Pilsner

TYIB Goes Global: The Germans

Though we did not have a ‘traditional’ Get Blitzed Day, we did have a Get Blitzed Week. Despite the consumption of infinite litres of bier, we attempted to capture as much information on the imbibed beverages. Below is our collection of insights, stories, and reviews of some of the best beers found in Berlin!

WARSTEINER PILSNER

Beer: Pilsner
Brewery: Warsteiner Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

We wasted (pun intended) no time getting started, and our first review was on the plane, courtesy of Lufthansa, member of the Star Alliance. We managed to acquire three of these on our transatlantic flight, in order to truly appreciate this “premium German beer” (well, to truly appreciate how generous the Lufthansa flight attendants are with booze). While perhaps not the best German Pilsner we have tried this month, Warsteiner puts forth a wholly drinkable, well-carbonated beer, with the expected Euro lager yeast and graininess of a German Pilsner. Certainly worthy of trying up on an eight-hour flight.

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AIRBRÄU JETSTREAM

Beer: Jetstream
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%

TYIB tip #43: If you have a layover in Munich (which is likely if you fly anywhere on Lufthansa–I once had a layover in Munich when trying to get to Madrid), find Airbräu, the brewery/biergarten in the Flughafen München Franz Josef Strauß. Not only do they brew their own beer on site (in the airport), they have a full menu of Bavarian treats and a stellar line-up of beers on tap. The Jetstream, the first beer we tried, is an unfiltered German Pilsner. It had a gorgeous straw body, and was refreshing and crisp, with a robust citrusy hop and grain flavor. This Airport Pilsner was one of the best German Pilsners this month.

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AIRBRÄU KUMULUS

Beer: Kumulus
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

On a mission to try the entire run of Airbräu beers during the extent of our meager layover, the Kumulus, a hefeweizen (wheat beer), was next on the docket. In a rush to drink as much as possible (we do not recommend this tactic before you know what gate you have to run to), we had to drink it on the fly without a photograph or a full review. However, our image-negligence is not indicative of the quality of this beer. The Kumulus is as light, creamy, and fluffy as its namesake, with a clove and banana/bubble-gum presence generally found in hefeweizens.

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AIRBRÄU MAYDAY

Beer: Mayday
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: likely 5-6%

We sadly had to put this one down pretty quickly, but it was sehr easy! The Mayday, a dunkelweizen (dark wheat) is one of Airbräu’s seasonsal brews, appropriately tapped on May 1st. Brewed with dark barley malt, the taste is a little bit spicy and a lot of bit banana/malts, kind of like a fruity cereal. The medium, low-carbonated feel accentuates this flavor profile. If you find yourself in Munich in the early summer, celebrate May Day with a Mayday. And if you’re not, look out for Airbräu’s other seasonals: Aviator (Doppelbock), Festbier (Oktoberfest), and Krampus (Winter beer).

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AUGUSTINER LAGERBIER HELL

Beer: Helles
Brewery: Augustiner Bräu
Style:
Helles
ABV: 5.2%

Whenever I go to Germany, my Nummer Eins  priority is to find the Augustiner Lagerbier Hell IMMEDIATELY. This is one of my favorite German beers of all time, as evidenced by the above photo. In fact, this is one of the highest rated/regarded helles beers in the world. Augustiner is the oldest brewery in Munich (1328!), and has been upholding the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot (“Purity Law”) of 1516 with every beer produced. The Lagerbier Hell is the sublime balance of its three ingredients…water, hops, and barley malt. It’s perfectly carbonated, perfectly balanced, and perfectly incredible. There’s a reason why there are many Yahoo! Answers entries asking, WHO WILL SHIP ME THE LAGERBIER HELL. The answer? No one. Go to Germany.

(After a little research, there appears to be one bar in Philadelphia (St. Steven’s Green) that has it in bottles. Here are the directions: DIRECTIONS TO LAGERBIER.)

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AUGUSTINER EDELSTOFF

Beer: Edelstoff
Brewery: Augustiner Bräu
Style: Helles
ABV: 5.6%

A wee more sweet than the Lagerbier, the Edelstoff is what Augustiner calls an ‘exportbier’ and is expectedly slightly more alcoholic as well (as beers labeled ‘EXPORT’ generally are). Brewed with the “nobelest materials,” the Edelstoff is nearly as amazing as its brother, Lagerbier. The additional sweetness throws the perfect balance, though. Nevertheless, it’s crisp, with a sweet malt and floral hop flavor,  and just a little bit of spice. If you want a taste of Augustiner’s second best, take a trip out to Brooklyn for a bottle, or Valhalla in Hell’s Kitchen for an exceedingly overpriced one.

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BERLINER KINDL PILSNER

Beer: Pilsner Klassik
Brewery: Berliner Kindl Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.6%

It shouldn’t be a shock to hear that Bavarian beers are superior to a vast majority of non-Bavarian beers. This is further proved by the Berliner Kindl Pils, a pretty subpar Pilsner produced by Berlin brewery Berliner Kindl. Sure, the 1902 brewery is essentially a fetus when compared to the 700-year old Bavarian breweries, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to purchase the Berliner Pils over ANYTHING made by Bavarian brewers. I will add the caveat that we tried the Berliner Pils while watching Eurovision in Prenzlauer Berg, so maybe we mistook the bitterness of the beer for the bitterness we felt when the Buranovskiye Babushki only took second place. Or, it’s just subpar.

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CHIEMSEER HELL

  

Beer: Chiemseer Hell
Brewery: Chiemgauer Brauhaus
Style: Helles
ABV: likely 5.0-5.4%

Chiemgauer Brauhaus is located in the Chiemgau area, which is nestled in the foothills of the Alps and surrounds the Chiemsee lake. Just in case you were wondering, because we were wondering. Anyways, Chiemgauer Brauhaus puts forth a helles to rival the Lagerbier Hell! It’s exceptionally well-carbonated, light, refreshing, and tastes like Germany (i.e., German malts) in a bottle. If I could keep my fridge filled with the Chiemseer Hell, I would. But I can’t, as this might be one of the most obscure Bavarian beers.

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ROTHAUS PILSNER & TANNENZÄPFEL

Beer: Tannenzäpfle Pils
Brewery: Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.1%

Oh, meine liebe, Rothaus Tannenzäpfle (which means “little fir cones” in German). Rothaus’ Tannenzäpfle Pils is, hands down, the best German Pilsner. Ever. It tastes like biscuit dough, if it was a sweet, zesty, herbed, pine biscuit. It is downright disgusting just how refreshing and put-backable this little 33cl treat is. It is no surprise that there is a cult following surrounding the gold-foiled beer.

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KONIG LUDWIG WEISSBIER

Beer: Weissbier
Brewery: König Ludwig
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

After walking the depths of the Tiergarten, stumbling upon a small biergarten at the edge of a lake was the perfect context for enjoying König Ludwig’s Hefeweizen. König Ludwig, also known as the “Mad King” and “Fairy Tale King,” is most famously associated today with the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle and the patronage of Wagner. Many associate his madness and creativity with the modern wealth of Bavaria, inadvertently creating a massive tourism industry in the area. Indulge me for a second, but das König also commissioned a partial replica of Versailles, a quirky Wagner-influenced Venus Grotto, and numerous Moroccan and Turkish-themed rooms. Oh! The beer! Yeah, König Ludwig’s Hefeweizen is fit for a mad, whimsical king: it’s rich, creamy, smells like bubble gum, and oozes sweet bananas and cloves. If you’re looking to try it, just look out for a six-pack with an image of The Castle on it.

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ALSTERWASSER (“Oops”)

Beer: Alterwasser
Brewery:
Style: Radler
ABV: –

As most German beers consist of three simple (yet noble) ingredients, we can imagine that beer-drinking life MUST get a little tedious from time to time. Their solution? Dump a number random drinks into your beer. German beer mixed drinks include the Radler (half lager, half “limo” or a Sprite-like beverage), Diesel (half lager, half cola), and a Colaweizen (half hefeweizen, half cola). And then there is what we ordered by accident…the Alsterwasser. Imagine our surprise, thinking we were about to review a fresh German Pilsner. Upon first taste, we almost did one of those comical sip-spit-spray shticks. The Alsterwasser is similar to the Radler, except a Pilsner is used instead of a Lager. Excuse my German, but it was DAS SUCK. Instinctively, I wanted to devise some sort of tourniquet to stop the flow of this sodabeer. But alas, we drank the Alsterwasser anyways, if only to relay just how terrible it was.

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VELTINS PILSENER

Beer: Pilsener
Brewery: Brauerei C. & A. Veltins
Style:
German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

The Veltins Pilsner is a solid non-Bavarian German Pilsner. More on the bitter end of the Pilsner scale, Veltins is an alternative to its sometimes-too-sweet Bavarian counterparts.

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ANDECHSER HELL

Beer: Helles
Brewery: Klosterbrauerei Andechs
Style: Helles
ABV: 4.8%

To be honest, this Helles is pretty unmemorable. It has a thin body with great carbonation, but that’s all that we commented on at the time. Apparently it earned itself three pint glasses, though!

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BUDWEISER BUDVAR

Beer: Budweiser Budvar
Brewery: Brewery Budwesier Budvar
Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%

While Budvar is not technically a German Pilsner (it is in fact a Czech Pilsner), it was sorely overlooked during our Pilsner month and we did drink a number of them while dancing to 1970s disco in a 9′ x 10′ bar in Kreuzberg. Budvar (or, Czechvar in the USA…read about the naming CONTROVERSY here), is considered to be one of the best Pilsners in the world, and we’ll jump on that bandwagon. The highlight of BudCzechvar is the unique hop flavor dervied from Saaz hops–it’s piney, earthy, and spicy. These flavors aren’t overpowering, though, and are balanced by the biscuity, doughy Moravian malt. While always better closer to the source, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed if you pick up a 6 of Czechvar.

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FLENSBURGER PILSENER

Beer: Pilsener
Brewery: Flensburger Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

And last, but not really least, the Flensburger Pilsener. After meine leibe (Rothaus), Flensburger’s Pils is the best German Pilsner this month. It is exceptionally crisp and balanced, with a surprisingly full herbal, grassy hop flavor, tempered with a bready malt taste. While consuming countless Flensburgers didn’t help my ping pong game that night, it did expand my appreciation for German Pilsners.

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Crooked Line Tilted Smile

Beer: Tilted Smile
Brewery: Unita Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Pilsner
ABV: 9.0%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Imperial glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Deep golden, clear body with a dense, billowy beige head.

Smell: Terrific sweet pastry and grapefruit nose. Where’s the Pilsen malt, though? There’s a lingering ethyl alcohol note.

Flavor: It smells much better than it tastes. Flavor is like ethyl alcohol steeped with oranges and wheat bread. Tastes a little medicinal. A very slight floral hop at the end.

Feel: A little oily with great carbonation. The high ABV warms the chest.

Concluding Remark: What is this? The golden malt-to-hop ratio is not only off, but nonexistent. It just tastes bitter, and the alcohol note overpowers all other flavors in Unita Brewing Company’s (of SLC) brew. It reminds me of biting into the rind of an orange…reminiscent of fruit, but ultimately bitter and unpleasant. A European would be really pissed off for classifying this as a Pilsner. If anything, this is more of a strange double IPA than a Pilsner.

I have not been impressed with the Imperial Pilsners I have tried this month. I would much rather have two or three regular ol’ Pilsners than drink one of these. Just sayin’. But! Unita Brewing does employ local artists to design the labels of their Crooked Line, in order to “express their individuality.” Tilted Line is rendered by Leia Bell. And I can get behind that.

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Lagunitas Czech Style PILS

Beer: PILS
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 6.2%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Imperial glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Hazy straw body with a frothy white head that dissipates quickly to a small brim of bubbles.

Smell: It smells like…a pretzel. A very salty pretzel. It also smells like warm beer on a beach. Apparently I’m smelling memories today. Slightly metallic, slightly bready, a light citrus.

Flavor: Ummmmm where’s the flavor? It tastes like air. Then it feels bitter, without much of a discernible hop taste. As it sits, the malt profile that develops is quite nice–subtle, and not as sweet as other Pils. The hops leave a slight sour and spice aftertaste, which could’ve absolutely been amped up.

Feel: Thin, a little oily, with nice carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Drinking Lagunitas’ PILS makes me regret giving the Staropramen only a 2.5. But, this is a 6.2% ABV Pils (unheard of), so I’m pretty darned impressed. It is balanced, although the malt/hop choreography I appreciate in a Pils is a little lackluster. But at 6.2%, it’s ever so drinkable and complex enough to keep your palate asking questions with each sip. PILS is not the best Pilsner to be found in our fine world, but a very solid American interpretation of the style nevertheless (finally).

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Staropramen Premium Beer

Beer: Staropramen Premium Beer
Brewery: Pivovar Staropramen
Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Tumbler (faux pas, I know)
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Clear, light amber body with a two inch sticky white head.

Smell: Rich, sweet malt profile…it’s slightly metallic and quite doughy. There’s a faint waft of Saaz hops in the midst of the malt.

Flavor: Initial watery taste that transitions to a bready maltiness, then to a light hop bitterness, and ends with a grassy water flavor.

Feel: Thinnish body with average carbonation.

Concluding Remark: One of the most common beers in the Czech Republic, the Staropramen Pilsner is an authentic Czech Pilsner. However, authentic doesn’t always mean good. It’s heavy on the malt, with a weak hop profile and a cloying sweetness. But, head out to the Astoria Bohemian Beer Hall and give it a try for a little taste of Prague (although I swear it’s better there…) Or better yet, go find Czechvar (Budvar in Czech) instead. Clearly it’s not easy to find, as I have not stumbled upon it this month. But it’s worth keeping an eye out for it, as it’s the good version of Staropramen.

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Kelso Pilsner

Beer: Pilsner
Brewery: Kelso Brewing Company
Style: Czech-style Pilsner
ABV: 5.5%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Drinking Establishment: Stone Park Cafe, Park Slope
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Consumption Companion: Executive Director of the Atlantic Avenue BID

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Bright yellow clear body with thin frothy white head.

Smell: Sweet grains, slight coppery aroma.

Flavor: Bread seltzer, candied fruit and banana, a faint milky taste.

Feel: Thinnish body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: There is no hops presence here–a defining feature of the Czech Pilsner. It’s enjoyable, nonetheless. A decent springtime brew, support Kelso, a local Brooklyn brewery, next time you’re out in the New York City area.

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Gösser

Beer: Gösser
Brewery: Brauerei Göss
Style: Euro lager
ABV: 5.2%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s Apartment
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Crystal clear maize body with a thinnish ultra-white head.

Smell: Crisp, earthy aroma, with a tinge of metallic.

Flavor: It has a nice, crap-German malt taste, with a pleasant note of apples and melon. Hops are greatly missed.

Feel: Incredible mouthfeel…very dynamic. The feel alone makes me want to drink a hundred of these.

Concluding Remark: For the record, this is not a Pilsner. The nice shopkeeper at Top Hops on Orchard Street was slightly baffled that I was looking for multiple Pilsners (especially when their shelves are filled with delicious foreign beers). I think in order to have me fill a six-pack of Pilsners, he categorized Gösser, Austria’s Budweiser, as a Pilsner. I knew just from smelling it, it was not one. It is the exotic EURO LAGER. But I went forth and reviewed it nonetheless.

For a Euro Lager, this is pretty decent. It has a kind of generic sweetish malt taste, but the mouthfeel is excellent. It would be the perfect six-pack to bring for a picnic, or some social event where you’re trying to please everyone. You won’t, you never will. Someone will give you sass about bring a euro macro lager, someone will give you you sass for not bringing Smirnoff Ice or a Riesling. Whatever. This won’t make you popular, but everyone will drink it.

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Sly Fox Pikeland Pils

Beer: Pikeland Pils
Brewery: Sly Fox Brewing Company
Style: German-style Pilsner
ABV: 4.9%

 Serving Style: Can
Glassware: Pint glass
Drinking Establishment: The Old Bay, New Brunswick, NJ
Primary Consumer: Ally
Consumption Companion: Joe from the George St. Co-op

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Clear straw yellow, with a 1-finger head that recedes rather quickly.

Smell: Sweet, like Gummy Bears, or apple cider, with grassy and metallic notes as well.

Flavor: Not as sweet as it smells.  Mostly the grassy flavor comes through, with a very mild citrus note and a slight hop aftertaste.

Feel: Syrupy mouthfeel.  Low carbonation.

Concluding Remark: I really wanted this Sly Fox Pilsner to taste like a Gummy Bear, but it doesn’t.  Not even a watered-down Gummy Bear.  In fact, it doesn’t really taste like much.  It has maybe a slight taste of cider, but weakly so.  However, as Joe remarked, there’s no strong flavor, but it’s not necessarily offensive.  And it comes in a can, and as the Oskar Blues Brewery tells us, that’s a pretty good thing.

And on second thought, maybe Gummy Bear-flavored beer would be kinda gross.

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Josephsbrau PLZNR

Beer: PLZNR
Brewery: Josephsbrau
Style: Czech-style Pilsner
ABV: 5.4%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pilsner glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s Apartment
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Clear straw body with a bright white, frothy head.

Smell: Cereal, dry sweetness, sweet light malt scent.

Flavor: Tastes different than it tastes. It’s metallic, and bitter.  Tastes like bad tap water.

Feel: Thin body with okay carbonation.

Concluding Remark: While it’s more complex than an a Bud, the Josephsbrau (TRADER JOE’s) PLZNR is not only missing some vowels, but balance as well. This is definitely not what one should nor would expect from a Czech-style Pilsner. It’s not a good Pilsner, but it’s a good $1 beer.

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Brooklyn Pilsner

Beer: Brooklyn Pilsner
Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
Style: German-style Pilsner
ABV: 5.1%

 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pilsner glass
Drinking Establishment: The Fant Mansion
Primary Consumer: Ally

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Clear golden yellow, with 1 1/2 finger off-white head that quickly settles to a thin layer of bubbles.

Smell: Yeasty, sweet, and citrusy.

Flavor: Earthy, almost smoky, taste with a bitterness that lingers in the back of the throat.  Some mild sweetness.

Feel: Light mouthfeel and carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Brooklyn’s take on the Pilsner is no frills.  Although the aroma implies a sweet beer, the taste is more bitter and savory.  It’s nothing flashy, but it’s light and enjoyable.  It’d be a good beer to pair with a meal that you don’t want to be overpowered by your alcohol.

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Tommyknocker Alpine Glacier Pilsner

Beer: Alpine Glacier Pilsner Lager
Brewery: Tommyknowcker Brewery
Style: German-style Pilsner
ABV: 5.1%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pilsner glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s Apartment
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Dark golden body with a two finger iridescent white head with sparkly bubbles.

Smell: Berries, grain, and spicy hops.

Flavor: Sweet cereal taste, with flat hops and water. It tastes like a big glass of tap water with a bit of bitter hops.

Feel: Medium body with lively carbonation.

Concluding RemarksTommyknocker’s Alpine Glacier is deceiving–there is very little “Alpine” in this brew. It’s a true American Pilsner hybrid: it takes the simple yet delicious Pilsner flavor profile and douses it with hops. It actually tastes more like an American Pale Ale (although it’s a lager), likely because there’s no discernible presence of lager yeasts or traditional Pilsner malts (like Munich malts) or Pilsner hops (like Saaz or Noble). While it’s fine and drinkable, this is absolutely NOT a traditional Pilsner. If I wasn’t rating this on the style, I would give it a 2.5.  It’s kind of bitter, definitely watery, but if you’re looking for a new take on a Pilsner, I guess you could try this one.

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