Most of the beer drinking world is familiar with German Pilsener, or “Pils” as it’s commonly referred to in Germany. And whether we’re talking about Warsteiner, Bitburger, St. Pauli Girl, Radeberger, König Pilsener, Paulaner Premium Pils, or any other popular Pils from any of the well-known German breweries, all good examples of German Pilseners have something in common.
They’re light-bodied, gold-colored— usually with excellent clarity— crisp, clean, well-carbonated and finish dry. The best examples exhibit a lightly grainy-sweet malt character which is never dominated by big bold hops. Sure, hops are there, but they’re primarily used for their bittering properties and not to showcase any of the intense citrusy, piney, tropical fruit, grapefruit notes you often find in some hopped-up American brews.
And while German Pils may not be the most exciting of beer styles, it’s hard not to appreciate the refreshing and delicate balance of a very well-crafted example.
Of course you don’t have to be located in Germany in order to brew a world-class German-style Pils. In fact, some of the world’s best Pils (such as Trumer Pils of Austria) are brewed outside of Germany, so it was only a matter of time until a growing number of American craft brewers jumped into the game.
Judging Criteria: If It Looks Like a Pils, Smells Like a Pils, and Tastes Like a Pils…
For this beer review, a panel of predominately BJCP beer judges take a quick look at some of the German-style Pilseners brewed in the good ol’ U.S. of A. to see how ‘Merican craft brewers fare at brewing this bitter, but refreshingly modest German classic.
And while we love a good Czech Pilsner or even an avant-garde interpretation of a classic beer style, what we’re searching for here is a beer that’s clearly identifiable as a traditional German-style Pils.
We’re looking for a beer that if you closed your eyes and simply smelled and tasted it, there’d be little doubt that you’re drinking a German-style Pilsener.
Fair warning: We fully acknowledge that American-made German Pils is a rather specific and limited category considering most craft breweries produce ales and not the more time/cost-intensive lagers. (Although, we see a trend in the growth of American-made craft Pilsener/Lager style beers in the near term.)
We also humbly acknowledge that this list is further limited due to the highly regional nature of beer distribution. In short, this is simply a list of 20 American-made German Pils we could get our hands on, not EVERY American-made German Pils on the market. Lastly, just because a beer didn’t rank very high, doesn’t mean it was bad. In fact # 20 was quite enjoyable, but just wasn’t terribly representative of a traditional German Pils. And the competition was fierce, with many beers differing by less than half a point out of 100 after scores were averaged.
And now, on with the show…