American Craft Beer Classic: Victory Brewing’s Prima Pils

Trying something new here at the Tap Takeover. For all the new beers I’ve been reviewing, I figured it would be worth featuring the occasional classic…an American Craft Beer Classic. These are beers many folks have probably had, beers that are fairly widely available, and beers that have been in the market for upwards of ten to fifteen years. In other words, beers that have had a significant impact on the American Craft Beer landscape. I’ve seen a handful of other beer websites do something similar and I’ve been thinking of doing the same for the past few months. These posts will be less of a review of the beer and more of an homage to the beer. Since Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania is one of my 3 or 4 favorite breweries, based on the whole of their portfolio, I’ll start with what is arguably their flagship beer.

Victory Brewing Company in Downington, PA is one of the “old guard” of American Craft brewing, launching in 1996, just after I became of legal age to drink. Prima Pils is one of probably 3 beers that helped to establish Victory as a premier craft brewery in the Northeast. The other two being Golden Monkey and Hop Devil. When Bill and Ron started Victory, they wanted to bring some old world styles to beer drinkers, but with the flavor that mass-produced beer seemed to be lacking. At the time, Pilsners were popular, but not exactly flavorful. When Prima Pils came out of the tanks, things were about to change for beer drinkers seeking a more flavorful easy drinking beer and Victory Brewing.

Let’s get the stats out of the way: the beer clocks in with an ABV of 5.3% and an IBU of 44. These are both maybe just slightly above average for an American Pilsner, but still makes for a fairly crushable beer. Here’s what Victory has to “officially” say about Prima Pils on their page dedicated to the beer:

Prima! It’s a German exclamation of joy. It’s a recognition of accomplishment. It’s what escaped from our lips the first time we sampled this mighty pilsner recipe. With heaps of whole flower European hops and fine German malts, we achieved the bracing herbal bite and smooth malt flavor that we sought. Prima… an exclamation of Victory! Prost!

A perfectly poured Prima Pils in a Pilsner Glass

I’ve had Prima Pils in cans and bottles, but not on draft yet. Most recently, I had the beer from a can. Out of the can, the beer pours a lovely light, clear yellow and when poured properly into a Pilsner glass, emits a perfect, frothy head. A slight hop aroma wafted towards me as I poured the beer. Once the glass is full, very little appears to hint at the elegant flavors. But elegant this beer is. The hops and malt play together so well, they are both fairly complex flavors that can take nuance for brewers to master, but straightforward in what the hops and malt do for the profile of the beer. Throughout the whole 12 oz, there’s a floral sweetness playing against a pleasing hop bitterness, all held together by that potent pilsner malt backbone. Elegance. Or as Victory would say, Pilsner Perfection.

From one of my untappd check ins in April 2016, the old pre-2016 label on the bottle.

There’s a wonderful balance between the classic European hops and Pilsner malt in this beer, a bright beer with a nice crisp hop bite that is extremely pleasing to the palate. At least *my* palate. American palates tend to go for more hop forward beers than most pilsners and this fine pilsner is indeed a slightly more hop-heavy than most pilsners. Not surprising considering that Hop Devil – an extremely hop forward beer – is one of the other tripods of Victory’s foundational beers.

Prima Pils underwent a logo/label change in 2016, and at the time, Victory did something even smarter with the beer. They started canning Prima Pils, which makes for easier fit in coolers and just all around an easier beer to bring places in 12packs. Let’s face it, cans don’t have the negative connotations associated with them like they once did and this beer just belongs in a can.

From what I’ve read and gathered, the recipe has largely remained the same for the 20+ years Victory has been brewing and selling the beer. Why should they change it? The beer sells extremely well for them and is an iconic beer in the American Craft Beer landscape.

I’m not the only person who heaps praise on the beer.

Since this is one of their flagship beers, Prima Pils is one of the easier beers to find from Victory. Most stores near me have Prima Pils bottles and Victory puts the beer in most of the variety packs it sells, including the the Variety 12 Pack and the massive Kick Back Can Pack – 5 beers, 3 of each. The other beers in the Kick Back Can Pack are Sour Monkey, Home Grown Lager, and unsurprisingly, Golden Monkey and Hop Devil. The Variety 12 pack contains 3 each of Prima Pils, Golden Monkey, Hop Devil, and Vital IPA.

Few beers are as perfect for convincing folks who drink primarily the macro produced lagers/pilsner and who are wary of craft beer to try something better, more complex. In the glass, Prima Pils may look similar to the beers out of Milwaukee and St. Louis, but the taste and complexity is far superior. With Victory Beer distributed fairly widely in 37 states, Prima Pils is one of the more widely available Craft Pilsners in the market.

So, when you want a beer that flavorful, easy-going, fairly readily available, and that will compliment most meals, you could do much worse than to reach for the Pilsner Perfection of Prima Pils.

Beer Review: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

Name: Hefeweissbier
Brewing Company: Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan
Location: Freising, Bavaria, Germany
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

From the beer’s description on Weihenstephaner’s Web Site:

Our golden-yellow wheat beer, with its fine-poured white foam, smells of cloves and impresses consumers with its refreshing banana flavor. It is full bodied and with a smooth yeast taste. To be enjoyed at any time, goes excellently with fish and seafood, with spicy cheese and especially with the traditional Bavarian veal sausage. Brewed according to our centuries-old brewing tradition on the Weihenstephan hill.

If a brewery, the world’s oldest, has been in continuous operation for nearly 900 years and the beer has remained relatively unchanged, then clearly, this brewery is doing something right. I can’t think of anything that would codify the term “classic beer” and that ethos quite as powerfully as do the brewers at Weihenstephaner and their absolute classic Hefeweizen they call “Hefe Weissbier.”

While I’ve largely been focusing these beer reviews on “Craft Beer”, I wanted to take some time and space to give some love to a classic beer style, from a classic brewery. For what it’s worth, Weihenstaphan is labeled as a Micro Brewery on untappd, despite their global reach.

Few drinks or foods hit my tastebuds so well as does a Hefeweizen beer, and the wonderful brewers of Weihenstephaner have perfected the traditional Bavarian wheat beer like few others in the world. Hefeweizen is a fairly straightforward style, a classic style, but sometimes that simplicity is what makes it such an elegant, tasty beer. This is a beer I enjoy over and over and return to with regularity.

Some Hefeweizens can lean towards more of a fruity, banana flavor evocation, while clove flavor dominates other Hefeweizens. A lot of this comes down to the yeast and the brewing process. The Weihenstephaner take is more on the banana side of things, giving the beer a profile that evokes sweetness and happiness.

One may be inclined to add a citrus slice to the beer, be it orange or lemon thanks to the brewers of Blue Moon who have made it seem a standard thing to do for European wheat beers. Do not do that with any German Hefeweizen, especially, the Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier.

Pouring a bright golden yellow from the bottle (or tap), the beer head foams up quite nicely. One thing to do with many of the unfiltered beers like the classic hefeweizen is to pour only about ¾ of the beer into the glass. Let it settle and let the foamy head grow to its potential. Swirl the last of what is in the bottle to gather all the yeast particulates and top off the beer to allow those taste bursts to float through the beer and give it the flavor profile most associated with it.

The glass in the photos here is, admittedly, not the intended glass for any Hefeweizen, but I figured I’d rather use a glass with the Weihenstephaner logo on it than the logo of another brewer (even if it is another German brewery). To the right you’ll see the classic Hefeweizen/Wheat Beer glass. I do have a few of them with various logos, but opted for the large mug with the Weihenstephaner logo, which is a good second option.

These days, brewers put so many ingredients into beer or age the beer in some type of barrel which does result in a wonderful, complex flavor profile. On the other hand, there’s definitely something to be said for the elegance of using simple, straightforward ingredients (just two grains), which results in something so incredibly tasty. All you need to do is taste the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier and look no further than their logo with the year 1090 to know you’re drinking a great, classic beer.

Ein prosit und gemütlichkeit!

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 5-star rating.