Vliet (pronounced “vl-ee-t”) is our signature, award-winning Pilsner. From the Dutch for ‘minor stream’, the name is a nod to our flagship brewery in Brooklyn near the Gowanus Canal. Clean and aromatic, complex yet crisp, it defies expectations of what one might expect from a lager.
Who says Pilsners are only for summer? Fools, that’s what I say! So here I am with one of my last reviews of the year, during Christmas, and I’m reviewing a Pilsner. Why not? A Pilsner would be a perfect beer to accompany your meal on Christmas.
Threes Brewing is one of the many well-regarded breweries in Brooklyn and this beer in particular is one that is highly acclaimed and maybe the one I’ve wanted the most from this fine brewery.
Just look at that beer. Seriously, look at it. That’s exactly what a pilsner should look like. Light gold-yellow with a fluffy head. I poured it almost completely vertically to somewhat emulate a slow pour. It isn’t as clear as I would expect, but it isn’t hazy. That’s not a problem either way, just what I’m seeing in the beer. I’m wondering if it was filtered because it looks a little cloudy. I’m fine with that, unfiltered Pilsners are underrated.
First sip…yeah, this is a pilsner and I’m happy. I get some hints of the bready elements from the malt. Maybe a little bit crackery, too. Clean and crisp, Vliet is exactly what I want from a pilsner, refreshing and tasty, with an overall flavor profile that lends itself to pairing with any food.
What I also notice on Vliet is a spicy, almost tangy, herbal and spicy finish. Maybe a hint of pepper? I’m not sure if those elements are from the hops (I suspect yes), but it is an interesting twist that sets the beer apart from some of the other recent pilsners I’ve had – in a good way.
Vliet is an extremely well-made beer. Threes Brewing has taken the core four ingredients of beer and crafted a delicious, on-point interpretation of the classic German Pilsner.
Foeder-fermented Pilsner brewed with Weyermann Pilsner Malt and a touch of Weyermann Vienna, hopped with German hops for a floral and spicy balance. As is tradition, this was fermented low and slow in one of our American Oak Foeders, then transferred to stainless where it was lagered to maturity.
We’re tasting grassy lemon pitch, a particularly oaky pile of straw, a mellifluous bouquet of summer flowers, and that little burst of citrus oil you get when peeling an orange.
Another pilsner already? I suppose I’m making up for lost time, but when one visits a brewery on a warm summer day, a Pilsner might be the best test of their quality.
The Drowned Lands had the unfortunate timing to open the same year as the COVID-19 Pandemic, but despite that hinderance, they’ve already received several accolades, including being listed as one of the 10 Best New Breweries of 2020 by USA Today (along with NJ’s own, The Seed in Atlantic City). Before I knew that; however, I’d heard good things about them and one of the former brewers of Conclave Brewing had recently joined Drowned Lands. How could I not visit on the ride down from Cooperstown, NY to home?
Of the beers on tap, I knew I wanted to try their pilsner. It is one of my favorite styles after all and the pilsner is where a brewer’s skill shines. I fondly remember the two pilsners Conclave brewed when Bryan was working there, too.
Look at that beer! Perfect golden approachability, it looks just the way a pilsner should look. Aroma…I think I get some of the earthiness from the oak foeder in which the beer was fermented.
What does the beer taste like? Like nectar from the gods. I’m completely blown away by this beer, it is a perfectly crafted lager. The traditional elements of the German malt and hops are present, but the oak fermenting brings some fresh, new perspective to the old world style.
I enjoyed the beer so much I had to bring home a four pack because it was delicious and my fridge was a little low on pilsners. The next day, I had a pour from the can and it was just as good. Extremely refreshing, potently flavorful, elegantly crafted.
The Drowned Lands is a gorgeous brewery, especially on the day of my visit which was lovely weather. If I lived closer (I’m about an hour and a half away), I’d be visiting them a couple times per month.
To put it in simple terms, River Birch is one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had. To quote Mat from Massive Beers, this Pilsner is “Mount Rushmore Status.”
A book for both the beer geek and the foodie seeking a better understanding of modern food and drink.
On the night of April 17, 1945, Allied planes dropped more than a hundred bombs on the Burghers’ Brewery in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, destroying much of the birthplace of pilsner, the world’s most popular beer style and the bestselling alcoholic beverage of all time. Still, workers at the brewery would rally so they could have beer to toast their American, Canadian, and British liberators the following month. It was another twist in pilsner’s remarkable story, one that started in a supernova of technological, political, and demographic shifts in the mid-1800s and that continues to unfold today anywhere alcohol is sold. Tom Acitelli’s Pilsner: How the Beer of Kings Changed the World tells that story, shattering myths about pilsner’s very birth and about its immediate parentage. A character-driven narrative that shows how pilsner influenced everything from modern-day advertising and marketing to immigration to today’s craft beer movement.
Pilsner, the most ubiquitous beer style in the world and perhaps the most maligned style in the world. For me, when a Pilsner is made well with the right ingredients…I don’t know that there’s any beer I like more than a cold, freshly made, freshly poured pilsner. In this fine book from Tom Acitelli, the style is given a historical perspective through a fascinating narrative weaving a story of the beer style, its place in the world, and America specifically, rather than a regurgitation of facts.
The “story” begins with beer before Pilsner was born, because in many ways, the beer was a reaction to much of the beer in Germany and the Bohemian region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Acitelli charts some of the German breweries and styles like brewery Spaten brewery, the Vienna Lager, as well as the dark lagers that all predate Pilsner and eventually led to the style’s creation. I’m a big reader of Fantasy and the way in which Acitelli writes of the “pre-history” of Pilsner felt near mythic in nature, not unlike some of the mythic backstory of some of the Fantasy novels I’ve read. In other words, his mythologizing approach to telling the beer’s story clicked very strongly with my personal reading sensibilities.
The burghers (high profile citizens) of Pilsen wanted to have their own beer, they didn’t want to have to go to more Germanic regions for lager. As a result, they came together to build a brewery and hired a brewer to create a lager that was unheard of at the time: a clear, yellow, clean lager. That beer, of course, came to be known as Pilsner and would have a ripple affect like a boulder being dropped in a small pond
From there, the beer (or an interpretation of the style) was adopted as the flagship by breweries that would become the largest breweries in the world: Anheuser-Busch, Heineken, Pabst, and Miller. Acitelli weaves the history of these breweries into a fascinating narrative, how Anheuser Busch came to call their beer Budweiser, the familial history behind the Heinekin brewery, the legacy of Pabst’s early prominence as an American Lager brewery. While many of the beers from those breweries now are distinct from what Pilser actually is, there’s no doubt Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the Champagne of Beers would not exist if it weren’t for Pilsner beer and the large contingent of German immigrants in the United States.
One thing I particularly enjoyed about the book (I originally wrote “novel” because the book reads like a story), is how Acitelli demythologizes some elements of the history. For example, since Pilsner was created in the region of Bohemia that is now the Czech Republic the beer has often been considered a Czech invention. As such, many breweries would refer to their interpretation of Pilsner as “Bohemian Lager.” Well, that Pilsner is a Czech invention is only partially true. Sure, regionally that may be the case, but at the time, that region was largely populated by people of Germanic heritage and the man who created the beer, Bavarian Josef Groll, himself was German.
From the early days of those “American Adjunct Lager” breweries, through the days of Prohibition, Acitelli tells a fascinating story of the Beer of Kings. He then shifts his pen slightly to focus on Pilsner’s affect on advertising, especially Television advertising, through to the development of Light (or Lite) beer and its saturation of the market in the 1970s and 1980s. Much like Pilsner was a reaction to the earlier lagers from Germany, the author notes how the American Craft Beer movement of the 1980s and 1990s and IPAs were most definitely a reaction to how flavorless the Americanized Pilsner had become. He further charts the more recent embracement of the Pilsner and Lager style in general by the smaller, Independent American Craft breweries.
I initially heard about this book on the Steal This Beer Podcast hosted by Augie Carton and John Holl, both of whom have championed the style on episodes of their podcast. Augie’s Carton Brewing cans a few really tasty pilsners, as have many of the smaller breweries in my home State of New Jersey. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least give them a shout out because reading this book about Pilsner made me want to enjoy a few pours. An inexhaustive list of great New Jersey pilsners, according to the Tasting Faculty of the Rob Bedford Institute of Beer at The Tap Takeover University follows: Whip and Peitsche from Carton Brewing (Atlantic Highlands), Rewal from Jersey Cyclone Brewing (Somerset), Parking Lot Pilz from Hackensack Brewing (Hackensack), Morning Breeze from Untied Brewing (New Providence), Pound of Feathers from Icarus Brewing (Lakewood), Lawn Boi from Tonewood Brewing (Oaklyn), Jersey Dreamin’ from Ashton Brewing (Middlesex), Czechs and Balances from Man Skirt Brewing (Hackettstown), Pilsner from Double Nickel Brewing (Pennsauken), Ramstein Imperial Pilsner from Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company (Butler), plus from neighboring Pennsylvania, I have to mention Victory’s Prima Pils and Tröegs’s Sunshine Pilsner.
In the end, Tom Acitelli has told an extremely fascinating story about the most popular style of beer in the world and reveals things about the style that add even more to the beer’s allure. This book is a must read and should reside on the shelf of any beer drinker.
Cathedral Tree is a beer that pays reverence to the timeless lager style – Pilsners. Fermented entirely in 500 Liter oak puncheons, to incorporate Old World methodology and provide a mellow tannic structure that lends a full mouthfeel and support for classic German noble and modern hops. Finishes crisp, clean, and refreshing as any Pilsner should. Look for Cathedral Tree in 16-ounce cans. And just like the actual Cathedral Tree, this one is staying firmly planted at the coast.
Brewed in the Lovell Brewery and fermented in the Lovell basement in great big oak barrels, this beer is oak fermented and lagered, but not “barrel-aged.”
Pale straw in color, this pilsner offers floras, white grape, and rustic raw grain aromas in addition to doughy, bready, herbal & floral hops and white nectarine flavors.
For our 20th Wedding Anniversary, my wife bought me a box of special beers, 20 beers specifically. Each beer is meant commemorate a special moment, event, or shared memories from the 20 years of our marriage. Not just any beers, mind you. She bought 20 different styles of beer from breweries from around the country, 18 of the beers through Tavour, which is a beer crating service that allows consumers to get beers from small, independent breweries from around the country. Beers from, say, a small brewery in Oregon a person (like me) from New Jersey would never otherwise be able to procure. Tavour also is a great way to support small and independent business which aren’t exactly local.
My wife also put together 20 index cards with a printed image and a textual hint as to what the beer might be or where the beer was made. This game consists of me picking a card and then she presents a few ounces of the beer in a taster glass, so I can guess what the beer is. The index card clue for this beer hinted at a German store near our house we frequent, so I was hoping for some kind of Lager. I immediately knew it was a Lager of some sort from the aroma, but the small taste also had me feeling pretty good about the beer being a Pilsner. As it so happened, this beer was second I had from the Tavour box and it is one of my favorite styles, a Pilsner.
The beer pours a perfect golden-yellow with a fluffy white head into my Pilsner glass. As it turns out, the glass from which I enjoyed the beer was a wedding gift from my coworkers of 20 years ago, they gave me a box of Pilsner glasses, so another little reminder of 20 great years of marriage.
Getting more of the aroma from the full glass with the fluffy head, it smells like a Pilsner, with some bready elements plus some slightly fruity elements, too.
The first full taste of the beer was extremely pleasing. Cathedral Tree has the classic German Pilsner elements – bready/crackery malt and a pleasant hop finish. Many Pilsners have some kind of hint of fruit element from the hops and while the description above calls out grape as a flavor, I can’t say I was getting any of that. Maybe a hint of nectarine, but more of a pear hint. Not that I was drinking pear juice from a Pilsner glass, but pear is that subtly noticeable fruit that is found in a lot of juice blends to bring other fruit elements together. That’s what the fruity elements here did for my taste buds – brought the wonderful crackery malt together along with the hints of oak from the fermenting barrel.
Cathedral Tree is a superb Pilsner and one I’d happily have again and seek out should I ever have the opportunity to visit Oregon.
Also worth pointing out is the gorgeous art wrapping the entire can of beer from Will Elias. Although Fort George’s description of the beer calls out German styles, the Cathedral-like structure looks like it would fit in really well in Czechoslovakia, the birthplace of Pilsner beer.
Jersey Dreamin’ is our Czech style Pilsner. It pours with a rich creamy white head and a burst of floral/spicy Saaz hops. Honey, cracker and spice all pop in the flavor and it finishes clean and balanced and says let’s have another!
Ashton Brewing is one of the newest New Jersey breweries (as of the date of this post, June 9, 2020), but they had the unfortunate timing to have had their grand opening scheduled when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down public gatherings. They took over the former Demented Brewing facility in Middlesex, NJ, redid the interior and launched their brews. Despite the challenge they faced in the current times Ashton pushed forward, sold crowlers and growlers of their beers to what I’ve seen to be positive response. Shortly after they opened, Ashton began canning their beer, including this delightful Pilsner which is the second beer they canned.
Pilsners are one of my favorite styles and I’m always excited when a smaller brewery decides to craft any kind of lager, especially when a new brewery does their second canning run as a Pilsner. As soon as it was available I placed on online order and picked up a six pack at the brewery. As a result, I was check in number three to this beer in untappd, so I was also very happy to be one of the first to try the beer. Good thing the beer was delicious!
Visually, if you were to put this beer side-by-side with the last Pilsner I reviewed (also a Czech Pilsner), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same beer. That’s a good thing because this clear and clean, golden yellow beer is largely what I would expect a pilsner to look like. The aroma gives off some hops and maybe some crackery/breadiness from the malt. More good signs for Jersey Dreamin’.
That first sip immediately becomes a gulp. Simply put, Jersey Dreamin’ is a delicious Pilsner.
Some Pilsners lean towards a breadiness/cracker element from the malt, some have a floral/fruity finish and some strike a balance between the two. Jersey Dreamin strikes that balance really nicely. It isn’t as “crackery” as some pilsners I’ve had – which is by no means a slight – but it has a full flavor whose elements come together really cleanly.
I spent a long Saturday afternoon in the sun doing yardwork the weekend after getting the six pack. My reward was this beer and it hit the spot perfectly, the beer was extremely flavorful, abundantly refreshing – an elevated “lawnmower” beer, if you will.
Many breweries who start up, at least in New Jersey, launch their canning program with multiple IPAs or some dark beers like porters & stouts. While Ashton’s first canned beer was their IPA, the fact that their second beer to be canned was a Pilsner – a style that has zero wiggle room for mistakes that can be hidden by adding more hops or adjuncts – is impressive. It shows confidence in the quality of the product they are sharing with consumers. Steve Ashton has a long history of brewing and working in the brewing industry in some capacity and that knowledge and confidence in his ability shows in this elegant and delicious Pilsner. This beer is good enough that it could be their flagship beer and a Pilsner that Lager-enthusiasts should definitely seek out. I for one can’t wait to have fresh draught of this Pilsner once the Pandemic concludes.
Man Skirt’s take on the original Pilsner. Classic grain flavors shine through, with just the right amount of Sterling hops. Clean, crisp, refreshing, and never boring.
Man Skirt Brewing is one of the first breweries I did a spotlight for here at the Tap Takeover (back in December 2017) and now I’ve finally come around to reviewing one of their beers. In part, I don’t see cans of their beers too often around me, and another part, Hackettstown is not super close to me. That said, I’m always happy to try a new Pilsner and after my wife got me in the car during the pandemic to go on an adventure to get out of the house, we wound up in the Hackettstown, NJ area. Naturally I grabbed some to go beers from Czig Meister and Man Skirt, two breweries in Hackettstown around the block from each other.
I’ve seen a few friends check this beer in untappd and they had good things to say about the beer, which had me looking forward to trying it myself. I was very pleased this was one of the “to go” options from Man Skirt available in an interesting “Imperial Can” which is a can with a cap, go figure. For a beer like a Pilsner, which is traditionally relatively low in ABV, this is a great size for the beer. But what about the beer already?.
What came out of that “imperial can” was clear and clean looking, though a slightly darker golden yellow than I would expect from a pilsner. The aroma is the “beer that smells like a beer” smell, I get the typical slight malt, slightly hoppy, and slightly sweet smell I’d expect from a Pilsner. In other words, based on looks and smell, I’ve got a good feeling about the beer .
As the beer passes my lips, I begin to smile. This pilsner is really what I wanted it to be. There’s the trademark enjoyable flavor of the Pilsner here – a good hint of breadiness/crackery goodness from the malt, one of the hallmarks of a great pilsner. Although the IBU is not too high at 37, it is higher than many pilsners and only slightly lower than Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale (a beer considered to be hop-forward). This is by no means a problem, I like the hop presence in Man Skirt’s take on the Pilsner – it helps to give the beer its full flavor.
More than anything, this beer has a very clean profile – the flavor elements are playing together very harmoniously. The hops complement the malt in a classic one-two punch of flavor – like a pair of championship-level Tag Team wrestlers. They bring different elements to the beer, but complement each other in a superb, unified flavor.
Czechs and Balances is as good a Czech style pilsner as you’ll find in the State of New Jersey (and easily in *at least* the top third of the 75+ pilsners I’ve had). I could easily see this beer on regular rotation in my fridge (if I were just a bit closer to Man Skirt!). As it is, this is a beer I’ll be seeking out again and probably the best beer out of the 10 or so I’ve had from Man Skirt. Joe Fisher should be very proud of this beer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.