It's a classic. It's fabulous. And for some reason, it gets no respect.
I love a wide variety of beer styles. But that means a wide variety. I can see beyond hop bombs and high ABV Belgian ales (I'm not big on the bombs, I'm a huge fan of the ales). And it seems to me that the classic beer style shunned by too many craft beer lovers these days is the Pilsner (or Pilsners to be accurate - German, Czech, and more). Done right, it is a fabulous style of beer. As complex in its own way as any multi-hop west coast masterpiece. Yet, some seem to relegate it to lawnmower beer, lesser than ale, just above mass market suitcase status. They could not be more wrong.
My love affair with Pilsner began, appropriately enough, in the Czech Republic back when it was still Czechoslovakia. I was a journalist, living in Europe and working frequently behind what was then known as the iron curtain. Each country brought its own difficulties and challenges. In Czechoslovakia, frankly, our big job was to evade our government minders to sneak out and interview dissidents. It could be a little nerve wracking (but in reality not dangerous - worst case, if caught, we'd have been thrown out).
But I digress- my point is that, on my first trip there, a little wary of what I would find, I checked into my hotel room, found a small refrigerator, opened the door and discovered Pilsner Urquell. On other occasions, it would be Budweiser Budvar (yes, the guys who sold their name to the folks in St. Louis, then lost a lawsuit trying to get it back). In either case, opening the bottle and tasting the beer was a revelation. I never knew beer could taste like this. It was a transformative experience. Of course, they'd been doing it since the 1800's and knew their stuff.
Now, that came long before my immersion in craft beer. Decades before. But to this day , my love of good pilsner endures. As I write this, I am enjoying a (all right, a couple, of bottles of) Pils from Stoudts, the Pennsylvania brewery I want to visit to shoot an episode. It's German style, not Czech, but fabulous. With, yes, a great hop presence - but excellent balance and no overwhelming hop bitterness. Noble hops got their name for a reason. And that's just one of many, many great American craft pilsners. Search them out. It's worth your time. And you may not realize how versatile pilsners are with food. They work with everything from spicy Thai to buffalo wings, barbecue, pizza and shellfish.
And on a different topic, our next episode takes us deep into the land of barrel aging. We're visiting Central Waters Brewery in Amherst, Wisconsin, where they've taken a significant step in barrel aging - making it a key part of their everyday lineup, not just a special addition (or edition) from time to time. It's a great look at a small brewery punching far, far, far above its weight - as so many do.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.