Take These Six Pils and Call Us in the Morning

Six great pilsners that put a spin on tradition

rae_allen_400“Pilsner” has an old-school ring to it, but thanks to a raft of modern craft brew reinterpretations, this classic beer style—perfected across what is now Germany and the Czech Republic in the 19th century—is as fresh and vibrant as ever. What you need to know is that pilsner, technically a lager (or cold-fermented) beer, tends to be pale straw to golden in color and clear as Cuervo gold. Depending on regional, historically inspired style variations, it’s about 5%abv, bready, biscuity, and dry, with spicy hop overtones, and a fulsome, but not-too-heavy mouth feel and lively carbonation. It’s generally filtered to complete clarity, but there are hazy, unfiltered versions you couldn’t pry out of our hands. If you want to drink the world’s most famous historically important brands, reach no further than Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, or Mahr’s, preferably fresh on draft.

A few new-era interpretations have pushed pilsner’s olfactory hues to resinous IPA levels, but this beer is best when it holds something back. You’re not ordering it to be assaulted with the smells of, say, mango-like Citra hops, or have your mouth coated with sweet, cantaloupe-y flavors found in some amber ales. You’re looking for good, clean refreshment and a cracking finish that go hand in hand with higher than usual afternoon temps and a smoking barbecue. That’s exactly why hop mavens like Oregon’s Ninkasi are pulling down GABF golds for beers like 2011’s killer Pravda Pils.

What’s your favorite pilsner, classic or just-released? Tell us below.

And read on for a list of six pilsners—some easy to find, others that call for a road trip—we’d raise a toast to whatever the weather.

Keeper Pils (5%abv)
Mikkeller, DEN
Just released in cans, this lemony, peachy, hopped-up take on the German-style is twisting the dials big time, but what else would you expect from the notorious Danish daredevils?

Nomad (5.45%abv)
Great Divide, Denver, CO
These masters of hops and big, bourbon barrel-aged beers also have a deft hand with Bohemian-style pilsners like the spicy, well-balanced Nomad. Yum.

Noble Pils (4.9%abv)
Samuel Adams, Boston, MA
The underrated Noble Pils is among this Boston-based brewer’ most impressive beers, with five varieties of spicy noble hops and substantial German (floor-malted) grain character in near-perfect balance. Best of all? You can find it across the land.

Reality Czeck (4.8%abv)
Moonlight Brewery, Fulton, CA
A cult favorite, you’ll have to head to San Francisco and the Bay Area to find this deliciously malty pils made in small batches and sold only on draft for now. But sipping one at a beer garden like Zeitgeist makes life seem complete.

Pils (5%abv)
Heater Allen, McMinnville, OR
Thanks to its incredible balance and refreshing character, this RateBeer-acclaimed classic-style pilsner—a favorite among Oregon winemakers—is now available in California.

Prima Pils (5.3%abv)
Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA
Using heaps of whole cone German hops, Victory’s floral, dry, clean-tasting Prima Pils is an outstanding interpretation that has inspired countless imitators.

Photo Credit: Rae Allen

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