Many beer drinkers equate pilsners with the watery, bland beers of the American mega-brewers, but thankfully craft breweries are producing flavorful and approachable examples that do justice to the long history of pilsners.
The refreshing qualities of delicately balanced lager make it a wonderful match for the balmy midsummer days in Los Angeles, and here are suggestions for some of the best locally brewed pilsners to start your exploration into the style.
TAPS Fish House in Orange County is a brewpub that does lagers right, and brewmaster Victor Novak cooks up three different versions of the pilsner. In addition to his takes on the classic pilsner varieties — the hoppy Czech Pils and award-winning German Pils — Novak gives his Crystal Pils an American twist by using the pine- and citrus-forward hop varieties common to American pale ales. TAPS is also one of the few brewers in the U.S. serving an unfiltered Kellerpils. TAPS doesn't bottle, and its beers can be tough to find on tap around town, so filling a growler at the source in Brea is your best option.
Anaheim's Noble Ale Works has been developing lager recipes with its signature creative twists, and its Pistol Whip'd Pils gets a dose of fruity hops from New Zealand to differentiate it from the pack. In line with the style, the beer is light, crisp and refreshing, but the spicy and herbal quality of Czech hops is supplanted with the citrus and tropical fruit aromas of the Motueka hops. The result is a classic pils with a West Coast twist that goes great with backyard BBQs. Pistol Whip'd Pils is available on tap and in 22-ounce bottles.
Just in time for your Fourth of July celebrations, Smog City Brewing in Torrance has re-released its Little Bo Pils, and the beer is brewmaster Jonathan Porter's take at an easy-drinking "lawnmower" beer. The pilsner may go down easy, but it's still full of flavor with a round malt body and just enough hops to keep things balanced. Little Bo Pils is now hitting bars across Los Angeles thanks to Smog City's new deal with Stone Distribution.
Central Coast brewery Firestone Walker might not be as local as the other brewers on this list, but it has been an important force in bringing craft beer to Los Angeles, and its new Pivo Pils is simply too delicious not to mention. The new lager was based on an Italian pilsner that brewmaster Matt Brynildson fell in love with, and he's gone to great lengths to capture the light, dry and intensely floral character of the Birrificio Italiano Tipopils. Pivo Pils is now available on draught and in six-packs, and this beer is going to be on a lot of "best of 2013" lists in a few months.
Pilsners are loved by brewers for their subtlety and delicate balance, and the craft examples being brewed around the Southland showcase the diversity of the style and the skill of the brewers who are devoting time and equipment to make them. Don't write-off the pilsner as a bland and unexciting style. The best are light and refreshing but still flavorful and satisfying, and they can make for great introductions to the world of craft beer.
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