American Helles (Maui Brewing Co. Bikini Blonde clone)

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My wife and I recently took a trip to Hawaii. We drank a lot of great beer. We didn’t come across anything too “adventurous” – mostly lagers, ambers, browns, stouts, a few IPAs, with the occasional coconut, pineapple, and or/coffee infused beer. Overall the quality was outstanding, though.  Maui Brewing Company was one brewery stop on the trip, and their Bikini Blonde quickly became my go-to; extremely drinkable and a wonderfully refreshing beer for relaxing on the beach (the coconut porter was a close 2nd).

  • 19 lb US 2-row
  • 2 lb Dark Munich (avengard)
  • 0.75 oz Magnum FWH
  • 1 oz Willamette @ 10 min
  • WLP090 San Diego Super yeast (1L starter)
  • WYeast London ESB (1L starter)

// Mash-in 1.33 qt/lb at 152 for 50 minutes, sparge w/160F water (propane ran out) to collect 13.25 gallons of 1042 wort. Boil 30 minutes (propane ran out again during the boil), then another 30. Chill to 75. Let sit 30 minutes to settle trub. Collect around 11 gallons 1048 wort. San Diego in PET carboy, english in plastic bucket. Brewed 12/12/15. //

Fermentation complete in both beers in about a week – english stopped at 1016, SD at 1010. Both have great malt flavor with just a hint of a neutral hop flavor in the finish. SD has a slight fruity/apple aroma but overall very clean. Moved english to the nitro tap and SD to force carb.

THE VERDICT

I bought a 6-pack of Bikini Blonde and did a side-by-side comparison against mine. The results were strikingly similar. I even had a few people do a blind taste test – about 50% of people guessed incorrectly in labeling the beers after sampling both a few times prior. That either means the quality was comparable, or that they were just bad beer tasters :). To make it easy, here’s a table of the comparison:

 

Attribute Bikini Blonde American Helles Comments
Appearance Golden yellow Golden yellow Nearly identical shade of yellow, and BB was actually a little cloudier than mine, strangely.
Aroma Classic Helles lager traits – light malt toast with some slight buttery/diacetyl lager-ish things Slightly ale-like, but does have significant pils malt aroma. The aroma on mine is much more subdued, but both have attractive qualities.
Flavor Distinct grainy flavor, subtle but noticeable noble hop character Clean, light malt flavor. Hops rarely poke through. Very similar – both are clean, light, malt-forward. I really like the grain flavor of BB and I wonder how they capture this – maybe some aromatic malt or melanoidin? Or, maybe the lager yeast just helps to accentuate the base malts more than an ale yeast
Mouthfeel Light carbonation Medium carbonation Both are pretty smooth – BB is slightly silkier and has a tad more body.

WLP090 seems to be a great yeast for a fairly neutral yeast flavor while letting the malts shine through. I fermented a little on the warmer side (68-70F), but I’d imagine that if you kept this lower you’d be squeaky clean, borderline lager-ish. I’ll definitely be using this again for anything that I don’t want the yeast contributing too much flavor to.

The nitro version with the English yeast was great, too. It reminded me of a Boddington’s Ale with the creamy light malt body combined with the English yeast character. Not my favorite English beer, but it was very enjoyable on tap. The English yeast did push the malts out in front even more, but I found myself wanting more hops to balance it, like with my hoppy English Pale Ale.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, English, Malty, Pale Ale, Pilsner

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