Pilsner is the kind of brew that can be appreciated by craft beer aficionados and mainstream drinkers alike. And Dish discovers that its Kiwi makers are up to some seriously good business.
Story by Yvonne Lorkin
From Dish #65
Style/Varietal: Pilsner Tasting date: January 2016 Entries: 32 Judges: Yvonne Lorkin (Dish Drinks Writer); Andrew Childs (Behemoth Brewing); Josh Scott (Moa Brewery); Laurence Van Dam (Co-owner of The Beer Spot Brew Bar in Takapuna).
(NB: All beers are judged blind and the scores of brewer judges for their own beers cannot exceed those of other judges.)
Notes from Yvonne: It’s always a bit of a nail-biter when we put the call out for entries into our craft beer tasting panels because we always wonder if we’ll get many entries. The beers must be brewed to an original recipe in New Zealand (not under licence from an international brand) and be available by the bottle (no keg samples) by the date of the magazine’s publication. So you never really know if you’re going to see a healthy crop of hopefuls or not. But two years on from our inaugural pilsner tasting, we were pleasantly surprised to see a boost in numbers, meaning our senior judges Yvonne Lorkin, Josh Scott (Moa Brewery), Andrew Childs (Behemoth Brewery) and our associate Laurence Van Dam (The Beer Spot in Takapuna) had their work cut out for them, swirling, sniffing and slurping their way through 32 bottled pilsners. Who even knew so many existed?
The pilsner style has been around since the late 1800s, originating in the Czech town of Pilsen. Back then it was a very pale, almost watery brew, yet these days it’s more likely to be a sunny, coppery gold colour and boasting buckets of flavour. For a beer to be called “pilsner”, it should be brewed in a “lager” style. However, our judges could tell many of the entries had used “ale” yeasts instead. It’s a common thing – "Aids efficiency," says Andrew. "Managing two yeasts can be tricky, the more strains you have, the more chance you have of contamination and stuff like that – so having one 'house yeast' is more appealing."
It's always going to be difficult defining the Kiwi pilsner style, however, because so many variable factors are at play among our brewers. Some had the classic, delicate, thirst-quenching notes that pilsner is famous for, whereas others were big, bold and a meal in themselves. Either way, there’s no stopping the popularity of pilsner. It’s a beer that lends itself all too easily with our Kiwi tastes in food.
“Overall I thought there were four distinctive styles among the entries,” says Josh. “German, Bohemian, NZ Pils and Americanised. It was pleasing to see most beer had focused on a solid malt backbone, firm bitterness and a clean, dry finish – that’s quite typical of the better pilsner styles.” As is standard practice for our Dish tastings, the beers were served “blind” in multiple flights by the highly experienced Janet Blackman and her team at the AUT School of Hospitality. If it is revealed a senior judge has scored his or her own beer higher than the other two senior judges, then that score is replaced by an average of the latter.
Gold ★★★★★ Superb. Strongly recommended.
Silver ★★★★ A cut above the rest in quality.
Bronze ★★★ A good quality crowd-pleaser.
Top Beers of the Tasting
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