I have iterated several times before on this blog that the America Pilsner (and I am speaking generically; that is, making no distinction between say, a German or Czech style Pilsner) is treated like a weird/creepy uncle: While a part of the family, only in reluctance will many admit association. But sometimes a weird uncle is actually cooler than we’d let ourselves discover.
We have our reasons. Uncle Bud and Miller, to name a few. But there is that sparkling gem that proves that every style can shine if cultured correctly. For me, the quintessential example would be Boulevard’s Collaboration 1.
For this week’s Sip With Us Saturday, with the Pilsner as the choice, I picked up four different pilsners to diminish the odds for disappointment. Two stark observations surfaced as I surfed the beer aisle searching for my beer: 1) Choice isn’t abundant in the craft beer world when it comes to Pilsners. IPA’s and Stouts crowded the shelf, but nary a pilsner was to be found, and 2) Pilsners are comparatively inexpensive. With a limited amount of time I was only able to find and snag four American craft Pilsners: Heavy Seas’ (Clipper City) Small Craft Warning, Uber Pils, Stoudt’s Pils, Lagunitas’ Pils, and Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Pilsner. While I did sample these each back to back, I split the brews with my wife so as not to guzzle four beers in a row. The reviews below skip the typical Thank Heaven For Beer fashion for reviewing a brew in order to keep this post from irritating the Attention Deficit Disorder nature of the Interweb, and will just highlight my observations.
Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning:
The beer immediately reveals it isn’t a true pilsner with the orange hues. I was expecting a crisp and fluid golden, but the beer is a tad sluggish entering the glass. But I could care less if it doesn’t “look the part,” I just want it to taste good and make me happy. It didn’t. It was unbalanced. The brew was overly sweet and didn’t allow any punctually crisp hop flavors/aromas to shine. In fact it smelled like corn and tasted like high fructose corn sugar. This brew boasts a 7.25% ABV. I’d trade ABV for great taste any day.
The beer poured thinly with golden pilsner attitude. The aroma was great! Very lemony and spicy hop notes greeted my nose. I am not a fan of Stoudt beers, and was pleasantly surprised. I took a sip and thought it tasted pretty good. but then I realized the sip I had was actually a cleansing sip, reacting to the Heavy Seas my palate last recalled. So I took a break and came back to the beer. When I did, I was again let down. The brewery nailed it hop-wise, but after swallowing, there was a sticky vanilla flavor that was exactly like the flavor of pure corn sugar. Home brewers who use Corn sugar to prime their brews and have tasted the pre carbonate corn sugar infused wort will know what I’m talking about.
Lagunitas is a very hit and miss brewery for me. I had tasted their hairy eyeball just a week before trying their pilsner. Hairy Eyeball was a huge let down. But after pouring their pilsner, I saw potential. The beer looked good, and smelled good. Like the rest of Lgunitas’ brews, the focus of the Pilsners was on the hops. In fact, but the aroma was great. Surprisingly, the beer tasted good too. There was a lack of artificiality that I found in the previous two brews. Saaz hops had to be part of this brew, but I thought I picked up on some classic American hop qualities. The brew is initially sweet on the tongue, but quickly the hops make their presence known. There is a bit of a rustic farmhouse quality it is quite refreshing.
Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn Pilsner:
This brew looks like a pilsner, but smells sort of “wheaty” and grassy. There was a teeny bit of funk (not bad) in the aroma. Hops were downplayed. What can I say about the taste? It wasn’t bad. There were no noticeable imperfections, but it didn’t taste like a Pilsner to me and was reminiscent of a farmhouse ale. It was almost like a Pilsner/Saison blend, and while quality crafted it was a tad off balance and had a bit of a yeast bite. After swallowing, I had saltine crackers on the brain.
My favorite of the four? Surprising even myself, I’d choose Lagunitas. The worst? Heavy Seas. After writing the above reviews, guess which beer had the highest rating on Beer Advocate? Yup, Heavy Seas. I know that beer enjoyment is privy to subjectivity, but I had to wonder if the high ABV had anything to do with an abnormally high rating?
If you’ve had these, which is your favorite?
What’s your favorite American Pilsner?