Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Quartet of Thrilling Pils

Reset. After a holiday season spent wallowing in pools of weighty, winter brews, it’s time to take a break. Allow your palate to recover its equilibrium. This month I’m going for beers that are easier going. Basic drinkers where the flavors are produced by the unadorned quartet of malt, hops, yeast and water. Pilsener fits that bill.

A true pilsener is a pale, medium-to-light bodied lager that showcases the earthy, bitter flavor of hops. There are a number of variants on the style, but a distinct hop flavor is central to all of them. At the moment in Oshkosh, we have a good selection of genuine pilseners available. Here are four that I like.

Wernesgrüner Pils Legend
This pilsener comes to us all the way from Saxony, Germany and it’s as good a German-style pilsener as you’ll find anywhere. Straw colored with a snow white cap it gives off a lovely, floral hop aroma. The beer is incredibly smooth and easy drinking with a prominent bitterness that lingers and refreshes. Less dry than most German pils, it still encourages you to return to the glass again and agin. At 4.90% ABV you can sink a few of these without too much trouble. A great beer and here’s the kicker: they sell it at Aldi’s in Oshkosh for $5.99 a six-pack. Better yet, it’s fresh. This is one of the best beer deals in town.

Victory Prima Pils
From Downingtown, PA comes what is probably the most highly regarded American-brewed pilsener. A couple glasses of it will tell you why. Yellow/gold with an off-white head, the aroma is of malt flour and lemony, German hops. This beer is several degrees more substantial than your average pils. The beer is full-bodied and malt-rich with a notable bitterness. I love the hop flavor of this beer. At turns grassy and tart, there’s a wonderful complexity to it that culminates in a long, slow bitter finish. Craft beer IPA addicts looking to extend their range should check this beer out. At 5.3% ABV it’s certainly sessionable. And it’s one of those beers that improves the more familiar you become with it. I picked up a six-pack of Prima Pils at Ski’s last weekend for $9.99.

Lakefront Brewery’s Klisch Pilsner
This is a pretty, Milwaukee lager. Golden and hazy it develops a thick head of foam when you pour it down the center of the glass (as you should with a pilsener). Like American craft beer pilseners tend to be, this is more full bodied than most European examples of the style. There’s a pleasant note of fermentation derived sulfur that comes up beside the grassy aroma of Czech hops. The hop aroma carries over into the flavor where it becomes slightly lemony. The finish is clean, yet satisfying. At 5.6% ABV and about 20 IBUs it’s right on the money for an American-style pils. I was impressed by this. I’ve usually enjoyed Lakefront’s beers, but lately everything I’ve had from them has shined. Festival Foods has Klisch Pilsner in sixers for $7.49

New Belgium Blue Paddle Pilsner
Pale gold, with a sticky white head of froth, this beer has just a light haze. I like seeing that. It means they haven’t filtered the thing to death. The scent of Saaz hops comes up like a breeze. It’s a green, new-growth sort of smell that’ll make you forget about winter for a moment. On the draw you immediately get that New Belgium biscuit note that seems to be present in most of their beers. It goes well with the herbal character of the hops. The bitterness is substantial and lingers long after the dry finish. It’s 4.8% ABV and absolutely lovely. I'll buy this beer again, the next time I see it. Blue Paddle is available at a number places around town. I picked up mine at Festival Foods where I paid $7.99 for a six pack.

A Few More Pils
There’s a pack of very good pilseners available around Oshkosh right now. If you’re hopelessly hooked on big beers, check out the  Breckenridge Regal Pilsner at Gardina’s. This one clocks in at 7% ABV and takes all the classic pilsener notes and cranks them up. Probably the best “imperial” pils I’ve tasted.

For the more classically minded, head to Festy. They’re selling Bitburger Pilsner and König Pilsener in 4-packs of pint cans. Both are excellent examples of the style. Festy also has good prices on 6 and 12 packs of Warsteiner Premium Verum, an excellent German pilsener. Prost!

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