Beer Review: Hackensack Brewing’s Parking Lot Pilz

Name: Parking Lot Pilz
Brewing Company: Hackensack Brewing Company
Location: Hackensack, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Other
ABV: 8%

“Not just an impressive Pilsner out the gate for a new brewery, but a damned good Pilsner all around.”

From the untappd description of the beer::

A crisp, refreshing, balanced pilsner

From Hackensack Brewing’s Facebook Post

An ode to the tailgating culture we grew up with in North Jersey/NYC. Parking Lot Pilz, a super well-balanced lager made to suit all your pre-gaming needs. Pairs well with burgers, chicken, shopping cart pretzels, and nosebleed seats.

When you host a fourth of July party every year, and most of your guests know you like good beer, you tend to get plenty of beer. My uncle, who knows how much I like Pilsners, brought a crowler of this beer (among others) to the party. It was early in the day and for me, a Pilsner is always a good start so I didn’t waste too much time before I decided to pop open the crowler and share it with some of my guests (including my dad and father-in-law).

For all the beer I’ve mentioned here and had over the years, this was the first beer I had from a crowler. Pouring the beer, I didn’t get too much of an aroma that made the beer stand out. Since we were all drinking from Red Solo Cups, it wasn’t exactly easy appreciate the color of the beer in its full glory, but yeah, it was yellow and looked how you’d expect a pilsner to look. The picture below snagged from Hackensack Brewing’s Facebook page shows the beer in its glory. Looks are only a small part of the game. We all know the flavor and taste is the main thing.

Ohhh yeah…this is a very tasty pilsner. Parking Lot Pilz leans more on the Czech side of the pilsner style so there isn’t as much hoppiness to the beer. A little softer than the German style pilsners, but there’s still a nice crispiness that is the hallmark of a good pilsner. The low IBU (20) proves out the milder hop presence (I only checked the IBU as I was writing this review). The lower hop presence is by no means a value judgment…I like the beer for what it is, and how it measures up to the specific style and not for what it isn’t. In other words, stylistically, Parking Lot Pilz is on point

Because there were many people (35+) at the party, a few people had some of the pilsner from the Crowler. My dad liked it quite a bit, and he leans more towards IPAs. My father-in-law, who leans more towards the lager side of the beer spectrum, was really impressed with Parking Lot Pilz, too. My brother-in-law was impressed with the beer, too. But no sooner did I finish my full pour did the crowler come up empty. Not a bad sign for the quality of the beer.

I like when my Pilsners and Lagers (especially the Helles Lagers) have that toasty, crackery finish and Parking Lot Pilz has that. There’s a really nice malt bill in the beer that gives the beer a flavorful body. I visited the brewery this past weekend and I wanted to make sure I tried the Pilsner fresh and boy is it even better fresh from the brewery. No surprise there, really. Again, not a knock on the quality of the beer out of the crowler, because it was damned good at my house.

All told, this a an extremely flavorful Pilsner. A beer any brewery would be proud to produce at any point in that brewery’s “lifespan.” Given that Hackensack Brewing only opened up January/February 2019 and they first made this available to the public in April, I’m even more impressed with the quality of the beer. I’ve yammered on about the skill and precision required to make lagers, especially pilsners, so brewmaster Mike Jones deserves big kudos for coming out strong with such a great lager game and a beer this flavorful that proves how good a Pilsner can be.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap (fresh at the brewery) / 4-bottle caps From the Crowler after an 1-hour car ride rating.

Beer Review: Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers Post Shift Pilsner

Name: Post Shift Pilsner
Brewing Company: Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers
Location: Framingham, MA
Style: Pilsner – Other
ABV: 4.7%

“A finely crafted Pilsner is a beer of beauty, Post Shift Pilsner from Jack’s Abby is such a beer.”

From Jack’s Abby’s landing page for Post Shift Pilsner:

There will be no working during drinking hours! Brewed with Bavarian malt and hops, this everyday Pilsner is bright, crisp and refreshing. We think it’s the perfect way to end the work day. Clock out, post-up and enjoy!

It is always exciting when a well-respected regional brewery begins distributing in your area. Last year for me, it was Bell’s Brewery. This year for me that brewery is Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. As their name would imply, Jack’s Abby specializes in lagers (i.e. German inspired beers), with the majority of their portfolio falling in that category. Pilsner is one of the most popular (and sometimes reviled) styles of beer in the world, but in the hands of expert craftspeople, a Pilsner is an elegant beer. When I learned Jack’s Abby was going to start distributing into New Jersey, I knew this was the first beer I wanted to try from the fine purveyors of German-style beers out of Framingham, MA.

So, Post Shift Pilsner. The name tells me this is the first thing you want to grab after a day’s work. Can’t argue with the ethos of a beer name like that. Out of the 16oz can, the beer pours a beautiful, mostly clear yellow. In other words, it looks exactly how you’d expect a Pilsner to look like. But, how does it taste compared to other Pilsners? That’s a big difference indeed.

A Pilsner is a precise beer, it uses few ingredients except those of the German Purity Law Reinheitsgebot: Water, Barley, and Hops. With a Pilsner, you can’t hide any mistakes with a fruit adjunct or sweeten up the beer with an addition of Lactose. An elegant beer whose prime, essential ingredients shine. Jack’s Abby captures that spirit and those ingredients wonderfully.

The first sip turns into a gulp, the beer is so tasty. Just about everything I want in a Pilsner is present in this beer – delicious and refreshing, slightly bitter, a little sweet. Let’s unpack that a little, shall we?

There’s a wonderful balance at the start, I get a pleasant, slight bittering from hops with a sweetness, maybe a little fruity sweetness. The bitterness and sweetness are almost a single flavor thread throughout the beer, they work so well together. What makes this one great is similar to what makes the beer I reviewed last week great, the authentic German malts (as in from Germany) used in the beer. They impart that lovely sweetness that so perfectly balances the Noble hops. According to Jack Abby’s Web site:

The Jack’s Abby brewing team travels to Germany every year to procure German hops and malt from small family run operations in Bavaria. The brewers use old-world brewing techniques of decoction and spunding to recreate historical lagers.

The finish has a slightly toasted bready/crackery taste that I associate with Pilsners (and some Helles Lagers, too). I like it, I want more of it. Hell, I picked up a 6 pack on a Thursday and found it hard to not enjoy one of these delicious beers every day of that weekend. When it comes to a wonderfully flavorful beer perfect for any day, a beer that will please both discerning craft beer drinkers with that flavor, while not making non-craft drinkers wary, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better beer than Jack Abby’s Post Shift Pilsner.

Amazingly, this is the first beer I’ve reviewed from a Massachusetts brewery.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 12)

bdg_pilsner_lg

Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.

Draught Diversions: Steam Whistle Brewing (Toronto, Canada)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Here’s a change of locale for a brewery post, North of the US border in fact. For my job, I’ve traveled fairly frequently this year to the tune of about one business trip per month. I don’t always have time or the opportunity to do much more than stick to the work/conference schedule for these business trips, but on one recent occasion, a brewery was literally across the street from where I was spending much of my time, so I of course had to visit. The location? Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The brewery? Steam Whistle Brewing.

The water tower is visible from blocks away, a beacon to follow for well-crafted beer.

Toronto is one of the Great North American cities and is Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s inspiration for the fictional DC Comics city of Metropolis, home to the Daily Star (now Planet) and of course Superman. Be that as it may, at the hub of downtown Toronto is the Metro Toronto Convention Center (where I was spending much of my time), Rogers Centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays), and the world famous CN Tower. Near all those locations, directly across the street from the MTCC and adjacent to the CN Tower is Steam Whistle Brewing, which occupies an historic railway Roundhouse, thus the name Steam Whistle.

Steam Whistle is a relatively small brewery, especially in terms of what they produce. That focus; however, on ingredients, process, and care has allowed the founders of the brewery to create a delicious Pilsner.

Image courtesy of Steam Whistle Brewing’s Website

Walking in, the first thing I noticed was how bright and inviting the brewery was. There were some tables in the back near the brew tanks and a nice bar with friendly bartenders. Also noticeable – only two taps. That’s right, Steam Whistle only pours two beers – a Pilsner and an unfiltered version of the Pilsner. In essence, just one beer. And one beer using the tried and true four simple ingredients of a classic beer (from the “our beer” page on Steam Whistle’s Web site):

Steam Whistle is one of the only remaining Pilsners in the world that still adheres to the strict standards of the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516. We brew using only pure spring water, malted barley, hops and yeast. No corn syrup, no foam enhancers, no artificial preservatives.

The brewery has received several awards, including Toronto’s best microbrewery as well as other awards for the beer, for the brewery, as a workplace, and for how green/environmentally conscientious the brewery is. But to win those awards on essentially one beer is pretty fascinating. Sure, untappd will show other beers the brewery has made as one offs, but by and large Steam Whistle staked its reputation on a finely crafted Pilsner.

The delicious, fresh Pilsner I enjoyed at Steam Whistle Brewing.

…and what a delicious Pilsner it is (my untappd check in). The convention center had cans of the beer for one of the evening events, but I wanted to wait to try the beer fresh at the brewery and I’m glad I did. I haven’t had too many Canadian beers so I wasn’t sure how they’d compare to beers from America or Germany. But this beer, in its fresh from tap pour is absolutely fantastic and one of the better Pilsners I’ve had recently. This is a treat of a beer that shows just how simple basic ingredients can create an elegantly crafted beer at the hands of a master. Of course, I’ve been on a Pilsner kick for the past couple of months so that may have factored into how receptive my taste buds were to the beer, if I’m being totally fair.

The variety of ways you can take home some Steam Whistle Pilsner, including their award winning Suitcase pack.

The first day I visited I had the large pour of the Pilsner. The brewery is, as I said, a great space and with the international nature of Toronto, naturally going to attract people from all over the world by virtue of its location. I had the chance to chat with a chap from Scotland about the beer and other worldly things. I was about halfway through my beer when the brewery filled up very quickly. A Toronto Blue Jays game had just concluded and as I was exiting, there was a line to get into the brewery since it was at maximum capacity. I suspect they have this problem very often.

The second day, just before jumping on the train to the airport, I had the unfiltered version of the Pilsner (my untappd check in) which I enjoyed even more than the standard Pilsner.

The Unfiltered Pilsner, only an 8oz pour, may have been a tad better than the standard Pilsner.

I remarked to the bartender how delicious the beer was and lamented the fact that Steam Whistle is only available in Canada and not in the States. He said that may be changing. If the brewers are able to maintain the flavor and a hint of the freshness in the beer as it journeys across the border, that will be good thing for fans of well-crafted Pilsner in the US.

Full view of the front of the Roundhouse

I don’t know how many folks reading this will be visiting Toronto, but I can without hesitation heartily recommend a visit to Steam Whistle Brewing.

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: Peak Organic Happy Hour Pilsner

Name: Happy Hour
Brewing Company: Peak Organic Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: Pilsner – German
ABV: 4.7%

#ProperGlassware

From the Peak Organic’s Landing Page for the beer:

Happy Hour is a masterfully designed pilsner. Built to be crisp, clean and crushable. This beer is easygoing and pairs well with everything, including another beer! With this new pilsner, it’s always Happy Hour.

Over the last year or so, I’ve come to  appreciate the elegance of a well-crafted Pilsner. The style has drawn some bad rap because of mass-produced tasteless light/Lite beers. If you hear from brewers or some folks deeply entrenched in the beer community; however, great Pilsners are held in very high regard.

Peak Organic is based out of Maine and they don’t yet distribute into NJ. I had a couple of their beers (including a fantastic Pilsner) at the Philadelphia Bacon and Beer Festival last year, so when I saw a can of their beer in Wegman’s for a Mixed Six Pack, I knew I had to grab it.

I am glad I did. On the other hand, I’m a little frustrated, because (as I just said) Peak isn’t yet distributed into NJ.

Out of the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow. If I’m going to be honest, then the aroma doesn’t stand out too much. I mean, it smells like a beer should smell and that just makes me want to drink it.

This is one of the lighter Pilsners I’ve had, but that doesn’t detract from the taste at all. If anything, this beer is full of flavor and wonderfully refreshing. Like the best Pilsners, the malt and hop blend nicely to give the beer a really consistent taste. The first sip is a pop of flavor that, when cold, is extremely refreshing. As the can says, this is a crushable beer, one you can throw back to refresh your thirst with a really straightforward taste with superb, clean finish. This is a beer you’re going to want to finish while cold.

If you want to think of it one way, Happy Hour from Peak Organic is almost an entry-level craft beer. Folks who are usually wary of craft beer because they associate “craft beer” with hopped up IPAs or boozy stouts should give this one a try. Especially given the name, this is a beer that is one you’d bring to a party to share with anybody and everybody. Full of enough taste to please craft beer drinkers, and approachable enough not to deter non-craft drinkers, Peak Organic’s Happy Hour is a winner regardless of how you cut it. As the old adage goes, this beer does exactly what it says on the can!

Peak Organic, as the name implies, uses organic ingredients in the beer and based on Happy Hour and the tastings I had of their other two beers, that freshness really shows. I just hope these fine folks are able to fully distribute into New Jersey.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Beer Review: Double Nickel Brewing Company Pilsner

Name: Double Nickel Pilsner
Brewing Company: Double Nickel Brewing Company
Location: Pennsauken, NJ
Style: Pilsner – German
ABV: 5.6%

Proper glassware

From the beer’s description on the side of the can:

A classically styled clean and crisp option for the lite beer drinker and beer geek alike. Our modern take on a traditional German pilsner is golden in color and perfectly balanced.

Pilsners – one of the classic and most widespread styles of beer the world around. Popularly brewed in Czechoslovakia and Germany, as well as America, the style was popularized by a certain brewery based in Milwaukee. As a result, the style may have fallen slightly out of favor in some circles, though the style has gained some more respect in recent years starting with the landmark American interpretation from Victory Brewing: Prima Pils. That said, beer journalist and expert John Holl (among others) has said the mark of a good brewer is if that brewery can produce a good pilsner.

Which, of course, leads to the subject of this post. Double Nickel Brewing in Pennsauken has been part of the growth, some might say boom (or boon), of Craft Beer in New Jersey over the last few years. They brew straightforward, classic styles including this wonderful pilsner I recently tried.

Out of the can, the beer pours a lovely straw-golden yellow and when poured properly into a Pilsner glass, emits a perfect, frothy head. The beer fills the glass more hazy than I would expect for a pilsner, but still, it presents just as a pilsner should. There isn’t too strong of an aroma with this brew, but the underlying hops are definitely present.

The beer tastes, note for note, exactly like you’d expect a pilsner to taste minus the mass-produced elements from the Big Beer makers. There’s a little bit of citrus overtone throughout, too. The hops aren’t overpowering at all, but are present as an integral element of the beer. Balanced, crisp, refreshing.

Double Nickel’s Pilsner is an extremely approachable beer, especially for folks who just want their Budweisers and Miller Lites and are wary of of “that snooty craft beer the hipsters are drinking.” What makes the beer so good is how the beer hits all the notes a classic pilsner should hit and is just simply a delicious beer. While approachable to non-craft beer drinkers, this pilsner will also please seasoned craft beer drinkers who’ve been enjoying Victory’s Prima Pils, Two Roads’s Ol’Factory Pilsner, or Tröegs’ Sunshine Pils. Double Nickel Brewing has made a beer that easily sits in the fridge with those American Craft interpretations of the classic German style.

Although the brewery is just over two years old, they are already changing the labels on their core line-up of beers. The new label for the Pilsner is below (courtesy of reddit).

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 8)

bdg_pilsner_lg

Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.