This is a story of two beers: one old, one new. One previous, one current. A forefather and a standard bearer, if you will.
And it starts with a very necessary pronunciation guide. A standard beer style, the Helles lager, is a classic style from Munich, Germany. It was originally produced to compete with the Bohemian Pilsners coming out around that time. Both a re bright blonde lagers with moderate hop flavors, but the Helles lager added more malt sweetness than its Bohemian counterpart.
And it’s two syllables, thank you. Pronounced HELL-ehs. This is important for later on.
A special shoutout to the awesome At The Bar podcast for much of the backstory that follows. Many of you have noticed, settled in between copious six-packs of Maduro, Jai Alai, and Florida Cracker, another Cigar City beer with a big yellow sun on it.
That beer, deer readers, was Hotter Than Helles (Helles Lager, 5% ABV, 20 IBU), Cigar City’s first Helles Lager.
This beer is a significant favorite of mine with it comes to classic blonde beers. The malt flavors are significant, with lots of biscuity, bready goodness. They tend to overpower the hops ever so slightly, which I am perfectly fine with. It’s a light, sessionable beer great for a warm Florida day.
That was exactly when and why it was brewed.
The story behind the beer is that on one particularly hot summer day, 115 degrees to be exact, they decided to brew a light, sessionable beer. Hotter than Helles was the result, and they decide to name the beer for the heat that day since it was ‘hotter than Hell is.’
The big problem was not the beer itself. Many people thought the beer was supposed to be hot. With the relative influx of pepper beers on the market, people just assumed this was another spicy beer, and some people even reported tasting the peppers in the beer. There weren’t any, of course.
So Cigar City made the sad decision to discontinue Hotter Than Helles and go with a new beer. Rather than simply rebranding the beer, they decided to revamp the recipe as well. Some time ago, two test batches showed up in the Cigar City tasting room; one with a classic bill of traditional hops, and the other with hops that were more unique and experimental in nature.
Interestingly enough, the classic hops won, and thus was born the newly-released Tampa-Style Lager (Helles Lager, 4.5% ABV, 22 IBU).
I must say, the can design is significantly better with the new release, too. As a classy touch, Cigar City throws a pretty obvious reverence to the progenitor on the back of the packaging:
By Tampa-Style, just think hops. Lots of hops, more than Hotter had. even though it’s not necessarily reflected in the IBU numbers, Tampa Style feels a good deal more bitter than Hotter Than ever did.
For sure, the heavy malt bill is still there and is still strong. But the sweet, bready flavors are a bit more subdued here, and more of an herbaceous hop quality abounds here.
If you are lucky, you can still find some cans of Hotter Than. But both are in short supply, with stocks of Hotter Than running out and packs of Tampa Style flying off store shelves. I’m sure Cigar City has it in their tap room, and who knows? Maybe they’ll bring back Hotter Than Helles as a special one-off in their tasting room.
I would brave the heat for that.
Drink Florida Craft,