PILSNER style lagers are unquestionably the "kings of beers" the world over and have been for the last century. But beer wasn't always bright, clear, crisp and clean. Two changes in the brewing process in the mid-1800s made pilsners possible: lighter malts, pioneered by English maltsters who began malting barley with indirect heat, and bottom fermenting yeast that worked at colder temperatures.
The result, when brewed with German and Bohemian noble hops such as Tettnang and Saaz, and with the soft water found in Plzen, is a beer that is clean, clear, with an extremely light golden color, and which is the definition of "refreshing". Prior to the advent of the pilsner/pils/helles style, you can imagine that most beers would be dark, roasty and yeasty. But the cleanly fermenting lager yeast and the process of lagering -- fermenting and aging the beer in cold caves -- changed all that.
How and why was this beer revolution begun? According to the PILSNER-URQUELL brewery, in 1838 the Burghers of the city of Plzen dumped out 36 barrels of beer down the drain in protest of the poor quality and inconsistency of the beer at the time. In 1839 they formed a municipal brewery for the purpose of correcting the situation, and by 1842, with the help of German brewer Josef Groll, pilsner beer was born.
As part of their monthly series, this Wednesday Blind Tiger loaded up their taps with 12 special pilsner beers. One of our favorites, VICTORY BREWING's BRAUMEISTER PILS was one of them, and Sean, the brewery's "king of New York and Connecticut" was on hand to talk to us about it.
The Victory brew had more in common with the MAHR'S PILSNER, also a sumptuous unfiltered lager, though from Bamberg, Germany. Quite on the other end of the spectrum was the MIKKELLER DREAM PILS (aka American Dream) from Denmark, which had even more hop flavor, aroma and bitterness than the Victory, and a slightly deeper copper color than all, though crystal clear. It also had a nice malt sweetness.
CHRISTOFFEL BLONDE from the Netherlands had a softer profile, very light straw color and a slightly sweet malt flavor, with a bit of a haze -- it's one of those rare unfiltered pilsner varieties. Another malt-centric lager that we tried was the SCHLENKERLA HELLES. This one was together quite different from all the others, with it's subdued smoke-malt flavor and aroma -- well, subdued when compared to the full-on Rauchbiers of Bamberg! I love all the Schlenkerla beers and, frankly, all the rauchbiers of Bamberg that I've tasted, and it's amazing to taste a pilsner beer in this traditional rauchbier style. This one gets special honors for achieving uniqueness, enjoyability AND the oft hard to nail subtlety.
And the always tasty KULMBACHER EDELHERB PILS was on tap, which is considered a quintessential example of the German Pils style. Classic.
BLIND TIGER has beer events pretty much every Wednesday often featuring a particular brewery's beers, but the first Wednesday of the month generally reserved for featuring a particular beer style, rather than one exclusive brewery.
BONUS PODCAST! A loud, noisy bar recording of some tasting comments by B.R., Bob and Alan Rice!