The humble pilsner has experienced something of a resurgence over the past year or two, with brewers everywhere tiring if not of making, then at least of drinking the IPAs and Double IPAs that maintain their stronghold on the craft universe. It is ill advised, and boring, after all, to exist solely on hazy, 8% hop bombs, and pilsners have an awful lot going for them.
In today’s parlance, they’re “crushable,” meaning you can drink a bunch of them without going blind. They’re generally a little (or a lot) less expensive than the 16oz “Northeast-style” IPAs everyone’s been drinking. And perhaps most important of all, pilsners go really well with lots of different kinds of food. From Buffalo Wings to Mexican and beyond, they serve as an especially potent fire extinguisher for spicy foods, and many of them are just bitter enough to cut through the rich, fatty, and salt-heavy dishes. And, with pizza? There’s nothing better.
But something weird’s been happening with pilsners of late, which is that many of the new ones coming out are simply far too hoppy. Like, as in barely distinguishable from IPAs and pale ales they’re fighting for shelf space. Evil Twin’s Low Life Pilsner comes to mind, as does Sixpoint’s the Crisp and Founders’ PC Pils. They all taste fine, but some of the more defining characteristics of the style are overwhelmed, and you wind up feeling like you’re drinking another session IPA.
Not so, however, with Crux Pilz from Portland, Oregon’s Crux Fermentation Project. The brewery is known for their wide-ranging lineup of well-exectured beers, many of which lean toward the experimental. But not to be overlooked is their traditional interpretation of the pilsner. Light gold in color, with a ton of carbonation and a beautiful rocky head, Crux Pilz has an invitingly malty, biscuity aroma that’s echoed nicely in the taste. Also coming into play, though, is a grassy, lemony hop presence that perfectly balances the sweetness. There’s a slight bitterness at the end, but not the kind you’d boast about like you were embroiled in some dopey palate-wrecking competition like all of craft beer seemed to be back when the West Coast-style IPA was all the rage. Rather, it’s the kind of bitterness that gently cleanses your palate and keeps you going back for another sip. What else could you ask for?