Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ignoble Pils

I am sure I have said this many a time before, but I have a soft spot for Samuel Adams, despite their various beers that simply don't do it for me, such as Samuel Adams Light. So when I was in Walmart on Sunday morning (best time to go, seriously, if you value your marriage), and saw the latest Spring seasonal from Boston, I just knew it had to be tried, in the hopes that finally there was an American Pilsner worthy of that illustrious name.

According to the waffle on the label, Noble Pils is made with all 5 of the noble hop types, Hallertau, Tettnang, Spalt, Hersbrucker and Saaz, as well as a portion of Czech Pilsner Malt. Knowing that the Boston Lager uses a double decoction mash in the process, I expect that Noble Pils uses the same basic process, more of which later. As you can see from the picture, the beer pours a golden straw colour and is topped with a fluffy white head, so far so good. As ever I was using my Lovibond's half pint glass because it is the perfect size for American beer bottles.

Straight from the fridge, the beer smells of lemons, grass and a subtle spiciness, however, as it warms up it begins to smell of a brewery - you know that boiling wort smell. Taste wise, it is very grainy, with a kind of toasty background and a weird soapiness going on (not helped by the smell of lemons), after a while it just becomes dull, almost as though something is not right, once again I am disappointed by an American Pilsner (a contradiction in terms as Plzen is in the Czech Republic).

So the journey continues, the search for a decent pilsner style lager made in America - sure there are lagers made here that I love, Boston Lager for one, Blue Mountain Lager for another, but where is the genuine article? Where is the American made pilsner that is made from Czech Pilsner malt only, with only Saaz hops, in a place with very soft water? Where is the American made pilsner made with a triple decoction mash and lagered for at least 30 days? In talking with a brewer I was told that most American lagers are infusion mashed because they don't need to be decocted, but are they getting enough Maillard reactions?

Perhaps though I should give up drinking beers with the words Pils or Pilsner on the label which don't actually come from Plzen? Perhaps I should focus on the many great ales that are made over here, and save up all my Pilsner drinking for the next time I am back in Prague, sat in Bruska, enjoying tankova Pilsner Urquell?


  1. I think the problem is not so much that American brewers cannot make a decent pilsner, but that very few drinkers can tell a good one from a bad one.

  2. I am fairly convinced that when it comes to pilsners I have been spoilt rotten. One evening
    I had several pints with the brewing lecturer at Prague's Agricultural College and the stuff he makes with his students is simply fabulous.

  3. You obviously haven't had Victory's Prima Pils or Oskar Blues Mamma's Lil' Yella Pilsner. Very poor beer journalism on your part.

  4. Actually, I have had Victory's Prima Pils and thought it was overrated. Haven't come across Oskar Blues Mamma's Lil' Yella Pilsner yet, but will hunt it out.

    As the post says there, "the journey continues". It would be poor journalism if I claimed to have tried every American Pilsner out there and denounced them all.

  5. I've tried the SA Noble Pils. I didn't like it either. It was definitely lacking the spicy saaz character I was expecting. It vaguely reminded me of a skunked beer.

  6. I think you're right. You were spoilt rotten. I agree-- it is really, really hard to find a great pilsner over here. Good lagers can be found (although it's not easy), but a good pilsner? Good luck. (For that matter, a good lower alcohol session beer is not the easiest thing to find either)

    The last good one I had was Braumeister Pils from Victory, but unfortunately I think it's only a seasonal or limited release and not available in bottles. Just another reason why you should come up to Philly for a weekend!

  7. Whorst,

    Oskar Blues Mama's Lil' Yella Pilsner has been sourced and will be tried tonight, I hope it lives up to your recommendation.


    A real pilsner (Bohemian, not German) is laden with Saaz - I am considering taking advantage of the cool nature of my storage room and making my first all grain brew a Pilsner, brewed at an OG of 1.048 (12 plato) and with an IBU of 40, a la Pilsner Urquell. Water is the problem I think, but I am not going to worry too much about a proof of concept.


    We were both spoilt beyond belief, what with Richter and PK. We are planning a run up to Philly, though it will have to wait until after my parents have been and gone.

  8. Velky,
    I wasn't overly impressed with "Noble Pils" either. Give a try to Lagunitas Czech Pils. Uncommon, but can be found in these here parts. Try the Wine warehouse on Crater Road. Na zdavi!-GeauxT

  9. Give Miller High Life Light a go! I dare you, all in the name of Pilsner style research.

  10. I have tried Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite and several other beers that the self-appointed cognoscenti would never deign to drink because they feel it beneath them. The Budweiser was actually not terrible, when compared to Staropramen or Gambrinus in the Czech Republic, the others were just plain dull.

    Michelob Ultra is not entirely awful either. I think too many people worry about what is on the label rather than in the bottle, and that is a grave mistake.

  11. Will have to search it out some time.

  12. As the other anonymous poster above suggested I'd recommend Lagunitas Czech Pils. Worth a try.

    The Noble Pils was about what I expected from Sam Adams. Not horrible but nothing spectacular either.



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