Eight Great Pilsners to Combat Specialty Beer Fatigue
When craft beer’s postmodern landscape of barrel-aged beasts and sour everything starts to result in palate-fatigue, there’s always the beautifully simple respite found in well-crafted pilsner—a ubiquitous type of pale lager of moderate strength named after the Bohemian city Pilsen where it was first brewed in 1842. Crisp, clean, and slightly bitter, it's the ultimate in quaffability. It's no surprise then, that a majority of the beer brewed on Earth these days is pilsner, and yet, most bear the name rather dubiously. Here are eight superlative examples of the genre to reach for when you're wishing brewers would just make beer taste like beer again ...
Birrificio Italiano Tipopils
Tipopils is the quintessential modern pilsner, which has created a growing cult-following with kegs getting drained quickly wherever tapped. Four different hop varietals are used in its lagering, giving a perfume-y bouquet and floral, grassy bittersweet flavor. When fresh it’s nearly impossible to consume in modest portions.
Firestone Walker Pivo Pils
Count Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson among those with a cultish devotion to Tipopils, who modeled its dry-hopped Pivo Pils after it. A so-called “brewer’s beer,” there was little room for flaw in the recipe-building. The result is clean and dry, with a subtly New World fruity hop nose.
Half Acre Pony Pilsner
Chicago’s Half Acre has an impressive track-record of drinkability in their well-crafted portfolio, and their Pony Pilsner is certainly no exception. This golden lager is German in style but with the volume turned up a touch in a decidedly American fashion—think sweet maltiness balanced by a nicely cutting hop bite.
Omnipollo Perikles Pilsner
Experimental beers from the ever-cool gypsy-brewing Swedes at Omnipollo often seem more like liquid pastry than “beer” (see: Bourbon Barrel Blueberry Cheesecake Stout). For their pizza-bar Omnipollos hatt, however, a simple pils was needed to wash artisan slices down. Enter Perikles—brewed with oats and unmalted wheat—with its enticing honey aroma, gentle herbal flavor, and pleasing minerality.
The original Czech pils (and therefore source of inspiration for more than two thirds of beer made today), Urquell is the archetype. With utilization of noble hop variety Saaz atop water with a soft mineral profile, the aroma is evocative of freshly-baked bread, while the flavor is honey-forward balanced by a gentle bitterness with a clean finish. If you come across a bar serving Urquell unpasteurized, unfiltered and naturally cask-conditioned, count yourself very lucky; it’s a must-try, and the ideal way of imbibing a fresh pint of pils.
Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus’ Tannenzäpfle is a classic German pils (the self-proclaimed “Original Beer from Germany's Black Forest”) that only recently began receiving stateside import. A flawless beer that truly tastes like beer in an idyllic sense, it’s a crisp, easy-drinking joy that gets met with near-unanimous praise among those with even the most eclectic taste.
Russian River STS Pils
California’s Russian River, famous for their superlative Pliny the Elder double IPA (frequently hailed as the best beer in the world) and early stateside producers of barrel-aged sour beers, offer their most easy-drinking brew with STS Pils (which won Gold at the Great American Beer Festival last year). Citrusy, grainy, herbaceous and immensely crushable.
Upright Engelberg Pils
While Portland, Oregon’s exceptional Upright focuses most of its brewing schedule on farmhouse-style ales, simple house-favorite Engelberg Pils lager is the outfit’s de facto desert island offering. A draft-only creation that when poured fresh yields an addictive profile of light caramel maltiness and floral hoppiness.