Showing posts with label pilsners. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pilsners. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Session #114 - Roundup

For the August iteration of The Session I asked folks to go discover pilsners in all their glory, regardless of where they came from.

In Ireland, The Beer Nut went shopping for a blind three way tasting and found that identifying pilsners is no easy thing. Also Irish, though not in Ireland on the day of The Session, Reuben at The Tale of the Ale was actually in Plzeň, and wrote about the key ingredient for the eponymous beer, the water.

Pottering off further east, Jordan at Timely Tipple also took the core theme of my challenge to heart and bought a slew of pilsners to compare, and also reminded us that Evan Rail has written magnificently on the history of Pilsner Urquell. Meanwhile, the Bearded Housewife, who is currently in the Czech Republic "immersing [his] progeny in their Slavic legacy" took the time to remind us that for Czech folks there is only one Pilsner (a worldview that 10 years in the Czech Republic I have quite some empathy for).

Coming back to the Americas, Stan Hieronymous tells us about pilsners being brewed in St Louis, while in California Derrick breaks down another threesome of pale lagers.  Skipping up to Colorado (if memory serves) Tom Cizauskas from Yours For Good Fermentables uses Mozart as a simile for pilsner, and caused me to blush deeply when I read his post. Due south in Bolivia, Embracing Limitations praises contract brewed pilsners from Trader Joe's.

Finally, heading north to Canada, Alan has nothing to add.

I want to thank everyone that took part in this month's Session, and if I missed anyone, just add your link to the comments on this post.

UPDATE: Mike from Lost Lagers writes about one of my favourite beers right now (I was about to write 'favourite beers to drink' but what the fuck else do you do with beer?), Sierra Nevada's Nooner Pilsner.

UPDATE 2: I forgot to mention my own post, called 'Urquell and Not'.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Session 114 - Announcement

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. (You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin).

I really wasn't expecting to leave it this late to post the announcement for the topic of the 114th iteration of The Session, but there were mitigating circumstances, I was in Scotland. Now, there is internet in Scotland, but it seems that my mobile phone provider was full of crap when they said we had international roaming, as such I couldn't receive text messages or phone calls while I was away, and thus couldn't authenticate into the necessary accounts for Fuggled.

So....on to the announcement, this month's topic is.......pilsners!

What I want folks to do is put down their IPAs, their Belgians, their sours, their barrel aged stuff, and hunt out a few pilsners to compare and contrast, whether they be Czech, German, Belgian, American, etc, etc. Try to get examples of Czech and German in particular to see the differences. Most of all though I just want people to re-discover what I consider the pinnacle of the brewing craft, so off hunting you go!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Coming Full Circle?

As I took my dog for a walk this morning I was thinking about beer. Not about the beer I drank yesterday to mark my 40th birthday, the highlight being a couple of litres of Rothaus Pils at Kardinal Hall in Charlottesville, but rather how my tastes in beer seem to be ever increasingly skewed toward classic styles well made.

As I said, the highlight of my drinking yesterday was as simple a German style pilsner as is humanly possible. Other recent highlights have been a Helles lager from South Street, positively gallons of Sierra Nevada's collaborative Oktoberfest, and in the summer plenty of Three Notch'd Session 42 best bitter.

The thing that ties all these beers together is simplicity. There are no extraneous ingredients, no aging in barrels that once upon a time held a spirit of one kind or another, nothing experimental at all. I would say that my drinking life has never been richer.

Sure, it helps that each of the beers is very well made, but simple beers made poorly are often the worst beers a brewery puts out because the brewer can't hide behind the innovative band-aids that disguise their shortfall in brewing technique. I have said it many times, but show me a brewer that can put out a consistently high quality, and flavourful, classic beer style, such as pilsner, and you are showing me one worth his or her salt.

Thinking over my 22 years of legal beer drinking, from that first pint of Guinness to last night's Rothaus, put me in mind of Bunyan's pilgrim who sets out on a journey of discovery that takes him through many adventures but eventually comes full circle home. I feel as though I am coming full circle, where all I really want when I am having a beer is something that tastes great, is a well made iteration of a recognisable style, and is an aid to the occasion not the whole point of it.

I almost had a sense this morning that craft beer is starting to grow up and appreciate simplicity in all its glory, though in all likelihood reality is less prosaic and more a case of my having found my sweet spot in beer, and it is really isn't all that far from where I left from when I started this blog.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Getting It Right

I have written before about the fact that this part of Virginia is well stocked with breweries rather adept in the lager making arts, especially the guys at Devils Backbone and Blue Mountain, whose Vienna Lager and Classic Lager, respectively, are two of my go to tipples. I have also written many times about my ongoing attempts to find a Bohemian style Pilsner to satisfy my longings for something akin to the many golden drops I drank when I lived in the Czech Republic. This weekend I added another Virginia brewery to my list of go-to lagers.

Based up in Alexandria, I have been aware of Port City Brewing for a while now, mainly because their porter is quite simply sublime. The porter was the first of their beers I ever tried, when I was up in Alexandria to have my biometrics taken as part of the process of getting my unconditional green card sorted. It is an insanely easy beer to drink, which if it didn't pack a 7.5% punch I would happily drink all night, though if I am doing the drinking at home I might actually do so. Anyway, last week during one of my lunchtime wanders I popped into Market Street Wine to see if they had anything interesting on which to spend my tip money from a previous shift at Starr Hill, and so I picked up a single of Port City's Downright Pilsner. Just a side note, having the option of buying singles is great, too often have I bought 6 packs only to not really enjoy the beer and have 5 more to dispose of.

Come Friday night I got home and made a beeline to the fridge. Sadly I didn't take any pictures of the beer itself, I was too busy enjoying it. According to a tweet from Port City, the beer is simplicity in itself - 100% pilsner malt, 100% Saaz hops for 43 IBU, unfiltered, naturally carbonated. Sure enough the beer poured a touch hazy, reminding my of the kvasni?áks I loved drinking in Prague, topped off with a firm white head, I was excited to say the least. Aromas of bread, a touch of grainy cereal and the lovely hay and lemongrass of Saaz. Tastewise it is on the nail, a bit of biscuit and bread balanced with the bite of a well hopped beer, I loved it. The only thing missing was being in a beer hall like the sadly gone Radegast and being able to order a tuplak, a one litre glass. I think I'll be buying a case of this in the coming week, and foisting it on my Czech and Slovak friends when they come round to celebrate the establishment of Czechoslovakia, later in the month.

Having been suitably wowed by such finesse in bottom fermenting, I grabbed myself a six pack of Port City's Oktoberfest while I was at Whole Foods yesterday, to compare with Paulaner's Oktoberfest Wiesn - I treated myself to a 1 litre glass with a can of the Paulaner from World Market. One of my criticisms of a lot of Oktoberfest style lagers made over here is that they tend to be a bit too sweet, overloaded with caramel malts which makes them heavy to drink. Port City succeeded in not falling into that trap, making a nice clean, crisp beer with a nice juicy sweetness rather than the cloying caramel thing that some brewers go for. I can see the rest of the six pack being gleefully poured into the tuplak (sorry, just can't call it a ma?) and polished off with abandon, I wonder if I can persuade Mrs V to don a dirndl...

So there we have it, another brewery in Virginia making good lagers. Happy days all round.

Friday, April 27, 2012


One of my favourite words is "simplicity".

Looking at the dictionary definitions, the word means:
  • the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.
  • freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts: an organism of great simplicity
  • absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness: a life of simplicity
  • freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness: a simplicity of manner
  • lack of mental acuteness or shrewdness: Politics is not a field for simplicity about human nature
While it is true that beer can seem like an ever changing kaleidoscope of colours, flavours and aromas, beer is ultimately a very simple drink, possible to brew with just four ingredients. Given my bias toward Czech pale lagers, you can't really get much more simple and beautiful than Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, yeast and water.

I like to think that beer is the very essence of the third definition above. It is not a luxury item, there is no pretension with it, it is not an ornament to get out when vicar comes for tea, it is an integral part of life. You could call it a commodity, and indeed in many parts of Europe that's exactly what it is, along with bread, butter, and salt, it is an essential. I like that way of thinking about beer, it is the everyman drink, from lords to layabouts, the majority of people drink beer.

Many of the folks I have met as a result of beer would qualify for definition number four, good, honest, down to earth working people who enjoy pints afterwards. I remember a story about the word "sincere" which literally means, or so I recall, "without wax". A sculptor made a bust of a Roman dignitary, it might have been one of the Caesars, and accidentally broke off the nose, which he re-attached with a blob of wax. In the heat of the midday sun the wax melted and the nose fell off, revealing the sculptor's fraud. It seems to me that the people who most "get" beer are not the ones making all the noise about the latest, greatest trend in beer styles, beer cocktails or fad breweries, it's the ones in the pub drinking with their mates, or sat reading the paper, passing the time with a pint.

Perhaps then we should celebrate more of the simple beers, the Pilsners, Stouts and Pale Ales, instead of being blown about by the winds of fashion, looking for the next great thing and in doing so miss the very heart of beer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So Stylish

Sure, beer styles aren't perfect, and yes it is true that brewers, whether pro or home, brew beer rather than styles. However, beer styles do serve a purpose as a frame of reference for both drinkers and brewers. If I brew, for example, a 10% pale lager, hopped with Tettnang to 55 IBU and lagered for 60 days, then it is quite clear that it is not a Premium American Lager. The question though that has been bouncing around my head for the last couple of days is "who decides what style of beer a product is?".

It is clear in my mind that the final say should rest with the actual brewers themselves. The one group of people who should resolutely not be allowed anywhere near the decision making process for a new beer is the marketing department. If a brewer, for example, brews a generic pale lager, and the company markets it as a Pilsner, it does nobody any favours, least of all the consumer.

Someone with sufficient knowledge of Pilsner beers, whether German or Czech, will be disappointed drinking a generic pale lager which has been labelled a Pilsner because it doesn't have the requisite hoppiness, body and flavour. If said drinker is also a member of sites such as BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, they will then give their opinions on the beer as a Pilsner and likely how it fails as one and score it accordingly.

Worse yet are reviewers who, through no fault of their own, have never had the inestimable pleasure of travelling to Germany or the Czech Republic to drink the real thing in it's natural environment. Having grown up on beers from green bottles which have been pasteurised and then travelled long distances in less than prime conditions, it is no wonder they come out with some of the drivel you read on the rating sites. It makes me want to scream when I read that an American made Pilsner "has the right amount of skunkiness" for the style, when in Germany and the Czech Republic such a beer would be entirely unacceptable. You only have to drink fresh Pilsner at the source to know that the bottled version is a travesty.

Having said that, if a brewery sticks with the decision to market a generic pale lager as a Pilsner, and the beer is listed as such on the rating sites then the brewery deserves being beaten with the big stick of public opinion. It is a different situation when the beer is clearly labelled as a certain style but listed on the rating sites as something else, take this example for one of my favourite beers:

Why, oh why, is Williams Bros 80/-, known in the US as Heavy, listed as a "bitter"? The commercial description attached to the page claims that the beer is a:

"traditional Scottish ale brewed with an emphasis on the malt characteristics. Lightly hopped, as is true to this style of beer, with fruity malt aromas and a toffeeish mouth feel"

this despite the fact that the site's definition of "bitter" reads:

"gold to copper color, low carbonation and medium to high bitterness. Hop flavor and aroma may be non-existent to mild"

while their definition of a Scottish Ale is:

"generally dark, malty, full-bodied brews"

Whoever listed Williams Bros Heavy as a Bitter is clearly as clueless as people that believe Miller Lite to be a Pilsner.

My problem with all of this is that ultimately two constituencies are affected, the consumer because they are buying into false expectations and the beer itself because when it is mislabelled by either the brewery marketing department or the self appointed arbiters of style it will be panned for not being something it isn't.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...