Sunday, April 3, 2011
The Pilsner may be the most popular style around the world, but amongst craft beer lovers it tends to take a backseat to bigger, bolder flavors. After years of Super Bowl commercials featuring 55 calorie beers that promise “great Pilsner taste”, and deliver watered down corn and rice, there may be a little bit of a backlash against the Pilsner. Due to their long fermentation time, it is a difficult style for craft brewers to produce. Pilsners take 6-8 weeks to ferment, while a top fermenting ale takes only 2 weeks. They are tricky to make, as the clean, simple flavor of a well made Pilsner makes it difficult to hide any flaws. As a lover of craft, small batch beer, it pains me say that I think this style is generally better left to a bigger brewery that has the technology to produce it consistently. Before you go getting your beer snob panties in a bunch, I mean a bigger brewery like Trumer, Victory, or any number of German breweries like Ayinger or Spaten, not the American macro “Pilsner style” fakie versions. Are there small breweries in the U.S. that make great Pilsners? Of course there are, and Chuckanut Brewery from Bellingham is one of them.
Founded by Will and Mari Kemper, formerly of Thomas Kemper fame, Chuckanut proves that technology can coexist with craft beer. After selling Thomas Kemper Lagers, Kemper served as a consultant and brew master to breweries all over the country and abroad, both small and large. In less than two years, Kemper’s high-tech, small batch brewery has won a fistful of medals at the Great American Beer Festival, including Best Small Brewer, and Best Small Brewery. Their Pilsner has won both bronze and gold in those two years. It is everything a great Pilsner should be; a mild fresh baked bread maltiness, herbaceous aromatic hop middle, a clean dry finish, and an effervescent carbonation that makes you wonder whether you should hop a plane to The Czech Republic, or Germany. Thank you Chuckanut for doing your part to restore the Pilsner’s good name in America!