Flying Dog Brewery's Heller Hound Maibock-Helles
I’m always trying to find a better beer to review each month, but lately I find I’m having a harder time deciding. (Could I be developing more discriminating tastes?) I finally found this month’s selection after many trips to my usual beer haunts. It was the label that got me: It depicts a disturbing hellhound coughing up sheep parts. With a label like that, it had to be either really rough or really awesome.
Heller Hound is a Maibock/Helles, a favorite style of mine. Usually, when I mention the word “Maibock,” people think I’m talking about a foreign car — but it’s actually a well-known seasonal beer released in the early months of spring. Traditionally, spring beers in Germany are strong, very dark lagers, called Bock beers or Bockbier. “Mai” means the month of May in German. Put the two together, and you get the delight that is Maibock.
Maibocks are very similar to another strong lager style called Hellesbock, which basically means a pale or blond bock. Heller Hound falls somewhere in between and, luckily for us, is available from March to June.
Poured out, it yields three fingers of white head that leaves a sticky trail of lace down the glass. The tea-stained golden amber color of the brew shows perfect clarity. Herbal hop and cake-batter aroma, slightly spicy yet clean to the nose. The thick medium body is creamy with a moderate carbonation that provides a slick smoothness. Certainly enough malt to go around, with biscuity and rustic bready flavors. Also plenty of hops to balance everything, with a clean semi-sharp bitterness and a long-lingering herbal flavor. Some warmth from the alcohol is evident from middle to end — definitely more in the drying finish.
Heller Hound isn’t rough at all — just very interesting and delicious. I like the disturbing label and think this is a perfect brew for welcoming back the sun. I wonder, though, why it has to be a seasonal: Strong bocks are good all year round, and this is certainly one of Flying Dog’s best.