Brew Notes: A tale of two pilsners

December 8th, 2011
h2. Samuel Adams Noble Pilsner: Boston Beer Company Boston, MA !/system/artwork/0000/0381/SA_NoblePils94.jpg! Jim Koch got a lot of flak years ago when he went around calling Samuel Adams Boston Lager “The best beer in America.” But we will not take him to task if he suddenly starts promoting Sam Adams Noble Pils as the “Best Pilsner in America.” Because it is. There are many wonderful imported pilsners in the U.S., but the style is so delicate that many of them are in pretty rough shape by the time they make it into the trade. And there are very few home-grown examples of the pils style that really impress. Crafters have produced nice pilsners, but there is no benchmark nationally-available domestic pilsner on the market, until now (Yes, the Miller Lite label says it is a fine pilsner beer, but saying it does not make it so). If Samuel Adams Noble Pilsner stands alone in the U.S., we also suspect it will do pretty well if it is entered in European Beer Star competition against the best of the Germans and Czechs. It is simply that good. Wonderfully hoppy, exquisitely crisp, it effortlessly outshines the competition. Tasters immediately commented on the fresh hop nose as the pils was poured into the glass. “Now that is a pils!” said the usually phelgmatic Von Bair. “Great nose, nice and spicy,” said Greg Zannella. “This blows the White Ale away.” (Noble pils is replacing Samuel Adams White Ale in the company’s seasonal rotation). “Wow!” said Gerry Nicholls. “This is so bright. The mouthfeel has a wonderful effervescence. All the flavors are so well carried. It’s like a burst of spring. And so well-attenuated, with a little peppery note at the end.” “Hops are the strong note in this beer, and they are all the way through,” said Gregg Glaser. “This is a classic pils, a real classic,” said Von Bair. “Very nicely done, with more character than most pilsners.” “More hops than a European pils, and so well handled,” said Dr. Steve Victor. “This doesn’t taste like anything else out there,” said Gerry Nicholls. “It is not reminiscent of any other pils. Terrific stuff.” Since Jim Koch may be leery of tooting his own horn these days, we will do it for him. Samuel Adams Noble Pils is the “best pilsner in America.” h2. Boulevard Imperial Pilsner Boulevard Brewing Co. Kansas City, MO !/system/artwork/0000/0387/Boulevard94.jpg! Yes, we went nuts for the Samuel Adams Noble Pilsner. We even called it the best pilsner in America. And that was perfectly true, until we tried this one. So if Sam Adams Noble Pils is the best nationally-available American pils, we must award the crown for “best limited-edition Belgo-American pils” to this amazing beer. Boulevard has been producing some remarkable Belgianstyle beers in the last couple of years. With this beer, they had a little help. Jean-Marie Rock, brewmaster at Orval, the renowned Trappist brewery located in southern Belgium, teamed up with Boulevard brewmaster Steven Pauwels to create this small production, limited-release imperial pilsner, brewed with 100% Pilsner malt and 100% Saaz hops. The 8% abv beer, packaged in 750ml bottles as part of Boulevard’s Smokestack Series, is available this month. Even before the tasting panel was informed that Mr. Rock had collaborated on this beer, they commented on its intriguing Belgian character. “Belgian nose, smells delicious,” said Gregg Glaser. “Full of flowery Belgian yeast.” “Hint of pepper up front,” said Tom Conti. “Wow, that is nice,” said Gerry Nicholls. “Absolutely gorgeous. All that intensity, but such lightness of flavor profile. The mouthfeel is so light and refreshing, even at this strength. Beautifully attenuated. There is a lot in there, but a beautiful job. This is shockingly good.” “Great job,” said Von Bair. “I agree there is something suggestive of Orval here, but what I get is a lot of Czech character. All that Saaz, and no funk. Why can’t everybody make beer like this?” “Wonderful pils,” agreed Robert Lachman. “and the bittering is so perfect.” “We certainly have seen a lot of good beer from the folks at Boulevard,” said Dr. Steve Victor, “and this is another absolutely great one.” “I love the yeast character,” said Greg Zannella. “And so much flavor, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Jean-Marie Rock was involved with this one.” “This is what beer should be,” Von said, speaking for all. * Notes from the tasting panel for Modern Brewery Age, by Pete Reid, editor of Modern Brewery Age; with Gregg Glaser, editor of Yankee Brew News, and Tom Conti and Robert Lachman of the YBN tasting panel. Joining us each week is a rotating cast of tasters, to include Dr. Steve Victor, formerly of Yale University; Lt. Commander Von Bair, USN, ret.; graphic designer Phil Simpson; Greg Zannella, field sales director for Northeast Bev. of Orange, CT; Michael Anstendig, a writer for New York Magazine on-line, Marty Juliano, Northeast rep for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Frank Fermino, brewer at John Harvard’s Brewhouse in Manchester, CT, and Mark Tambascio, the co-owner of “My Place,” one of the premier beer bars in Connecticut. Reid, Pete. Brew Notes: A tale of two pilsners. Modern Brewery Age. Retrieved 2010 from Modern Brewery Age Weekly