Who makes the best Pilsner?
One of my all around favorite beer styles is the always drinkable pilsner. So when Billy suggested a pilsner blind tasty for our next Denver Tasting Lab get together I got a little excited. Nah, I was VERY excited. Going into this tasting I already had some favorite pilsners to cheers on which would make the results all the more exciting. Man, I used the word excite way too much in that paragraph.
Generally we stuck with German Style Pilsners which feature a clean lager character with a prominent noble hop aroma and flavor. To make it interesting I tossed in a couple Czech Pilsners. While we came up with an impressive collection I wish I could have found a few more German imports. I only tracked down a Bitburger, oh well. Here are the eleven that made it to the tasting:
From the US
- Bristol Yellow Kite
- Chris’s Homebrew Pilsner
- Firestone Walker Pivo Pils
- Left Hand Polestar Pils
- Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils
- Prost Pils
- Santa Fe Freestyle Pilsner
- Victory Prima Pils
From Czech Republic
- Pilsner Urquell
Fairly solid selection, right? It’s not perfect and there are some great beers missing, but we can only try so many beers in an evening. Most of these beers I’ve tried before except for Bristol, Chris’s beer, Santa Fe, Staropramen, and, surprisingly, Victory’s Prima. Going into the tasting I figured my favorites would be Firestone, Bitburger, and just maybe Prost. Well, without a label which beer did I really like best?
Usually our little tasting group disagrees about the champion beer. Not this time. Instead we found three beers that stood head and shoulders above the competition and all three deserving of the title of Best Pilsner: Firestone, Left Hand, and Victory. What excellent beers these are! You should put them in your fridge tonight. All of them feature bight noble hops characteristics while still maintaining that crisp pilsner drinkability. I have to give a lot of credit to Left Hand, I’ve totally underestimated that beer in the past and now I know better.
Wow, there is a crap load of diacetyl in Urquell. There was enough diacetyl to seriously knock down the drinkability. I figured it would come up short on the hops side compared to the German style examples, but I didn’t expect that much butter. I should point out one flaw in our tasting environment: because we had to pour all the beers at the same time to keep their anonymity they weren’t all at the perfect temperature. Pilsners should be served cold and this may have resulted in increased levels of diacetyl in the Urquell. The biggest disappointment for me was the Prost Pilsner. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this beer before, but it came near the bottom of my list. Nothing about it popped the same way as the others. Prost is probably the smallest brewery in this tasting and they have only recently started to bottle their beer. I would still give them a shot if you see them on tap (especially if you see it on tap).
This is Ironic
The fun surprise about all of this is that a few days later while I was judging beers at the Colorado State Fair I was assigned pilsners! What perfect timing, right? They haven’t announced the winners for this competition yet, but I will update this post when they do. There were some outstanding ones and I am dying to know what they were so I can go to the brewery and pick some up! Watch, one of the beers will end up being a Prost Pils. What a perfect twist that would be.
I Still Love You, Urquell and Bitburger
A few days after the tasting I went back and grabbed a bottle of Urquell and a can of Bitburger. I just had to give these guys another chance. The Urquell still had noticeable diacetyl (which is a characteristic you should find in low levels in the style) but it wasn’t the butter bomb we had during the blind tasting. I would love to try a can of Urquell versus the bottled version. Bitburger, I still love you, too. This was near the top on my list, but not quite up there with the others. I think the lower hop profile of Bitburger gave it a clear disadvantage in a blind tasting (especially with this hop loving panel). Hops are still big in this clean pilsner, just not the kick you will find in the American counter-parts. This is a great beer and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for the authentic German take on the pilsner style.
Chris’s beer was right up there in the judging. Now we just need to get him to post the recipe!
Check Out Some Other Blind Tastings