Donzoko: Northern Helles (England: Dortmunder: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Very large mounded yellow/white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheat fields. Lime zest. Fresh lemon. Subtle kiwi. Lightly peppery.

Body: Solid. Slightly peppery. Watered caramel. Earthy. Lactic notes. Slightly cloying. Slight fuller caramel notes. Slight kiwi.

Finish: Good bitterness. Light charring. Earthy notes. Bitter caramel? (Is there such a thing?). Lactic touch. Peppery. Dried fudge. Slight lime and kiwi.

Conclusion: Contrary to what the can says this doesn’t look hazy on the eye to me, and I would not describe it as refreshing to drink. Doesn’t mean it is bad, but it definitely isn’t what I expected from the description on the can.

On the nose it is fairly light, with a soft, inviting citrus take to it. The body is then an utter surprise – pretty thick feeling, earthy, heavy and with a slight cloying lactic touch. The lactic touch helps with an unusual mouthfeel which I would say is one of the more interesting elements of the beer.

Oddly the hop flavours feel close to what I would expect from an earthy British bitter rather than a helles lager. There is similarly a slight watery caramel touch that calls to a British bitter. In fact, I feel that trying this blind, and by which I mean blindfolded, and so I couldn’t see the gold colour and large head, I may even mistake it for a bitter.

OK, not quite that close to a bitter – the mouthfeel is drier up front even if it becomes heavy at the back. Also underneath everything there is a slight green fruit freshness which I would not associate with a Bitter – but you get my point, this is a non standard helles.

So it is different, but is it good? It’s, well, average. Solid, heavy flavours, but gets a tad dry and wearing in everything over time. Despite its unusual character it doesn’t really benefit from examination over time, and lacks the refreshing character to be sessionable or thirst quenching.

Not bad, just not one I would really pick to return to.

Background: Been meaning to grab and do more notes on lagers, they are easy to overlook, rarely coming with fancy eye-catching labels or odd twists. Not tried anything from Donzoko before and they seem to have a range of lagers, so thought I would give this – their mainstay – a go. Another one from Independent Spirit. I was going to list this as just Helles but Ratebeer lists this as Helles – Dortmunder Export. I did a bit of googling and after a while concluded that sounded about right. I’ve still not had many Dortmunders, so am not 100% but seemed to be around the style guidelines. Went with X-Ray Specs: Germ Free Generation for music backing this – as you can probably guess I’ve been poking around in early punk bands again.