This is two beers from the same wort. A was fermented with White Labs German Lager yeast, B with White Labs German Bock Lager yeast. As you can see, A on the left is not quite as lively in it’s carbonation. It also finished at a slightly higher gravity, putting it at 4% ABV and the other at 4.2%. From past drinking, I always enjoyed B a bit more. Contradicting that, though I actually have more of the B left because I purposely took A with for a lot of holiday gatherings. Anyway, I’ll cover A first, then B and then do some comparison, I think.
The aroma from A is all bread. Fresh, floury bread. It smells great. The first sip is disappointing. It is not nearly as crisp as I would hope. It is a bit sweet. It feels a little too thick. There is some off flavor that I am having trouble finding words for. It is almost soapy, but that isn’t quite right. Overall, though it is just a little dull. Everything after the aroma seems muted.
The good part, though is that it cleans up well. The aftertaste is not strong and it is mainly malt. Whatever the off flavor is, it doesn’t survive after you swallow. I am down to only a few sips left, I better move on to the other beer so I can still come back to compare at the end.
Okay, Helles B still has a thin layer of foam after I’ve drunk the other beer. It is splitting into islands but they’re sticking around. The aroma is not quite as strong as A. It smells drier and a bit grainier, as opposed to all bread. There is still a hint of that bread but it’s not baking bread, it’s not as fresh.
Once it makes it into my mouth, though, it gets much better. This beer is definitely crisper and drier. It also tastes a bit more bitter. There is not hint of hops in A, in B I still don’t taste them, but their balancing bitterness is discernable. There is still a hint of whatever the off flavor is, but it doesn’t come through as strongly in this drier beer. This still not a fully successful representation of the style, but it’s definitely better.
Well, I shouldn’t say that yet, because now I’ll try to compare the beers going sip for sip back and forth. Before taking those sips, though, both are beautifully clear and colored perfectly. The head is completely gone from A but there are still some bubbles atop B. I purposely used two normal shaker/pint glasses, so hopefully that is not causing any difference. Now, tasting them again…
A: The carbonation seems way too low now, after drinking B and it is too sweet.
B: Nice and crisp but that off flavor persists in the aftertaste.
A: More ale like, almost English malt characteristics compared to B. Soapy.
B: Very pleasant up front, but that soapy tastes comes in a bit at the end.
A: Sweetness is really a problem at this point (finished it).
B: Definitely more enjoyable, but still flawed (finished it).
I guess I’m out of time. I don’t know what this off flavor is, my only guess is that the poor boil contributed to whatever it is. B is the winner, but both versions were a little disappointing.