Eight Great Pilsners

Pilsner, the world’s most popular beer style, may also be the most maligned. The pilsener was invented in Bohemia in the 19th century, honed in Germany, and nearly destroyed in America. After years of mass-market, ersatz suds, the style has had a resurgence. Here are eight great examples.
8 great pilsners

1. Oskar Blues: Mama’s Little Yella Pils

This brewery (and Cajun grill) in Lyons, Colorado, is best known for its burly canned brews like the bitter Dale’s Pale Ale and the chocolaty Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, but it reined in its over-the-top tendencies for Mama’s Little Yella Pils. That doesn’t mean that Mama’s is meek, however. While relatively low in alcohol (just 5.3 percent ABV), all-malt Little Yella is big in taste. A scent of citrus mingles with spicy, tingling hops and the flavor of straight-from-the-oven bread. (oskarblues.com)

2. Full Sail Brewing Co.: LTD 03

Since 1987, employee-owned Full Sail has cranked out West Coast ales both bold (the Black Gold Bourbon Imperial Stout) and restrained (the smooth Session Lager). For the latest entry in its limited-edition series, LTD 03, the Hood River, Oregon brewery has taken a swing at the pilsner. As dictated by the style, the LTD pours as clear as spring water and as golden as a sunrise. Malt and honey dominate the nose, while the flavor is bright and crisp, like a bite of a fresh-picked apple. (fullsailbrewing.com)

3. Victory Brewing Company: Prima Pils

Hop lovers hankering for a pilsner should look toward Victory Beer. Since its 1996 beginnings in an old Pepperidge Farm bakery in Downington, Pennsylvania, Victory Brewing has earned a rabid following with brews such as the silky, low-alcohol Donnybrook Stout, the aromatic HopDevil IPA, and the Prima Pils. This bracingly effervescent pilsner is loaded with several hops varieties, resulting in a snappy and spicy beer with serious bite. (victorybeer.com)

4. Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell was once the standard by which all pilsners were judged. And though the Czech brewery’s modernization caused the beer’s character to fade slightly, Pilsner Urquell remains a fine example of the style. It pours the color of straw, with energetic effervescence and a pillowy head. The scent is fragrant, with a faint whiff of grapes, while the flavor is crisp and malty. Hops hunker in the background, never overwhelming the beer with bitterness. (pilsnerurquell.com)

5. New Belgium Brewing: Blue Paddle Pilsener-Lager

The eco-friendly microbrewery in Fort Collins, Colorado has swayed beer aficionados with its roster of expertly crafted beers, ranging from the flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale to the delicate, fragrant Blue Paddle. The Czech-style pilsener is honey-yellow in color, with a gentle apricot and grain-like scent. Taste-wise, the Blue Paddle has a sturdy malt backbone and hints of corn and grass, while a current of bitterness cuts through the beer, which finishes with citrus and pine. (newbelgium.com)

6. Radeberger Pilsner

Founded in 1872, Radeberger was Germany’s first brewery to specialize in pilsners, a style that found favor with everyday folks and royalty alike. (It was the favored dinnertime beverage of King Friedrich August of Saxony.) The golden brew has a complex herbal aroma—by turns spicy and sweet—with a bright, zesty flavor profile and just a touch of tartness. Served ice-cold, it’s a great thirst quencher in a late-summer heat wave. (radeberger.de)

7. Trumer Brauerei: Trumer Pils

Trumer Braueri’s origins stretch back to 1601, when the Austrian brewery began making Bavarian-style beer. Centuries later, Trumer perfected its pilsner recipe and brought it along when it opened a satellite operation in Berkeley, California, in 2003. Since Berkeley’s water profile matches its European counterpart’s, little is lost in translation. The sparkling, super-clear pils has loads of fragrant hops in both aroma and taste and is as bubbly as Champagne. (trumer-international.com)

8. Sly Fox: Pikeland Pils

A two-time gold medal winner at Denver’s prestigious Great American Beer Festival, Pikeland Pils is a textbook summer refresher. Crack an ice-cold can, and the clean scent of cut grass and malt wafts forth. This pilsner from Sly Fox in Royersford, Pennsylvania drinks rich and balanced, with a creamy mouthfeel and a heap of earthy hop bitterness that lingers long after your last sip. Go on, splurge for a six-pack: Since Pikeland registers a sub–five percent ABV, it’s perfect for savoring as afternoon dissolves into evening. (slyfoxbeer.com)

Subscribe to Gourmet