In the world history of beer, pilsners are relatively recent. Around 1840, eons before marketers invented “drinkability,” Czech brewers in Bohemia created pilsner, a light beer that didn’t taste like spongewater. The primary source of the innovation was the use of bottom-fermenting yeasts, which yielded a livelier, more consistent beer than the traditional top-fermented brews. Today, the best pilsners are still found in continental Europe, partly because of demand and partly because it’s home to the style’s signature Saaz hop, Pilsen’s soft water and crackery, paler malt. German and Bavarian styles tend to emphasize bitterness and spicy hop flavor. But stateside, craft brewers borrow freely from both approaches and put a more personal flare — typically more hops — on the style. United States craft brewers have refused to let mass-produced, adjunct-laden, flavorless-at-best light lagers be the standard. Today, Peaks and Pints salutes pilsners with our Craft Beer Crosscut 8.3.18: A Flight of Pilsners.
5.1% ABV, 10 IBU
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is one of the oldest National Forests in the United States. Included as part of the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve in 1897, this area was set aside as the Columbia National Forest in 1908. It was renamed the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in 1949. Backwoods Brewing Co. co-owner Kevin Waters has a fondness for the forest as well as pilsners after a visit to Prague, the capital of the Czech republic and home to many a pilsner. Waters brewed his GP Pilsner the Czech way with Czech Saaz hops for a spicy floral aroma with grassy notes and a clean, crisp finish. It’s the perfect beer after a day hiking in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
4.7% ABV, 22 IBU
Everyone loves a good Pilsner and this one’s a classic. Named for the delicate engravings popularized by 19th century seafarers, North Coast Brewing’s Scrimshaw is a fresh tasting pilsner brewed in the finest European tradition using Munich malt and Hallertauer and Tettnang hops. It pours a honey gold with a frothy, white head. Grains and soft hop notes abound in the aroma. The swallow is closer to a pale ale, starting with ample two-row malt sweetness, followed by lemony, zesty hop tastes. The perfect carbonation and light body create a smooth, creamy mouthfeel with a crisp, dry finish and mild fruity aftertaste. It’s not trying to do anything fancy — it’s just a very well-balanced pilsner. It’s not a hop bomb, or a malt showcase. It’s just clean, thirst-quenching lager.
4.8% ABV, 35 IBU
Occidental Brewing Co. was founded in 2011 by Ben and Dan Engler with the goal of making well-balanced continental-style beers in the land of IPAs: Portland, Oregon. They succeeded. Plus, gotta love a pilsner in a big-boy, 16-ounce tallboy can. It’s an easy-drinking, Bohemian style pilsner with a bit if corn sweetness. It’s on the fruity/malty/grainy/grassy side of things, but gets a crisp kick from the Czech Saaz hops.
4.9% ABV, 38 IBU
pFriem Family Brewers Pilsner may be the lightest beer we’ve ever seen. It pours with a delicate green tint, a fluffy white head, and a crystal-clear complexion. Pastoral aromas of flowers and meadow grains combined nicely with a typical maltiness to provide what we could only describe as a “pilsner” scent. The taste is the best part, though, with a deep dryness at the back of the mouth and the faint minerality that’s so crucial to a pilsner. pFriem’s Pilsner goes down easy as a breeze off the Columbia River.
5% ABV, 28 IBU
Mike Weksler, Jack Houston and Paul Bastian had been pushing through Alameda Brewhouse’s exit doors with kegs of their Royale Brewing Co. Pilsner and Fat Unicorn Pale until they found their own brewhouse down the street in Northeast Portland, followed by their own taproom in the city’s St. John’s neighborhood. From the bottle, Royale Pilsner has a strong noble hop nose with additional and light citrus. The grain and citrus stick around for the tongue with good bittering mid palate. Perfect for hoppy pilsner enthusiasts.