I’m not sure why I grabbed this bottle of Helios Ale from Victory Brewing Company, for The Brew Club here, but I think it had something to do with the happy, summery label! Bright colors, a smiling sunshine. What’s not to like about the looks?
Well, we all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the label is often the best way for a craft beer to be noticed on a full shelf of great alternatives. The fact that Helios is made by Victory Brewing Company and is also a Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale didn’t hurt either.
Never had a farmhouse-style ale actually, so who better than Victory to take my innocence?
What’s a Farmhouse Ale you ask? Well, from what I can tell a Farmhouse Ale is just another term for Saison ales. In fact, Helios used to be called V-Saison and had a fancy cork top. A Saison, in a nutshell is a strong European beer that was brewed over the winter months with the intention of being enjoyed over the summer. Well-known examples are Ommegang Hennepin and Saison DuPont – both of which are on my beer shelf.
So now you may ask, ‘ok, what the hell is a Saison then?” Well, that’s a good question. In addition to the seasonal nature of the beer as referred to above, a saison, which actually means ‘season’ in French, is thought to have been brewed as a refreshing drink, and possibly as compensation for workers of the farms that brewed the stuff. From what I can tell, Saisons of the time were of a lower ABV than than Helios is. Victory’s Helios checks in at 7.5% ABV.
So, I’m pretty sure Siason = Farmhouse Ale. One term refers to the season (Summer Ale), the other where it was made or consumed.
Victory’s Helios is a cloudy orange-gold color. Its bottle fermented, so that’s to be expected. The head was quite foamy and I had to be careful keeping it within the rim of my glass! Goood carbonation! It was like that expanding insulating foam that just kept growing! The head also took its sweet time to dissapate, but that’s cool because it gave the beer some time to warm up and breathe.
Victory Helios is made with a ‘dynamic imported Belgian yeast’, imported German malts and some kind(s) of imported European hops. So, as far as this beer’s DNA – its all European. The smell reminded me a bit of a Hefeweizen. I picked up some spice, and certainly some banana, but there was something different that was a bit had to put a finger on. It was sweet too, like some of the Belgian ales can be.
The taste was pretty cool! Again, it reminded me of some Hefes I’ve tried, but it also had that Belgian Ale feel to it. It had a bit of a peppery bite, and flavors of clove and banana were there too. I think there was a bit of a citrus flavor as well, lemon or orange perhaps (what else is there – grapefruit?) overall it was quite nice and refreshing and I could see the farmhands of lore being satisfied with this brew. I did find that this beer got better (as most do) as I let it warm up – the banana, citrus and peppery flavors really came out which was nice.
Mouthfeel was decent, and it left a little bit of that sticky sweetness that some Belgian ales seem to leave – but it wasn’t heavy at all.
For my first Farmhouse Ale, I’m going to say it was almost like a bolder Hefeweizen in flavor with a bit more kick, but just as refreshing. Hefes are wheat beers, I don’t think Farmhouse ales are, but there are some flavor similarities.
Not having mush of a frame of reference to compare this beer to other Farmhouse Ales (yet) I simply have to rat it on the happiness it caused me which was substantial! I enjoyed this brew and from that standpoint alone I’m going to give this beer a 3.5 star rating.
If you’re into this style of beer, go check it out and let us know what you think. Also, if you can recommend your favorite Farmhouse ale for me to expand my sampling – I’d appreciate it.