Got Beer? Hope Revived: The beer that launched a thousand ships

HelenaI finally did it! I’ve found a cooler-weather seasonal that remembers what it’s supposed to be!

After my IPA rant in the last column, I decided to go out of my way to find an appropriate locally made seasonal beer, and Revival came to my rescue. I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but considering the workload I’ve got when all the local breweries and brewpubs release their seasonals, I’m just happy I was able to get to it before it disappeared completely.

Revival Brewing’s Helena is an Oktoberfest lager, or a Marzen if you missed German Lager day at beer school. I was so surprised to find a malty treat on the shelf that I nearly fell to my knees to praise the beer god, but I’ve been warned by the manager that if I don’t stop doing that and scaring the customers, he’d call the police.

According to the blurb on the can, the beer is, “Amber and gold color, beautiful as the skies of Venus, soft maltiness, full of curiosity, toil and trouble.” Good gods, it’s like I wrote it.

The Helena on the label is a beautiful goth girl with fishnet gauntlets and tattoos who magically conjures beer glasses with her hands. Are we sure I didn’t come up with this? This sounds like something I’d come up with, especially after a long day at Beervana. Well, no matter, let’s dive in.

The aroma has a gorgeous malty-sweetness with notes of caramel and toffee. It pours a vaguely reddish gold, and brings out even more aroma with a faint hint of earthy hops. And oh my, that taste…

I’m sorry, but I need a moment. There’s so much going on with the malts in this brew. The first thing I taste is that caramel/toffee promised by the aroma, but then a touch of brown sugar sweetness shoots past, trailing some notes of molasses and the perfectly selected hop profile. Hidden in there is the 7.5% ABV heat, but it’s less like a hot flavor, and more like a gentle warmth, like clothes fresh out of the dryer.

“Wicked is as wicked does,” says the Sean Larkin quote on the can, and I can’t deny this brew has bewitched me.

This is a wonderfully complex malt brew by a brewer who understands that hops are not the end-all be-all of beer design. It’s so beautifully done, the flavors wonderfully constructed into something far more than the sum of its parts. I have found what I was looking for. Pity it’s a fall seasonal, and is about to disappear. But no matter. My faith is restored.

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