Ah, the helles lager. Munich’s answer to the craze of the Czech pilsener, slightly more malt focused and breathlessly clean–in fact, “helles” translates to “bright” in German. A bright lager for all your food pairing desires. And it is certainly versatile. You could put this beer on the table with many classic European cuisines and it wouldn’t be out of place. But I have a different idea in mind: hummus! A middle-eastern classic and a contemporary Western convenience/party food favorite, the lovely combination of garbanzo, tahini, lemon, garlic and salt…a hearty plant-focused snack. So it’s likely you’ve had hummus on a table with other dips and spreads alongside whatever beer was on offer–but I’m making a case for the helles lager today.
Three Reasons Why This Pairing Works
1. Chickpeas are starchy legumes and have a light but noticeable sweetness, almost like potatoes. This sweetness (like potatoes!) does a good job paralleling the honey and malt-forward notes in the helles lager.
2. Conversely, the sweet flavors of malt in the beer bring out the earthy and almost mineral notes in hummus.
3. Most hummus is fairly heavy on lemon–which plays really well with hop notes! How fun.
Finding a great helles lager might take a little effort. You can stick with the German classics, of course (and I’d recommend starting there if you haven’t already sampled any) but there are some American answers as well. The brewing process is different, and the ingredients aren’t always going to exactly be the same but there are really some good options out there.
Here’s a few to get you started.
Firestone Walker Lager
Heater Allen Helles