Brewed For Battle: German Pilsners

Wolsters Pilsner. Don't drink this.
Wolsters Pilsner. Don't drink this.
Jonathan McNamara

​​At what point does one elevate from merely drinking beer to being a full-on beer snob? Answer: when you feel compelled to tell other people what to drink. And the inevitable result of this peculiar ailment is the beer argument.

In the spirit of all great beer-related discussions, we present Brewed For Battle; a new series of Chow Bella blog posts that pits a selection of brews from a given style up against each other and lets the taste buds of one layman battle them out. Multiple beers go in. One beer comes out the victor.

This week's battle: German Pilsners

As the weather gets warmer, beer tends to get lighter, fizzier and more refreshing. Nothing quenches on a hot day quite like a pilsner.

The first iteration of these sparkling golden lagers arrived in 1842 in the Bohemian city of Plzen, now part of the Czech Republic. Brewed as an alternative to the darker, heavier ales common in the area at the time, Pilsner Urquell -- the standard of the style that's still sold today -- was light, crisp and clear as crystal, unlike any beer that had been created before it.

The German pilsner offers a few differences from traditional Czech pilsners. Brewing conditions in Germany -- namely, water that's higher in sulfates -- led to a lager that was drier and crisper than others. German pilsners are also usually higher in carbonation but lighter in body and color. The use of Noble hops (Saaz, Hallertauer, Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Tettnanger, Styrian Goldings, Spalt, Perle and Hersbrucker) lends these brews a spicy herbal or floral aroma and flavor along with a high hop bitterness that tends to linger long after the swallow.

Zach's Pick: Grand Canyon American Pilsner I know it says American in the name, but with its honey-tinged hue and use of spicy Saaz hops, I'll be damned if this doesn't look and smell like it was brewed right in Deutschland. Pale pilsner malt imparts notes of crackers in the flavor while spicy hops add a perfect balance to this crisp, refreshing and impressively flavorful brew.

Jonathan's Pick: Wolters Pilsener Premium Wolters Pilsner is "brewed according to the German purity law." One hopes that whatever this law dictates, it is not the reason this beer comes in green bottles. Green is bad because it lets more light into the bottle. The result is skunky beer. Admittedly, Wolters didn't taste skunky, but man was it all over the aroma. What it did taste like was muddy and malty. Kind of like Baltica.

Imported from Germany or not, it's got no place in my fridge.

Shannon's Pick: Stiegl Pils Obviously Pilsners are best enjoyed on a warm day on a patio and a couple sips of this light Austrian brew made me wish that I was doing exactly that. The light taste and perfect balance of hops and malt paired with just the right amount of carbonation and a smooth finish make this one hell of a drinkable beer. Kinda like sunshine in a bottle. I thought that it had undertones of honey, however my observation was met with blank stares from the rest of the group. Definitely not a stand out or complex beer, but could surely bright your spirits and get the job done.

The Layman's Choice: Grand Canyon American Pilsner

Chow Bella contributor Michelle Martiniz settled on the brew that isn't even from Germany!

"The Wolters smells skunky but tastes smooth," she said, "with notes of honey and a dry finish. It's easy to drink. Stiegl's sparkle and color reminded me of champagne and hefeweizen, but it's nice. It's simple and super basic, but damn if it isn't good. The Grand Canyon, however, was the best. If gold had a flavor, it would be this beer. Liquid gold."


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