FREELY ADMITTED, Hoppin’ Helles is hardly a world class example of the style. Yet it has to count as a step up from Leinenkugel’s other year-round brews. And while it may give an American twist to German precedent, at least this time the focus is on fundamental beer ingredients instead of added sweeteners. Thus a slightly skeptical cheers goes to the quasi-craft appendage of MillerCoors for ensuring a serviceable option in bars where craft has limited currency.
Hoppin’ Helles is neither particularly hoppy nor much of a Helles, but at 27 IBUs it is Leinenkugel’s most assertively bittered beer (Big Eddy small batches notwithstanding). This is tragic. At least they chose well this time, including a quintet of cultivars such as Citra and Simcoe, well-known for their pungent citric and catty aromatics. Here they’re applied with a relatively light touch, enough that they could almost be mistaken for noble at first—a little floral, not quite spicy, with a bit of lemon zip. Fresh, in any event.
Returning somewhat to continental precedent, the beer has a slight bicarbonate edge that underscores the bitterness and crisps the finish. But the body overall is too light, lacking in texture, aroma, and fizzing out a little aimlessly with the carbonation. A stronger aroma of grains and stiffening of the body (just a bit) would have helped given the beer a firmer anchor on the back half. As of now, it’s almost more a pleasure to the nose than it is the tongue. A poor Helles, if a decent lager.
Served: 12 oz bottle