Cheers!: Put This Pilsner In Your Almanac

As I might have mentioned in the past, I’m always on the lookout for a great lager or pilsner.

Yes, there is a distinction.

A Czech pilsner is quite different from a Munich lager, for example. Yes, technically, they are both lagers, but the Czech pilsner is softer and, to my palate, more seductive than any ordinary lager. I find German pilsners sharper than their Czech counterparts, but they still stand far apart from what Americans call pilsner.

During my latest visit to my local craft beer dispenser, my eye was caught by a sign that read: All beers on bottom shelf 8 bucks (or something like that). I pulled a couple things into my basket, including a cardboard-encased sixer of cans of Craft Pilsner from the Almanac Beer Co. of San Francisco. At the bottom of the can, these words: Dry Hopped Craft Lager.

My first thought was – Geez, pick one or the other! But then I gave it some more thought and realized, yes, perhaps you do need that little bit of education on the label, especially since Miller started calling Miller Lite a pilsner. Calling that near beer a pilsner is an abomination, a monstrous misuse of the name of a beer style that deserves so much better.

Here I should add something about my experience with American craft pilsners. Let me put this as politely as I can – most American craft “pilsners” make me wonder if the brewers have ever tasted a pilsner. The majority I’ve tried have been rough, clumsy attempts at one of the world’s great beer styles.

Part of that is our dumb American obsession with hops. Heavy-handed hopping is not conducive to making a great, balanced pilsner.

Looking at the ingredients on the Almanac can, I thought this was going to be another ugly American attempt at pilsner, for it lists five hop varieties – Citra, Mandarina, Bavaria, Mosaic, Simcoe.

And not a Saaz in sight.

I braced myself for the worst, took an exploratory sip, and … wow! What a soft, crisp and lovely American pilsner we have here, and at 4.8 percent, as easy drinking as it gets. For a moment I thought I was back in České Budějovice.

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