The term pilsener or pilsner or simply pils are terms used to cover a wide range of beers that utilize the Sacchraromyces Pastorianus yeast to create bottom fermenting beer (widely known as lager) that, it is often repeated, changed the world of brewing forever.
This harkens back to 1842 when the Czech town known as Plzen created the first golden coloured beer that is still made there today, Pilsner UrquellStill regarded as a classic example of bohemian pilsner with its use of Saaz hops combined with caramel malt sweetness, using open-flame triple decoction. This became (and still is) a benchmark for a style of beer so popular that even Germany had to find an equivalent, which they did in 1895, when Spaten, created Munich Helles
This was all apart of the obsession with golden coloured beer that to this very day, has taken the world by storm. Pilsner started the pale lager ball rolling that has lead to it being the best selling style of beer in the world. Although many of these new golden beers used corn and rice and sometimes wheat, there is little doubt that the term cold beer took on a new and profound meaning.
So it was with great pleasure to se that this year’s birthday beer from the Spoetzl Brewery is in fact a pilsnerShiner Birthday 107 is a very satisfying tribute to this revolutionary style, providing a malty showcase for botanically aromatic hops. This is significantly focused because of Spoetzl’s German and Czech roots, thus Saaz hops are combined with Hallertau.
One of the very best examples of Bohemian Pilsner in the United States is Samuel Adams Noble Pils which uses Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, Saaz, and Hersbrucker hops combined with 2-row pale malt and Czech pilsner malt. This produces a pilsner with delicious complexity.
On the other hand you have Goose Island Four Star Pils An Anheuser-Busch ImBev production that is a rather mediocre take, seeking I think, to appeal to the hoppy palates of younger drinkers. This golden pour puts emphasis on the hops grown at Elk Mountain Farm in Idaho. Which produces a beer that seems more like an India pale lager than a pilsner.
Having respect for the bohemian tradition has its benefits. Such is the case with Great Lakes Turntable Pils An excellent seasonal tribute from Ohio where nothing is out of balance.
A very good, relatively inexpensive import is Wolters Pilsener which adheres to the German purity law, somewhat simple but lively, and quite drinkable.
From pilsener to pale lager lead to the creation of diet beer. Namely, Miller LiteA calorie conscious cereal creation that once, many decades ago, actually put a dent in Budweiser’s market share. A disco-era creation that has recently been marketed with retro packaging. No matter. Its the same innocuous suds it has always been. In fact, the whole light beer category is for the beer doctor, liquid boredom. The only one that catches my flavorful attention is Yuengling Light.