It’s true… I don’t get the skull. It’s a lovely image though. All in all, the label is bright. Bright as the beer, as we can observe from the image above and featuring – in addition to the skull – bright orange slices, a vanilla flower and some other feather looking leaves. However what the skull has to do with beer, springtime or even Hell, as referenced by “Fresh as Helles” name, I have no idea.
But all the same, as part of Samuel Adams redesigning of their aesthetic it looks quite nice and as we know, it’s ultimately irrelevant as it’s what’s inside that counts. Who knew that this childhood lesson would ultimately be about beer? I’ll give you a clue – I did.
So what have we here, really? Firstly and foremost this is a Helles style lager. This style is often what I refer to as what Budweiser or Coors would be if Budweiser and Coors cared about what they were making. Yellow, fizzy, bubbly, light and with a crispness that insists upon chilling, this Helles style has itself offered the extra added twist of orange peel, as evidenced by the slices over the eyes of the skull.
As we’ve covered, the presentation is that of your “ordinary” beer. Bright and bubbly it offers to the casual drinker the exact appearance they expect, hence being the first reason I often like to suggest such styles for those looking for a craft style to share with a casual drinking friend. Moving on to the nose then, we find yet another light and unintimidating presence of normality with the light scent of lager yeast and a hint of malt suggesting an altogether ordinary beer.
It is however in the sip where we get our first peek of how this beer stands out. Still providing the crisp, light texture that lagers are most typically known for, there lingers in the flavor itself a definite hint of orange zest, which folds beautifully into the nicely balanced flavors of the almost citrusy lager yeast and the even subtle hints of malt. It is to be honest, a very spring-like beer in both presentation and flavor, as well as being something that is entirely approachable with a respectable 5.4% ABV, craft and casual drinkers alike should not be disappointed.
Here I feel we have yet another example of how Samuel Adams remains, in spite of its size and market presence, a brewery that is well in tune with what the craft market desires. In general ‘Sam’ is regarded by most beer enthusiasts as an acceptable commercial brand beer that is preferable to most others when no craft is available. To me however they stand out as a big and friendly dog in the dog park that is the beer world in general.
It has even been said in conversations with other New England brewers that those who seek to open and launch their own brewery in the area enjoy a standing invitation from brewmaster Jim Koch to bring their beer to the Samuel Adams headquarters and get the big man’s opinion and advice on how to make their brewing dreams become the reality they desire.
So to Samuel Adams, to the inexplicable skull on this label (I still don’t get it) and of course to you, I say as always…
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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