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Monday, February 1, 2010

Our Panel of Local Beer Experts Blind-Tastes Pilsners. The Winner? Pilsner Urquell

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Macros, micros ― hell, we tried 'em all. - B. YAEGER
  • B. Yaeger
  • Macros, micros ― hell, we tried 'em all.
What better way to start a monthly series of blind beer tastings than with the quotidian Pilsner? This style of lager originated in the mid-19th century in the Bohemian town of Plzen. Often referred to as "fizzy yellow beer," straw color and Saaz hops dictate genuine Pilsners. It varies from country to country, but it's the world's most popular style.

Panelists other than this blogger included Rich Higgins, brewmaster at the soon-to-open Social Kitchen and Brewery and a certified cicerone; Tiila Abbitt, beer tasting co-ordinator and FemALEist blogger; and Eric Cripe, beer manager at The Jug Shop and another local cicerone. We sampled the beers ― all widely available for under $2 per bottle ― in this order:

1. Pilsner Urquell (Plzen, Czech Republic)

2. Czechvar (Budweis, Czech Republic)

3. Trumer Pils (Berkeley, Calif., via Salzburg, Austria)

4. Budweiser (St. Louis, Mo., or likely Fairfield, Calif., but really São Paulo, Brazil)

5. Victory Prima Pils (Downington, Penn.)

6. Pabst Blue Ribbon (Woodbridge, Il.)

7. North Coast Scrimshaw (Ft. Bragg, Calif.)

Each beer was scored on a 1 to 10 scale and given a sum total. Only one beer enjoyed a true consensus; the benchmark for this style ― Pilsner Urquell ― stuck the landing with three 8s and a 9 for a total of 33. Higgins loves brewing lagers and gave high marks for its "black pepper and grass" flavors.

click to enlarge The panel (from left): the author, Higgins, Abbitt, Cripe
  • The panel (from left): the author, Higgins, Abbitt, Cripe
The two macrobrewed offerings ― PBR and Bud ― landed in the basement with scores of 12 and 15, respectively. Abbitt faulted the former for its artificial sweetness and lack of hoppiness, but Cripe called it "seriously sessionable," meaning he could drink it all day. Meanwhile this blogger amusedly put the latter in the top half of the tasting flight.

The two Bay Area-brewed contestants ― Scrimshaw and Trumer Pils ― tied for second place at 23 points apiece. This blogger enjoyed Scrimshaw's "pleasing malt body and accommodating aftertaste." Higgins loved Trumer's "peppery bitterness" and "bready malt platform."

Finally, in the middle, Czechvar and Prima Pils scored 19s. Cripe noticed of Czechvar ― the original Budweiser ― a "slight bitterness on the finish with light apple character." And the Victory Prima threw everyone for a loop. We wondered if it had issues with age but all agreed on its assertive character.

Tune in next month when a new panel will blindly taste stouts.

Brian Yaeger ― author of Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey ― blogs at Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie

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