Thursday, January 21, 2010

Year of the Pilsner

It sure does seem like I'm writing a lot about pilsners these days. Sam Adams has added a pilsner to their seasonal lineup replacing the White Ale. The Noble Pils promises to be a hoppy pilsner using 5 types of Noble hops. I like the fact that the Noble Pils escaped the unoriginality of their seasonal names by being named for neither a season nor a month (Summer Ale, Winter Lager and Octoberfest are the other seasonals). The White Ale, the previous spring seasonal, will be continued but only available in the winter styles variety pack.

Now my question is this. Are craft breweries brewing pilsners to increase market share and appeal to more novice beer drinkers? Or are craft brewers trying to add flavor to a more bland style for the craft beer drinker? Or some combination of the 2? I guess I'll have to try the Sam Adams Noble Pils to find out. I wonder if the Budweiser drinkers of the world will be as curious.

20 comments:

  1. I think a lot of it is backlash to the "extreme" beer movement. I think some brewers are getting a little bored DIPA and RIS and want to do something more drinkable.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I question whether Bud(light) drinkers even know they are drinking an alleged pilsner.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The timing of this post is really interesting. In just the last couple of weeks, I've all but sworn off IPA's, and I used to be a huge hop head.

    I am beyond bored with them.

    However, I have been buying a lot of Czech Pilsners. As much as it pains me to give a dime of my beer money to Anheuser-Busch, Czechvarr (Budějovický Budvar) is just delicious.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It seems like when people start getting into craft beer, they tend to gravitate to the bigger beers. After a while they start to appreciate the subtleties of different styles that might not be so in your face.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think you're absolutely right, Barleywhiner. In the beginning it seems like most beer drinkers graduate from the standard macro swill to something safe and easy, probably along the lines of Sam Adams Boston Lager or Boulevard Wheat. Next comes the phase we all seem to go through where it's a constant search for bigger and better. For neophytes in this stage of beer-consumption, anything below 9% abv and 60+ IBU's need not apply.

    All this aside, like everything else, brewing beer is a business. There are far more Budweiser drinkers than post-metamorphosis newly-enlightened beer-butterflies and I can guess which of these markets would be more profitable for breweries to penetrate. That people who's tastes have evolved now have more technical brews to enjoy is likely a side-effect of the breweries trying to cater to the masses in an effort to grow the business. My thought is that breweries who have jumped on board this new wave of pilsner-brewing are simply adding a step to the natural evolution of the typical beer fan. Now newbies have a temporary landing between Budweiser and Boulevard Wheat while the more seasoned drinker has a subtle style to appreciate.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think InBev might have something to do with it. I grew up in StL where everyone knows someone who worked for the brewery. It really was a point of pride for the city and a lot of people are still ticked about the family cashing in.

    Now, everyone there is looking for another beer because either they or someone they knew got laid off, or because their everyday beer is not as American as it used to be. I'm sure that sentiment exists in other parts of the country as well.

    Those people are looking for a regular old drink with your dog kind of beer.

    I regularly go to Schlafly for lunch when I'm back in StL and everyone I've talked to there says business is booming since InBev bought Busch. They upped their capacity last year, and according to one brewer, they can't make enough beer right now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I know loving on a fairly generic Belgian Wit isn't exactly on the pulse of the KC Beer Blog, but I'm going to miss the Sam Adams White Ale. It was my go to baseball beer -- just felt perfect for a 60-70 degree spring day.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's not that it isn't on the pulse of the KC Beer Blog, it's that I don't recall ever drinking it. I don't drink much Sam Adams and they have too many beers for me to keep them all straight.

    That being said. I tried the Noble Pils last night and kind of regretted this post. I should have given it a review because it's really nice. I liked it a lot, enough to look forward to tonight when I can have another one. I don't think you're going to be missing out on a beer perfect for a 60-70 degree day.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Pilsner is the most abused word in the history of beer. Most beers to which this word is applied in the US bear no resemblance to Czech or German Pilsners. This includes both beers to which Boulevard is currently applying the name, regardless of how good they might be.

    That said, I'll bet you the Sam Adams version is a reasonable interpretation. Victory and Left Hand are other American breweries that make good versions of (in these two cases German) Pilsener.

    So I guess my point is it is hard to talk about little p pilseners in this country because all the word means any more is a light colored beer that doesn't have citrusy hops. Some are good, some aren't, few are worthy (by stylistic, not technical merit) of calling a big P Pilsener.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Stegg, Budvar is not AB.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm with smh on this one. I'd say most non-beer-geek beer drinkers don't know or give a rat's ass that Bud/Coors/Miller/etc. are a Pilsner, nor do they probably care. Most people that those beers cater to just want a beer, and as long as it gets them drunk they are good. They "think" they don't like "dark" beers, so they never venture to try something new (other than possibly a Wheat).

    Pilsners just aren't really a beer style I enjoy. Even on a hot summer day, I'd much rather have a Zon than a Blvd Pilsner, the former being far more refreshing. I've yet to try the new Collaboration yet, so we'll see how the Imp Pils is, but I can't see myself gravitating to this style any more than I do already. I'll take a good pale ale as an everyday beer over a pilsner anyday.

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Anonymous: Budvar is distributed in the United States by AB-Inbev. Though you are correct, it isn't actually "owned" by AB. But each time you purchase a Budvar AB gets a cut. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Budvar is distributed by AB? That's funny, since they've fought over the rights to the Budweiser name for so long.

    Bull: I seem to remember you saying you like some Shiner products. They have a pilsner coming out soon, called "101": http://www.shiner101.com/

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Lee: *facepalm* That is one of the great conundrums. They fight around the world over the Budweiser name, but in the United States Budvar is distributed by AB. I am correct: http://www.anheuser-busch.com/beerVerified.html#czechvar

    It is crazy but true. Why fight in the U.S. if you can just distribute the competing product and profit?!

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I was happy to see this post, because I've given this topic quite a bit of thought in the last year or so. I think it's probably a little of both. And I think Barleywhiner is right on with his comment. I come from a family of Bud Light/ Miller Lite drinkers. It's what I started on when I could finally get my tastebuds to let me choke down a beer as a kid. Over the years I have grown to love beer. And as my palate has matured, I've come to really appreciate the taste and complexities of some really good craft beers - especially a good IPA. I'm still not above knocking back a Bud or Miller - there is a time and a place for everything, after all - and have come to appreciate a good "Yard Beer" as they have come back in fashion (back in the day, I never thought about how much better a PBR tastes than a Bug Light). I don't give a crap about the trends and stuff, but I do appreciate having a good, quality, craft alternative to the (essentially crappy - with two "p's") American pilsners (with a small "p"). I really like the Boulevard Pilsner and am quite excited to try the Imperial Pilsner. If I can get some of my family and friends to try something different from their usual Bud or Miller, and hopefully appreciate it half as much as I do in the process, all the better.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Those that say you don't like Pilsener.

    Have you had Bitburger or Urquell on draught (or in a can)? Have you had Left Hand Polestar?

    I'm a certified 3rd degree beer nerd and German, Czech (and Classic American, though I generally have to brew that myself) Pilseners are some of my favorite beers. I don't often want the American light lagers which are marketed as pilsener and while I think the Boulevard Pilsener is well made I find it uninteresting compared to the Old World classics. It is challenging to get a good one in good condition though (except for the Left Hand, or Victory Prima Pils not available in KC) and I don't recommend green bottles unless you take them out of the cardboard case yourself. Foundry always has Urquell on draught, give it a shot if you haven't or haven't done so in a while.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Don't think y'all can get it up there in KC, but Saint Arnold Summer Pils (Houston) is mighty good. So is Oskar Blues Mamma's Little Yella Pils (Colorado).

    ReplyDelete
  19. I enjoyed a taste of Sam Adams' Noble Pils last night at Gomer's (Lee's Summit) weekly beer tasting. The aroma and flavor were truly like a German Pilsner. In answer to the original question, I'm fairly sure that Boulevard's pilsner was designed to appeal to the masses--not hopped like a German or Bohemian pilsner. I'd say it's more like a Premium American Lager, priced lower to attract the novices, appeal to the masses, and compete with B-M-C. I haven't tried the Imperial Pilsner yet, but think it's a little amusing that two Belgian brewers collaborated on developing their version of a style that originated in Czechoslovakia! I would have preferred an outstanding Belgian beer--something to compete with Russian River?

    ReplyDelete
  20. http://www.kansascity.com/746/story/1716932.html

    ReplyDelete