While April’s dreary showers may last outlast May’s flowers, we have created a brand new lager, the Twisted Helles, to bring summer sunshine a few months early. Developed by our brewmaster Jeff Coon, this beer distinctly represents summer in Michigan. Whether out in the boat, taking in an outdoor concert or sitting around a campfire, Twisted Helles is the beer that will be by your side while you make new summer memories.
To introduce our new lager, we sat down with Jeff and let him explain everything about Twisted Helles. In the interview, Coon waxes about his first taste of suds, the ingredients behind the brew and his reasons why the Twisted Helles is the perfect summer beer. So… Are you ready? Summer and Twisted Helles are nearly here.
How did you come up with the concept for the Twisted Helles?
It started in January 2012 when my youngest daughter came to me and said, “Dad, my birthday is coming up in February. You and I should brew a beer.” She was going to be 24. I said “Great. That’s awesome.” At the time, she only liked a certain style of beer I did, which was the Hefeweizen. Knowing her, I said, “What if we do a Helles style?” and she said, “Well, what if we do a twist on it?” So we started talking about the citrus, the orange and the lemon, we even talked about limes, which is something we didn’t end up doing. So we did it on the pilot system, fermented that bugger out and on her birthday, which was February 26. We put it on the line, did a keg of it and the beer was gone in a couple hours. It was like, “Oh… We’re going to have to do this again.”
So in March or April of last year, we ran it on the big system and did a ten-barrel batch, which netted about 18 kegs, we went through that in about eight days. All word of mouth. No advertising. So I ended up doing it two more times and had similar results. It was really successful. People liked it and I knew I was going to do it again. Then we were doing some brainstorming at corporate and thought “What if we could do a beer in a can?” So we throw around the beers, we thought about the I.P.A. Then they started asking about the Twisted Helles and talking about doing a summer beer.
What makes Twisted Helles different than other summer beers?
Helles is a German-style beer. German beers are very specific in that the only ingredients are water, grains, hops, yeasts. That’s it — you don’t do anything else. The reason we call it “twisted” is not because my daughter is twisted, but because we took the German recipe and twisted it. We added something that German brewers would not do. We added the citrus of orange and lemon peel six minutes before the end of the boil. It imparts a citrus overtone; you get in the aroma and on the way backend. It’s not like a summer shandy where it’s sweet and you can really taste the lemonade. It’s not like a Bud Lime where it’s overpowering lime in the beer. It’s just a refreshing summer lager.
Why is this brew the perfect summer beer?
Summer brings to mind warm or hot days, and when it’s warm the last thing you want is a heavy beer. This is a light bodied beer and has what they call in the beer world, “Slammability.” It’s like when you get done mowing the lawn or just got done running or riding the bike, you’re sweating and you want to crank some liquid down. This beer is nice because it’s light in body and that means you can down it. It’s just got that hint of citrus, and when I say hint of citrus, I mean it’s a hint. It’s refreshing because the way it will make you say, “Oh I want another.”
Is there a summer memory or a time in your own life that you associate with the beer?
Absolutely. I can tell you exactly the place. A lot of years ago, up in Mackinac, my parents used to have a trailer and we used to camp. There was this one campground. It’s no longer there anymore, now it’s just a park, but it overlooks the Mackinac Bridge. It takes me back there. I remember we were having dinner outside on a picnic table, my dad was cooking on the grill and my mom was making something inside the trailer. During dinner, dad and mom were sitting there drinking a beer. It wasn’t a Twisted Helles, but they were drinking a beer. I was looking at the bridge and Lake Huron, then I remember asking if I could have a taste of beer and they let me. That’s what it takes me back to. That’s what summer is about.
Talk about the ingredients used in the brewing process of Twisted Helles?
It’s a German style beer and I’m primarily using German ingredients. I’m using an under modified Pilsner malt, so it requires that we do step mashes. Step mashes are when you start at a lower temperature and hold it for a period of time, bring it up to another to a higher temperature and hold it for a period of time. On this particular beer, we go through four steps. That really helps draw out the fermentable sugars and produce a beer that is light in body and color.
To that I add a dusting of Munich malt, which just gives it a hint of maltiness that you can just barely taste. You’ll drink this beer and just get a slight taste of the maltiness you would get in a fuller bodied beer. Then that’s when you get hit with the citrus. For me, I get the citrus from this beer in two places. When you pour the beer into a glass, you get the aroma from the head while it’s foaming and you’re like “What’s that?” Then when you drink it, you taste it on the backside when it’s going down your throat. Even more importantly, when you burp, you burp it up.
The hops I use are the traditional German hops. What would be called the noble hops. Why? Those hops are meant to balance the malt of the beer and the spiciness of the hop. Germans do a nice job of balancing those two elements, and if you’re going to make a German beer you have to use those hops. The yeast I use is a traditional lager yeast, and since this is a lager, it’s fermented at cold temperatures in the middle to upper 40s.
This brew takes us approximately 28 days and fermentation, cold condition and maturation, where you’re maturing the flavors. From there we pull it, and the beer is lightly filtered just enough to take the heavy cloudiness out of it and leave the flavor intact. We didn’t polish it, but we put a hint of a filter just to pull out the suspended yeast particles and give it a clarity that would make you say “Oh yeah… Summertime.”