Friday, July 17, 2009

Das Problem mit Pils

Don't worry, I am not about to start posting in German, getting pasted I most assuredly can do in that noble language, getting posted, erm no. Call it what you will, pils, pilsner, pilsener (grammatically incorrect but there you go), pale golden lager is the dominant style in the global beer market. As Pivní Filosof has noted this week, the spread of pilsner style lager decimated many older brews as consumers flocked to the new product.

This week I have tried several American pilsners, including Brooklyn Pilsner, Victory Prima Pils and Thomas Creek Dockside Pilsner. Whilst they were all perfectly drinkable lagers, none of them came close to a Kout na Šumavě 10°, and this got me wondering about the difference between German and Bohemian style pilsners, but first a little personal background.

When I abandoned the shores of that Sceptred Isle for a far away land about which I knew nothing, I was a happy ale and stout drinker; the ale being Caffrey's and the stout, well there was only one surely, but I drank the other. Suddenly there is no Murphy's, that being the other, and the need for Guinness would have meant frequenting an Oirish pub filled with Brits trying to live their British life in foreign lands, which even after several years they would probably still know nothing. I don't think I ever had a Caffrey's, although there is a bar of that name on the Old Town Square. When in Rome syndrome kicked in and before you know it I am a fan of Velkopopovický Kozel and Bohemian pilsners in general.

Here is I think the crux of my problem with pils in America so far, they tend more to the German pilsner style - which from my understanding of the BJCP guidelines is thinner in body, and drier in the finish when compared to the complex, malty, floral wonder that is Bohemian pilsner. This is of course to be expected if what I reading in Ambitious Brew is correct, and the American lager brewing industry of the 19th century was essentially German in character - though as with anything from that period in time, nothing is simple and clear cut.

Naturally, this means that more research is required. I will have to hunt out some Bohemian style pilsners made here, the medal winners at the Great American Beer Festival for example, and compare them against Budvar, as well as trying some well regarded German pilsners as a control group for my understanding of the American versions. In the time being though, it is time to spend a week in Florida converting my father-in-law to the delights of pale ale, most likely Sierra Nevada.


  1. I can't speak for Yankee interpretations of the Bohemian style, but in that beer desert that is my home town in Scotland, a couple of 500ml Budvars were very tasty indeed. In fact it gave me a chance to re-evaluate it and it is a bloody good beer.

  2. Budvar is a fantastic beer, shame my home island in Scotland was devoid of more than just good beer! Though thankfully yesterday I re-acquainted myself with Sam Adams Boston Lager, what a great beer!!

  3. I've yet to be impressed by an American pilsner, but I suspect that's something to do with freshness. By the time they make it across the Atlantic, they're probably a bit tired. Would love to try Brooklyn's, though.

  4. I'm not particularly a fan of those BJCP guidelines for defining what a beer is/should taste like, other than providing a framework for generally getting to an area you want to be in, as is the case with the homebrew competitions over there. The software I use for brewing uses them, but I regularly and purposefully stray outside them, going with gut :)

    Anyway, I wanted to comment on the idea that German pilsners are "thinner in body, and drier in the finish when compared to the complex, malty, floral wonder that is Bohemian pilsner". In my experience, it depends. What they seem to interpret as a German Pils sounds like the northern German type (as a generalisation). The Franken, and indeed southern interpretations are, to me at least, generally much smoother and fuller with lemony and floral hints rather than drier and with resinous hop notes like the northern ones. There are always exceptions of course, but that's just MHO.

  5. As I remember it, Victory Prima Pils was a great german pils. Well, as most of their brews...



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