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.0 IBUs
Est Mash Efficiency: 77.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
8 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 82.1 %
1 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 2 10.3 %
8.0 oz Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM) Grain 3 5.1 %
4.0 oz Acidulated (Weyermann) (1.8 SRM) Grain 4 2.6 %

1.50 oz Hallertau [3.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 22.0 IBUs

2.0 pkg Bohemian Lager (Wyeast Labs #2124) [124. Yeast 6 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 9 lbs 12.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 12.19 qt of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F 60 min

Keg Update 05/31/16:  After doing the D-rest at 65 degrees for two days, this beer was kegged.  The FG of the beer came in at 1.010, giving me an abv of 5.25%.  The flavor of the beer was already really nice, and I can’t wait to see what a few weeks of lagering does for it!

Tasting Notes 06/26/16:

Appearance:  Haifisch pours crystal clear gold with a nice fluffy white head that sticks around.  I fined this beer with gelatin when it went into the keg and it shows.  This may be the clearest beer I’ve brewed.  The photos above don’t quite do the appearance justice.  Its a perfect example of what the style should look like.  A very classic looking beer.

Smell:  This one is all the crisp clean aroma of Pils malt.  The lager yeast leaves no esters or any off aromas that I can detect.  There’s no hop aroma that stands out, which is fine for the style.  Its like sticking your nose in a bag of fresh baked bread.

Taste:  Again, this beer is a Pils malt showcase.  I’m sure the Vienna malt adds a level of complexity, but I get mostly crisp, grainy Pils malt in the flavor.  This beer tastes just like a classic German lager should.  There’s enough bitterness to offset the malt and create a great balance.  Lager yeast leaves the beer with a very clean flavor, no detectable off flavors or fruity esters to be found here.  There’s a hint of spicy hop flavor that carries though the bittering addition, but its very subtle.  This beer is malt focused, but its well attenuated and crisp, not malty in a sweet way.

Mouthfeel:  Medium carbonation with a light, crisp body.  The carapils addition keeps the beer from feeling light and watery.  Its not like drinking a American light lager like Miller or whatever, you’re still drinking a beer drinker’s lager.

Overall:  This beer is perfect for sitting outside or playing yard games where you want to be able to drink a beer with some flavor without feeling the need to contemplate the nuances of it.  That being said, its still nice to sit back and just enjoy a crisp, clean lager and savor the graininess of Pils malt.  This recipe came out exactly how I wanted it to.  The ONLY change I make would be to use German grown Hallertau hops.  I’m sure there are subtle differences in the American grown version, but with just a bittering addition I’m not sure how big a difference it’ll make.  I’m thrilled with this for my first attempt at the style, and I’ll come back to this recipe again when a light drinking lager is called for!

4 thoughts on “Haifisch – Munich Helles

  1. Pingback: ISO: Whalez Bro! 2016 | White Pointer Brewery

  2. Pingback: Serrated Summer Ale 3.0 – Hoppy Blonde | White Pointer Brewery

  3. Pingback: Haifisch-Munich Helles Tasting Notes | White Pointer Brewery

  4. Pingback: My 2016 Homebrewing Year in Review | White Pointer Brewery

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