There are a lot of strange things about the Pils that truly identifies it as a class all its own. The Beer’s brewing history and process truly add the proto nature of its form and flavor. And when I say proto, I merely mean that its a Beer that hearkens back to simpler times, ingredients and methods of making alcohol. According to Wikipedia this fascinating Czech addition to the “Lager” family of brews is based on the Bavarian cave fermentation method most popular in Germany. This idea of caves should be something to note, as most of the beers that we tried out had a very distinctive “stale or skunky” smell, aroma or aromatic.
My good friend and Beer accomplice David Hilgier joined me in examining 6 brews, half local and half foreign. When selecting our contestants from our beloved Total Beverage we found it very hard to actually locate a large array of actual Pilseners.
For this brew celebration we followed a BLIND TASTE TEST method for trying everything out, as suggested by a comment from Pete following our review of the IPA’s early this year. This revealed several things to us that were quite surprising. We found ourselves entirely exposed as cocky American Beer drinkers after learning the origin of each of the beers.
1. VICTORY PRIMA PILS by the Victory Brewing Company, 5.3% ABV & 44 IBU (the ABV and IBU were not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)
This sad entry to the world of beer has been touted by many on the Beertutor.com website but has no true legitimate place in our pantries. It had a disappointingly dull flavor with a small amount of hoppyness but no real bright components in the taste. After a short period of time the foam began clumping into a strange pattern that reminded me of curdling milk, which added to the undesirable nature.
The pungent odor was reminiscent of stale beer left open or on the floor of a college frat house. Simply not the sophisticated image that I had in my mind of Pilsener.
Certainly not the worst beer of the evening but ranking at a 1.75 out of 5 for our overall tastes, this beer didn’t make any friends.
2. LEFT HAND POLESTAR PILSNER by the Left Hand Brewing Company, 5% ABV & 33 IBU (the ABV and IBU were not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)
And this here gets the prize for being the nastiest beer of the evening. I can’t think of one piece of good constructive criticism for Left Hand accept maybe think about replacing the graphic of the 2 explorers on the front of the bottle with a picture of a urinal. This is the sort of beer you would serve to prisoners on Guantanamo bay while trying to pry information from them. True, it was less skunky than the previous ale and held the shape and structure of its thin foam a bit longer than the last brew, but the overall watery finish made me gag. I literally could not bring myself to finish the serving I was given.
This sad little horse receives a 1 because it wouldn’t be right for me to grade under the lowest number.
3. BLUE PADDLE by the New Belgium Brewing Company, 4.8% ABV & ? IBU (couldn’t find IBU info on the bottle or online)
The Blue Paddle is usually my beer of choice when I think of a Pilsener. Its clean refreshing taste and smooth finish almost always goes great with really greasy food like cheeseburgers and fries. It had a bright fruity sweetness that was quite pronounced and overall it was from sip to finish exactly what I was expecting. There was no funky aftertaste and for the most part it was a bit more aromatic than the 2 atrocities before it.
Everything about the production of this beer seemed to sing the Red White and Blue praises when I first started drinking it, and thankfully I was right about the prediction.
The Paddle is tied for 4th best of the night garnishing a 3 out of 5 for being a palatable example of good beer making.
4. KÃ¶NIG PILSENER by the KÃ¶nig-Brauerei GmbH Brewing Company, 4.9% ABV & ? IBU (couldn’t find IBU info on the bottle or online)
Here we have the silent winner. Divine in its execution and delicious in its consumption. The German Brew Konig, was without a single doubt the shining light in a rather bleak array of finds. Extremely rich foamy head, fresh fruity taste that waits till the end to hit you, fresh, crisp and frighteningly drinkable. From the look of the bottle to the contents inside, this affordable libation is nothing short of an engineering feat. I can’t recommend this beer enough and I hope that your local spirit retailer has plenty of stock, for just in its consumability this will find its way into your fridge more often then not.
A stunning 4 our of 5.
It still amazes me that given region and ingredients there seem to be limitless opportunities for stand out beers to achieve a level that is really unparalleled.
5. BAVIK PREMIUM PILS by the Bavik-De Brabandere Brewing Company, 5.2% ABV & ? IBU (couldn’t find IBU info on the bottle or online)
Aside from the attractive type on the bottle and the eye-catching curb appeal that the beer may have, this Belgium brew is a dud. It’s thin, watery but sweet flavors have nearly no hoppy influence whatsoever. I think that the beer suffers from a lack of overall personal identity in terms of flavor and overall composition. The real tragedy here is that the Belgians are usually regarded for their craft and this is clearly not a good representation of it. This limp, lifeless and seemingly artificially flavored or sweetened beer takes one step off the wagon and continues to tumble. The nearly syrupy finish is enough to remind you of why you enjoy dry crisp beer.
Bavik, you gets a 1.5 out of 5.
6. PILSNER URQUELL by the Plzensky Prazdroj Brewing Company, 4.4% ABV & 30 IBU (the IBU was not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)
Wow, I was totally taken by surprise by this little gem. It really stood toe to toe with my beloved Blue Paddle and was considerably less expensive. Dave felt that it out performed the BP overall in taste and drink ability. Aside from the cheesy fake wax seal on the front of the bottle the contents were surprisingly sweet, cheerful, refreshing and fruity. There are some other notes that really separated this little Czech wonder, a woody or earthy undertone really gave the beer some character as well as the unmistakable cave funk smell slightly wafting off the top of the bottle.
Upon first inspection I had assumed that this was a domestic brew and possibly one from Boulder since there seemed to be an almost HippyLettuce like aroma that accompanied the usual frat boy party smell. Another interesting thing is that it was in a green colored bottle with a tramp stamp of a mark on the backside of the neck. Possibly a relic of the old facility but it was unique.
The Urquell received a generous 3 out of 5 points.
To close out I would like to first thank:
For providing great information and resources for our little testing. And also David Hilgier again for his great photographic contributions, comments, observations and Cheers!
I think that the bottom barrel brewing process found in the structure and history of this pale lager is an overlooked remnant of the early production of beer and can still be appreciated and enjoyed. It is obvious that while not every Beer is great, there are some enjoyable new things to try and I really hope that you do.
Please send us feedback on our little experiments and of course recommendations are always welcomed.
Hope you have enjoyed this little information piece.
All the Best — ZACH ATTACK MEYER
12 responses to “Pilsener Beers”
My favorite description: “…replacing the graphic of the 2 explorers on the front of the bottle with a picture of a urinal.” I literally can imagine the smell. Great description. I’ll steer clear of this “atrocity”. Next time invite me to sample the swill.
I agree that Blue Paddle is good, but I’m still not giving up my CL Smooths …
hotness! ill have to pick up some Konig this week, looks tasty
Funny thing is, I was just talking outside during a smoke break about how many vanity plates they have out here in NH, and I want to get one that says “IRDRUNK”.
I agree with you on most points, (lefthand’s atrocity, to be sure!) but I’m a little surprised that prima didn’t fare better…I’ve usually had good luck with it, though i’m not a huge pils drinker… keep up the good works!
That distinctive skunky aroma isn’t a Pils thing, it’s a green bottle thing. It’s what happens when the hops compounds are exposed to light for any length of time. The brown glass will prevent it, green and clear will almost guarantee it. Try the Pils Urqell in a can vs the bottle… leave the green glass in the sun 15 mins for a extra dose of skunk.
Well, green bottle or not, most of them contained trace amounts of “teh funk.” Thanks for the info though.
Also the with the large amount of Pils malt will tend to lend a DMS component to any beer… think sulfur, cabbage, cooked corn. A long vigorous boil can help eliminate most of this, but still likely to have some in the aroma at least initially.
Here’s a link to the style guidelines: http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style02.php
This is great. And I am a big fan of the pilsner which makes it even better! I do agree with Sethotron that the Prima Pils has treated me much better than your review would indicate. Perhaps it was a bad batch.
A whole-heartedly agree about the Konig. A fantastic beer to be sure. A few others that I really love are: Warsteiner, Paulaner Pils, Spatan, and Oskar Blues’ “Mamma’s Little Yella Pils”.
In my experience, the can seems to keep the skunk away a bit (as with “Mamma’s Little Yella Pils”) and some of these beers taste quite different on tap as well. For great from-the-tap German Pilsner drinking I recommend a little spot in Denver called Cafe Berlin which serves wonderful German food and the beer in its proper giant stein! I believe that both the Warsteiner and Paulaner Pils are on tap there.
And with that I am going to go get some brews. Happy drinking!
Mr Trim, as always your recommendations come with a great deal of immediate excitement, and I look forward to putting Cafe Berlin to the test. I will also endeavor to give the Prima another chance based on the glowing reviews you and Sethotron has put forward.