“Are you sure?” I ask Hop Burns & Black co-owner Jen Ferguson when she shoves a familiar bottle of one of Bavaria’s very best lagers, Augustiner Helles, into my hand.
The reason for my doubt is because, by and large, the beers I review in this column are completely new to me. Such is the never-ending slew of new releases these days that I’m rarely short of something fresh and exciting to try.
Not this time, however. Today I am reviewing the all-time classic, the stalwart, old man Augustiner. One of the greatest beers on earth. A beer I buy regularly such is both its excellence and its dependability. What this does gift me with is the rare opportunity to ruminate on this particular beer’s greatness. Augustiner Helles is not usually a beer I have to put much thought into enjoying. It’s a beer that fits into almost any occasion, be it a cold bottle in the confines of a darkened London bar, a sundrenched Munich biergarten or, wherever, really. There is rarely a time when this lager is not appropriate.
What is about this beer that gives it such majesty? Why do I find it so appealing, time after time? These are some of the questions whirring through my head as I slowly, yet firmly pour the beer into my glass, ensuring I knock enough carbon dioxide out of suspension to produce the firm head of foam this beer always deserves (trust me, it enhances the hop flavour and aroma.)
But quickly I remember this is not a beer to be analysed or overthought. Sure, I could go into detail about its supple, soft breadiness, and how these delicate malt flavours are balanced by the fresh, herbaceous snap of German noble hops, followed by the tiniest twinge of acidity before a wave of bitterness brings dryness to the back of your palate. But that would do this beer an injustice. Augustiner is not a beer to bear the burden of heavy thought. It’s a beer that commands a lack of thought, as you enjoy long, deep gulps in quick succession… followed by a crack and hiss as you inevitably begin to prise the cap off your next bottle.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag.