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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pilsnerbock redux and the joys of cellared pilsner

We are nearing the end of pilsner month and we have covered a lot of ground. The original plan for this week was to look at a few pilsners outside of the traditional strongholds and compare them but I must admit I wasn't prepared for that. But I feel I have come up with a suitable alternative; we are going to take a look at a perfect example of pilsnerbock and then look at a cool niche of the pilsner style. All okay with that? Good,  then read on!

Our first candidate tonight is Heavy Seas Small CraftWarning Über Pils which comes out of Baltimore, Maryland. We have looked at a Heavy Seas beer before here and it was a winner in my book. The Small Craft Warning pours with a fluffy white head and has a nice floral nose. Right away you can tell it is different from a traditional pilsner as it fills the glass with a rich, clear, darker golden liquid.

On the taste it has a nice crispness to it but mixed with a maltier bock-like sweetness.  That is well balanced by a hops and the high carbonation. It has the bitter aftertaste of traditional pilsner but it moves off the palette quickly leaving only a mild sweetness in the back of the mouth. It is a refreshing lager which is rather surprising considering it comes in at 7.0% ABV.

This is the standard for what a pilsnerbock should be. You could drink a good pilsner then follow up with this and understand how it sits in the pilsner spectrum. One informs the other and you can chart the influence of the original style. Simply put, this is how “imperialization” should work, as a modification of an original style to amplify distinguishing characteristics. (Otherwise you are in business of creating something new.)

The script on the bottle seems to back this up:
Unofficially the original American Über Pils, Small Craft Warning is a rich, golden bock lager with big malt flavor and a crisp hop finish.

Our other candidate tonight, Tuppers' Keller Pils, takes a slight deviation with the pilsner style; instead of the normal process it remains unfiltered. We haven’t really dived into keller (cellar) beer yet on this blog, but in a nutshell they are left to age out a bit in wooden casks with active yeasts. (Follow this link for more info) This particular model takes a slight twist on that and goes the bottle conditioned route instead.

What we have is a beer that pours a hazy, golden straw color, with a white fluffy head, and an elegant floral nose. On the drink you get a lot of hop right up front, a crisp bite that isn’t overpowering. It yields to a fine bubbly smoothness that ends with a flat, mildly bitter aftertaste that lingers on top of the mouth for a bit before finishing dry.  It is a solid 5% ABV.

With the amount of carbonation in this it is more reminiscent of a Zwickel beer than a true keller beer. The Tuppers’ Keller Pils hedges its bet a bit by combining the two styles by increasing the alcohol and taking the bottle-conditioned option allowing it to maintain the high carbonation. Overall this is an excellent beer and the perfect high note to end our pilsner reviews on.

If you have had either of these let us know in the comments!

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