When trying to get the attention of a beer geek, there are a few key words that usually do the trick. "Free beer," or "rare keg" come to mind. Also the hallowed words "Russian River." After all, Russian River Brewing Company has long been the source of some of the craft beer community's best-loved beers, a brewery best know for its legendary Pliny the Elder Double IPA.
Another star of the craft beer community is the reigning mid-sized brewery of the year, Firestone Walker, a brewery that seems to have the Midas touch for creating liquid masterpieces.
But what would happen if you bring these two forces together? A great beer would happen, that's what.
Widely known for producing one of the finest American pilsners, Pivo, Firestone Walker Brewing Company employs traditional brewing methods with an American West Coast-style twist. Russian River, however, with no aspirations to nationwide distribution, simply focuses on making the best beer possible and keeping it fresh and local for the brewery's mainly California contingent of fans. STS pilsner is one of Russian River's celebrated offerings.
Brewmasters Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River recently got together to create, in Matt's words, a "love child" of a beer that combines the best characteristics of each of their individual pilsners. Combining Pivo and STS, they created STiVO, a keller (or unfiltered) pilsner that's the best of both worlds.
Aromas of beautiful yet subtle noble hops lead, though more subdued than they appear in either STS or Pivo, and with delicate pilsner malt providing a bready, grainy sweetness. The beer pours surprisingly clear for a keller pils, a style of beer that is typically unfiltered and somewhat hazy.
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STiVO drinks smooth and easy in every regard, with no obstacles to clean drinking all the way through. This beer is all about subtlety and flavor transition, as the noble hops lead in the forefront and transition into the bready malt flavors. The hop flavor does not linger, instead giving way to the delicate pilsner malt that isn't sweet, but more pleasantly grainy. The white head lingers somewhat atop the straw-colored beer, and the low-medium body is light and refreshing. Medium-high carbonation provides effervescence and drinkability. The beer finishes dry and pleasantly bitter.
This ever-so-drinkable 5.3 percent ABV pilsner was enjoyed at Fox Cigar Bar in Gilbert. STiVO is not bottled, as it is a limited-edition release and somewhat hard to find, so check it out while it is still available at Fox or a great craft beer bar near you.
STiVO can be summed up with the saying: two legends, one great beer.