I love Skagit River Brewing, they are one of the most consistent breweries in Washington state and make some of my favorite beers, particularly IPA’s. A trip there in 2013 brought some excitement for me as there were a couple of beers on their tap list that I had not tried, particularly the 404 IPA. A new IPA, I am game. The 404 IPA is actually more of an imperial pilsner than an IPA (or at least should have been), but, having had a couple imperial pilsners that I loved, I decided that this was worth having.
The beer pours very pale yellow in color with light notes of grain, virtually no hop character and not much else. It didn’t get any better when I started drinking it – the beer has virtually IPA character with just a touch of hop bitterness to remind you that there are actually hops in this beer, but that is almost completely overwhelmed by the pilsner yeast just about immediately. The beer has just the one pilsner note, fades quickly and really wasn’t all that interesting. It would have been a solid beer if it was advertised as just a pilsner, but it was a complete failure as an IPA.
Skagit River 404 IPA disappoints and fails to connect with 1 “404 Not Found” Errors out of 5. (Which makes me wonder if the name is an inside joke).
Just a sidebar to this story – Mrs. Iron Chef ordered the pilsner when I ordered the 404. Initially I thought the waitress switched the beers because mine seemed too light and Mrs. wasn’t happy with hers because she thought it was too hoppy. The waitress got the right beers to the right people and we ended up switching, I drank a nicely hopped pilsner and the Mrs. drank an IPA. That may be the only time in history that scenario will happen.
Reuben’s branches out into the world of pilsner in a collaboration with Airways Brewing, mixing in their signature use of Rye with a style that is known for mild, clean lines and flavors. Curious on what rye would do to pilsner; I had to give this beer a shot. It clocks in at a fairly mild 36 IBU and a light 5.0% ABV.
Golden amber in color with an interesting nose – hints of rye are noticeable but the pilsner yeast notes and grain dominate this beer. Think of this beer as a pilsner with a bite. The beer starts out unremarkably mild before building into something that is unmistakably a pilsner – dry with noticeable grain and a pleasant crispness. Once you move beyond that, the beer gets really interesting – the rye notes slowly replace the pilsner flavor, transforming the beer into something more spicy and deep. The rye notes accentuate the crispness taking it to a much drier place and bringing out just a hint of the hop flavor. The rye finish is long and pleasant and just hints of the pilsner notes hang around with it. This is definitely a different beer – not sure if a pilsner drinker would appreciate it and I am not sure that a hop-head would recognize the mild complexity of the beer, but if you are looking for something different and a touch on the lighter side, this would be a good beer to give a shot.
I love pumpkin beers and there are a ton of them out on the market these days. Fall also brings us the annual pumpkin beer festival at Elysian Brewing, who seem to roll out somewhere around a dozen pumpkin beers themselves, with just a few making it into bottles. Hansel & Gretel is one that made it this year into the bottle. From the Elysian press release:
Brewed with organic pale, Weyermann Munich and Cara-Hell malts, with pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter. Spiced with fresh ginger and hopped with lots of Czech Saaz hops 4.5% ABV
This beer is unmistakably a pilsner – golden yellow in color with a fizzy white head. Initially you get a good amount of grain on the nose, but as you get closer, there are strong notes of ginger with a pumpkin background. The is initial sip is a strong hit of spicy ginger, like biting into a ginger snap cooking without the sugar, but it is so strong that your taste buds never fully recover from it. The ginger gives way to a distinct pumpkin flavor and it finishes just a bit sweet with a touch of spicy heat from the ginger. Any grain notes are completely overwhelmed by the ginger and there are no discernible hops on the nose or the palate. The spiciness is more pronounced as the beer warms and really overpowers everything else. There aren’t many pumpkin pilsners on the market so this beer has the potential to be a good one with more balance so you get more than a one note beer (and make pumpkin the star, not the ginger), but it is not quite there yet.
This was not my favorite pumpkin beer of the patch; so as a result, Hansel & Gretel skips into the gingerbread house with a score of 2 children out of 5.
I don’t normally order a pilsner, let alone when it is cold and raining in April. A recent trip to Elysian Fields caused me to make an exception to this rule when I saw that they had a new beer on tap – Discount Double Czech Imperial Pilsner. I will be honest, I ordered the beer solely because I loved the name – it does happen.
I tried to take a picture of the description from the beer menu, but I did not get a great exposure, so I know this beer has Czech Saaz and Mosaic hops and Pilsner, Munich and one other malt, clocking in at a whopping 7% ABV and 42 IBU. This is not your father’s pilsner. The beer is only available on tap.
The beer is golden straw in color with a creamy white head. It has a very subtle nose – light grain and malt with hints of hops interspersed. You are deceived into thinking that this big beer is anything but by the way it smells and its subtle nature. The first sip is lightly bitter with notes of yeast and malt giving way to a surprising grapefruit finish – very long and slightly sweet but not overpowering, with hints of orange peel. As the beer warms, the citrus flavors become more subtle and the beer becomes slightly more balanced between the malt and hops. This beer definitely has more hops than you would normally expect from a pilsner, but it felt just slightly out of balance between the hops and the grain if you are looking for a more traditional pilsner. If you like hops however, this beer is definitely right up your alley. There is enough balance to hide the 7% ABV on this beer and it has a hybrid pilsner/pale flavor profile – there is enough pilsner character in the beer to recognize the pilsner hops and malt, but enough hop complexity to know that this is something more than a pilsner.
I liked this beer – it was a nice change of pace from what I have recently been drinking and probably would order one without hesitation on a nice warm sunny day. The rabbit is incorrect, I would be happy if you ordered me this pilsner.
Discount Double Czech strolls in like a good neighbor with a respectable 3 Aaron Rodgers out of 5.
In case you don’t remember “Discount Double Check” because you were not paying attention/don’t care/hiding under a rock/abducted by aliens, here you go:
Bridgeport Brewing, out of Portland, Oregon, makes some very solid and occasionally spectacular beers. You can never go wrong with picking up a Hop Czar or Blue Heron – they won’t blow you away, but they are beers that you will enjoy drinking. In 2012, Bridgeport decided to try a fresh hop beer – a pilsner. I personally thought that was a gutsy move – pilsner is an under-represented style in the Northwest and because it is more delicate, it can be easily overwhelmed by hops if the balance is not just right. Of course, seeing the beer available in 22 oz. bottles, I had to pick one up.
According to their press release, the beer comes in at 8% ABV and 44 IBU. The beer uses Oregon Tettnang and Austrian Aurora hops to give it is complexity.
The beer pours golden yellow in color with a white head, exactly what you would expect from a Pilsner. A complex nose is dominated by lots of grain and sugar with plenty of green hops in the background, a wonderful balance of the two – lets you know you are drinking a pilsner, but this one has some legs to it. The initial taste is very crisp and dry with pleasant grain and a very quick grassy hop finish. The beer is not overly floral and is balanced with a hint of sweetness at the very end that comes out when the beer warms a bit. For an 8% alcohol beer that is on the lighter end of the spectrum, the alcohol is well hidden and I would not have guessed the ABV in that range.
The Fresh Hop Pilsner is not the most hop forward beer that you will ever drink but it had a good balance between grain and hops and would be a pleasant enough to drink it you wanted to experience a fresh hop beer without going toward the pale ale/IPA hop bomb end of the spectrum.
Although not a style I tend to prefer, Fresh Hop was a pleasant drinking experience and I would love to see Bridgeport bring it back in 2013.
Bridgeport Fresh Hop Pilsner crosses over with a respectable 3 suspension bridges out of 5.