Prohibition nearly wiped out the brewing industry in America, but more than 80 years after it was repealed, America is enjoying a brewing renaissance — thanks to the popularity of craft beer. Celebrate our freedom to make, sell and drink delicious beer Tuesday with a classic style: the pilsner.
April 7 is yet another seemingly arbitrary “holiday” — National Beer Day — but this at least has some historical basis.
On April 7, 1933, with many Americans understandably grumpy about the federal ban on alcohol, the Cullen-Harrison Act took effect, loosening Prohibition’s grip.
The law allowed individual states to pass their own laws legalizing the sale of low-alcohol beer and wine. Brews of under 4% alcohol were legalized because they were thought to be too weak to be intoxicating, but thirsty Americans were happy to have access to beer again.
Beer lovers didn’t have to suffer the low-strength brews for very long; Prohibition was overturned when the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on Dec. 5, 1933, ending America’s dry spell.
Pilsner was first brewed in the Bohemia in 1842. The hoppy, golden lager was a revolutionary creation, and it swept across Europe, spawning countless imitations. So many imitations that today “pilsner” is used nearly interchangeably with “lager” to mean the watery and low-flavor brews that dominate the global marketplace.
But true pilsner is as flavorful and beguiling as any hop-bomb IPA or inky-black stout, and craft brewers have finally begun to apply their skills to creating faithful examples of the classic style.
The best pilsners are pale gold with a medium body and lively carbonation. They’re delicately balanced between the subtle cracker-like malt and a floral hop aroma provided by the signature European hop varieties. They tend towards dry finishes, with a substantial (though never overpowering) bitterness, and they are should be refreshing, invigorating, and satisfying.
One California craft example that ticks all the boxes is the sublime Pivo Hoppy Pils from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. First introduced in 2013, Pivo has become a favorite of beer lovers and brewers alike; a real brewer’s beer. The golden lager features a punchy aroma of jasmine flowers, lime zest and bergamot and a refined malt flavor.
The brew has already won a pair of Gold Medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival, and it is now available in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. Pivo has enough flavor, hop character, and depth to hold the interest of even the most jaded palates, but the light body and soft bitterness won’t overwhelm drinkers new to craft beer. Pilsners are uncommonly versatile with food, and the style is a particularly pleasant match to L.A.’s springtime climate.