Pilsners are among the most difficult beers to brew. Their golden hue, brilliant clarity, subtle flavor, and crisp finish shine a spotlight on even the slightest flaws in the brewing process. The style also requires extensive and expensive lagering, or cold aging, before packaging. Most young craft breweries avoid lager styles entirely to focus on faster-fermenting ales. Over the years though, craft breweries began rising to the challenge and today make examples that go toe to toe with the most venerated old world brands.
Pilsner is one of the most narrowly defined beer styles, so great versions are typically a showcase of technique rather than creativity. There is still some room for brewers to express themselves, though, and regional variations have emerged over time. The Czech or Bohemian styles are the original and it offers the most pronounced grainy and crackery malt flavor with a soft, floral bitterness. German and Bavarian styles tend to emphasize bitterness and spicy hop flavor. American craft brewers borrow freely from both approaches and put a more personal flare (typically more hops) on the style. Here are the ones worth seeking out.