Fordham Brewing Company - Helles Lager

Fordham Brewing Company - Helles Lager

Beer Club featured in U.S. Microbrewed Beer Club


United States

Alcohol by Volume:


Fordham Brewing Company - Helles Lager

  • ABV:

  • Int’l Bittering Units (IBUs):

  • Serving Temperature:

    40-45º F
  • Suggested Glassware:

    Pilsner Glass, Flute, Pint Glass
  • Malts:

    Pale, Carafoam, Munich, Vienna
  • Hops:

    Perle, Tradition
This month we’re featuring a bit of a comparison within the Helles Lager style, which originated in Munich, Germany. “Helles” is a German term meaning “pale” or “bright”, and is used parallel to how Anglo-American brewers use the term “Pale” in “Pale Ale.” Our first brewer, Fordham, has been brewing a version of this beer for a long time, but it went through a period in which the brewery simply referred to it as Fordham Lager because they felt the Helles term was confusing their customers and even scaring some folks. Well, with the maturation of the American craft brewing industry, and the craft beer customer, it’s now known as Helles Lager once again. On the nose of this attractive, rich golden brew, the hops jump out first with a dry, lightly fruity quality and distinct noble hop grassiness and a touch of spice. There’s a clean pale malt note with the specialty malts offering a bit of something deeper. On the palate, we loved the balance of this brew. On the one hand, look for a lightly bready, grainy malt core boasting a delightful residual sweetness that gives the beer some presence. On the other hand, the drying hops offer a touch of lemony citrus with an herbal and somewhat grassy edge. We really enjoyed the fairly intense interplay between these two sides, along with the simultaneously creamy and crisp feel on the palate. Though medium-bodied at most, it feels substantial, and is a good example of what a Helles Lager is all about. We think it goes well with herb and mustard basted pork chops, and even most soups.

In 1703, England’s Queen Anne commissioned Benjamin Fordham to begin a brewery in America, in her namesake city of Annapolis. As the port city grew, so did the popularity and demand for Fordham’s beer, and he secured a position in the history of the region, becoming one of the city's first aldermen. Sadly, when he passed away in 1716 the brewery was shut down.

For nearly three centuries, the Fordham brewery remained closed. Or should we say, on hiatus? The Fordham name was resurrected in 1995 with the establishment of a new brewery by William Muehlhauser and Jim Lutz. In researching the history of Annapolis area breweries of days gone by, Lutz, currently president and CEO, discovered the story of this once famed brewhouse. As he puts it, “I just went back to see what breweries existed in Annapolis and ran across this Fordham Brewery. I contacted the Fordham family and asked them if we could resurrect their great-great-great-grandfathers name. The family was happy to oblige.”

After five years of strong growth, they moved to a larger facility in Alexandria, VA, and three years later they had outgrown that building too. Fordham’s brewing and bottling operations moved to their current facility in Dover, DE in 2003. For more information about the brewery and scheduled tours call (302) 678-4810 or check out their web site at

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