Camden Hells Lager
There’s something rewarding about buying an English beer brewed in a German style in a supermarket in New York City. For some, that might inspire a long monologue about the interconnectedness of the world; for others, that’s an average Thursday in the life of a craft beer drinker. The beer in question is Camden Town Brewery’s Hells Lager, and it’s a smartly constructed one: an homage to a pair of German styles that sets out on a course all its own.
Finding a balanced middle ground is at the heart of this beer. On the back of the bottle, here’s an adorable cartoon of two mugs of beer exchanging a meaningful glance–a nod towards the beer’s intended purpose as a blend of helles and pilsner. The ingredients lean towards the German side of the equation—it was made using Perle and Hallertau Tradition hops, along with a malt from Bamberg. The presentation, however, is one that may well delight Anglophiles.
The bottle’s label utilizes restraint in some areas and bold decisions in others: The color palette is red, black and white, and the choice of fonts used creates a relatively timeless feel. The beer itself is a light-gold in color, and a handful of bubbles rising to the top periodically are the only thing keeping it from being entirely translucent.
Hells Lager certainly feels like a German beer, despite its decidedly English origins.”
Hells Lager has a welcoming smell: It’s almost floral and ,like the coloring of the beer, it doesn’t linger. That’s not to say that this could ever be mistaken for anything but beer, but it’s one that promises relief rather than oblivion. Most beer aromas wouldn’t translate well to scented candles, but if Camden Town is ever looking to branch out, they might have a decent side business on their hands.
This beer is relatively modest on the eyes and the nose, but the taste reveals more than a little complexity. The first thing that come to mind when you taste Hells Lager is a refreshing sensation, like unsweetened iced tea, that immediately hits the tongue. From there, the beer’s second distinct flavor comes into focus. This one is sprawling and hoppy—at 24 IBU, it’s not overwhelmingly so, but a slightly sweet, apricot-tinted bitterness that lingers in the throat and intensifies slightly. At 4.6% ABV, this beer is light enough to encourage rapid drinking without being overwhelming.
There’s a reason storied German beer styles continue to be imbibed around the world by a host of drinkers, but it’s also rewarding to see what comes when brewers experiment with traditional styles and push them into unexpected places. Hells Lager certainly feels like a German beer, despite its decidedly English origins. It’s a complex beer that’s also uniformly refreshing. Some contradictions can tear a beer apart; with this one, it only makes it stronger.