Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pilsner on the Horizon

I am in the middle of my summer beer fast. Unlike my post Hogmanay month of denial, a.k.a. "January", this one only lasts a couple of weeks - though given that I generally don't drink during the week, it often turns into the best part of three weeks. In order to aid my detox/vain, and vague, stab at healthiness, I decided to start walking to work, a 2.5 mile jaunt which is pretty easy apart from a rather steep 10 minute section right in the middle. Trust me to start walking when a heatwave decides to plop itself over the region - apparently we are expecting a high of 99ºF today (which is about 37ºC for the metric world).

You can imagine then that the absence of a nice cooling pint or two is driving me somewhat nuts, but being a stubborn git I will see this through. Thankfully though next Tuesday is the monthly meeting of the fine group of chaps and chapettes that is the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale homebrew club, which is held at the Timberwood Grill. I fully expect myself to roll up, well, driven up by the wife as she is on the way to her rowing session, and order a pint of the Oskar Blues Little Yella Pils, assuming it is still on tap and that Timberwood don't have a Devils Backbone lager available instead.

Given that I have been unstinting in my moaning about the standard of pilsners made in the US, especially the ones that get erroneously labeled a "Bohemian Pilsner", you might be somewhat taken aback that I am looking forward to a 25 fluid ounce glass of cold, golden lager. If you have been following Fuggled for any length of time you will know that I will try anything calling itself a pilsner. The reason is quite simple, a good pilsner is, in my unhumble opinion the height of brewing excellence. If I could but find a top quality pilsner constantly available on tap in Charlottesville, that pub would have my almost undivided loyalty and attention. Even in the depths of winter when everyone is drinking stouts, barleywines, old ales and winter warmers, while beers that I enjoy, it is pilsner that I would drink first without hesitation.

I first ordered a pint of Little Yella Pils on draft at Timberwood Grill during one of the homebrew club meetings mainly because everything else on the menu was either extreme, Belgian, Imperial or Samuel Adams Noble Pils, which is downright disgusting. I wasn't expecting much, given my thoughts on the canned version, but I was pleasantly surprised, and very soon the 25 ounces had to be refreshed with a further 25. This got me thinking again that draft beer is somehow better than bottled or canned, a common way of thinking in pubcentric Prague. I wish I could explain why a reasonable beer from a can becomes a delicious delight when on draft but I am really not all that sure, perhaps some of the brewers that read this blog can enlighten me?

Anyway, 6 more days of denial and then a pint shall be mine.


  1. I agree about good draft beer being better than bottle or can, even though a kegged product should strictly be identical to its bottled cousin (unlike cask conditioned beer which has a life of its own). I think it has a lot to do with the freshness, and how keg beer is more likely to reach you in good condition than a can or bottle. In fact, I wrote about it here: Make sure you read Zak Avery's comment as well - he adds a lot to the post with his input.

  2. Interestingly I find the same thing, even in homebrewing. I keg my beer and what doesn't fit in the keg gets bottled. Both the keg and the bottle is naturally conditioned. The kegged version is always far superior.

  3. I'll have to give that Oskar Blues Pils a try. As much raving as I read on here and a few other blogs about great Pilsner/lager I think I can honestly say I have never had one that I would consider great, which is a shame. I don't know why they're so hard to find here. I'm sure you'll shout it from the mountain top if you ever find a Prague-quality lager in the US ;)

    As for keg vs bottle, I've noticed the same thing TaleofAle has about homebrewed beer, so I don't think that age/quality of care necessarily explains everything. I think it may have to do with method of dispense. Kegged beers are essentially more carbonated than their bottle counterparts, and pouring keg beer knocks some of that CO2 out resulting in more head, aroma and a different texture. That's my completely unfounded theory anyhow.

  4. The Prague worthy pilsners I have had since moving to the States can be counted on two of the finger of a 2 toed sloth:

    Devils Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils
    Victory Braumeister Pils Saaz

    Keep it classic and you can't go far wrong really, but people insist on fannying about with the wrong hops, infusion mashing, insufficient lagering time. If you are going to do it, do it properly or leave well enough alone.

  5. Agreed. The worst of the bunch has to be "imperial" Pilsner.

  6. I believe the traditional term for "Imperial Pilsner" is "tramp piss".


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