The big pilsener-misunderstanding

When I grew up there was pils, and only pils. Once a year there was bokbier, served until March. Other than that there was pils although some Belgian beers started showing up in bars – during my first side job as a bartender a bearded gentlemen sold us Duvel and a young bloke without any facials promoted Palm. Point is: I grew up on pils and I still like drinking it.

Not everyone likes drinking pils.

Heineken, Zoeterwoude

Heineken, Zoeterwoude

That is totally cool, as not everyone likes sauerkraut, fish and chips or a meatball. Some people think pils is stupid: mainly because pilsener took the world by storm shortly after its conception and blew many beerstyles and their breweries into oblivion. Many people actually blame pilsner for that, a good century after this happened. I disgaree with them, thinking it was simply the way to go as these beers clearly proved to be not good enough anymore. I do understand the romantic longing to what once was: gas light in the streets and lamplighters have their Dickens’ charme, as long as you realize the imminent danger of believing the world is flat and the sun revolving around it.

In a recent blog, Remco Lisman (excellent anagram and pen-name) axes pils. However goods reading as it makes, he really proves how little many of us actually know about the craft of brewing. He finally states ‘brewing pils is not hard at all’ and certainly not more difficult when comparing other styles. He is partially right: the brewing proces is largely similar, regardless the style, and is much like making tea. Where Remco turns blind is when eyeing the difference between top- and bottom fermenting: the bottom-fermenting brewer simply has way less room to maneuver than his topfermenting colleague. tante til (1)Actually, when pulling the long bow, the top-fermenter is much like our Dutch classic Tante Til, who could solve every problem by adding a dab of pink here, or a dab there. I mean: an extra hand of herbs, hops or some extra fermentation can restore a brew fault – or worse, cover it up nicely. Maneuvering room a ‘bottom fermenter’ simply does not have. He cannot restore anything, let alone covering up. There is only right and wrong, there’s no grey area. He has to act autistic, exactly repeating the trick over and over again, and is all but a creative brewer.

And there’s part two of the misunderstanding: pils is not intended to be richly diversified in flavor. It tastes as it does and surely you can play with the hops to give it your own touch, but that room is limited. A ‘top fermenter’ can get away with just about almost anything (again pulling the long bow) by saying ‘it is supposed to taste this way’, thereby laying the blame for his incompetence with the beerlover, and that’s bad enough. Worse is how some beerlovers have begun to believe in pils’ inferiority to all other styles. I just pray they won’t fall off planet earth.

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