Who Has the Better German Pilsner: Munich or California?

Would you like an American or German brew?Getty Images

Germans are sticklers for rules. That's why their trains run on time, their World Cup was flawlessly hosted, and the internet is rife with posts like "top ten weird German rules and laws."

It's not surprising then that their beer follows specific guidelines that were set down centuries ago. The Reinheitsgebot, known as the German Purity Law by those of us who didn't get our knuckles rapped during German I in high school, dates to a decree from Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516. (There were earlier versions, but Wilhelm made the most noise, so he gets the credit.)

According to the decree, beer could only include three ingredients: hops, barley, and water. Years later, the powers that be added yeast to the list when they realized the microorganisms' vital role in alcohol production. And off the Germans went, creating excellent brews for half a millennium. Despite the limited ingredient list, they perfected the art of brewing with incredible offerings like the brilliantly balanced pilsner from Weihenstephaner, which has been in operation since 1040.

But a funny thing happened in the more recent past: American craft breweries started taking on the Germans at their own game, producing pilsners that rival their counterparts across the Atlantic. Our pick for the best of the best is Pivo Pils from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. It mixes German tradition with the very West Coast American idea of dry hopping, adding German Saphir hops into the mix. The combination works, and the judges at the Great American Beer Festival, who awarded Pivo the gold medal in 2013, 2014, and 2015, agree.

But you tell us: Are the Germans still the kings? Or has America taken first place in the pilsner poll?