Put This Pilsner In Your Almanac

Jim Lundstrom

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 apart from.

During my latest visit to my local craft beer dispenser, my eye was a 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 Ceske Budejovice.