When Uproxx Life editor Steve Bramucci told me someone would be showing up at my apartment to deliver some beer for me to taste, I thought I’d finally arrived. Receiving beer in the mail to taste for work really felt like some kind of career achievement unlocked. I realize this is unnecessary backstory, but I wanted the beer lovers among you to vicariously experience the joy of a man showing up at your door with a case of craft beer.
This week’s brew is Lightning Elemental Pilsner, brewed in Poway, California, just outside of San Diego, the birthplace of Blink 182 (I have no idea why I know this). While San Diego isn’t a place normally associated with food snobbery or DIY craftsmanship, it is home to quite a few solid breweries these days. Aside from the ubiquitous Stone, (who must have a great publicist), there’s Karl Strauss (love their Red Trolley), Ballast Point, Green Flash, Alesmith… and God knows how many others [it’s 101 as of April -ed]. And they seem to be producing a wider variety of styles than the hops-heavy stuff we get up in NorCal and the Pacific Northwest.
Anyway, I could just tell you how this one tastes, but I’m a professional, dammit, and this is my first beer article so I wanted to take it seriously. To create a frame of reference, I went down to BevMo and bought a couple six packs of what I would call similar beers: Trumer Pilsner, a local pilsner brewed in Berkeley that I enjoy; and Pilsner Urquell, an import from Plzeň in the Czech Republic which bills itself as “the original pilsner.”
Okay, here we go.
Lightning is a darker amber than the Trumer, and cloudier than either. It looks a bit like a slightly less cloudy hef. Not having tasted it yet, I would definitely order it based on looks alone, it’s a beautiful beer. Let’s be honest, half the fun of booze is the packaging.
Trumer and Pilsner Urquell both have that slightly urine-y odor that I associate with pilsners. Stella Artois (which I’m told is called “wife beater” and is basically the Coors Light of Europe) being the worst offender in this regard (no offense to Heineken). Trumer has that same kind of complex funk, but cleaner, and Pilsner Urquell is like a toasted version of that. Urquell smells like what I imagine people mean when they say “malty,” somewhere between toasted bread and the inside of a Whopper (the candy, not the burger). It’s actually really nice.
By contrast, the Lightning doesn’t really have a uriney pils smell at all. The hops in it sort of overwhelms the pils malt. It just smells clean, with a vague, grassy, pine note, like a picture you’d seen on a box of fabric softener.
Full disclosure: I accidentally sucked some beer up my nose when I was smell testing these. Don’t try this at home, kids.
At 6.25% abv, Lightning is by far the strongest of the three and tastes it. Both Trumer and Pilsner Urquell finish sweet and malty (the latter sweetest and maltiest), while Lightning is slightly bitter — much hoppier than the other two. In fact, I’m not even sure this should be called a pilsner. It’s more like a medium-hopped lager. It seems like a good “session beer” (craft beer talk for a beer you can drink a bunch of, as is generally my wont), that gets smoother the more you drink. Kind of like my charm with the ladeez, heyo.
If I was looking for a pilsner, I’m not sure this is the beer I’d order. But with its hops and high alcohol content, it’s a nice bridge between an American pale and a European pils. It’s sort of a hop-lovers pilsner. Like, this would be the beer you drink when you finally start realizing that most IPAs taste like a pine tree and you want something that’s still relatively hoppy but that doesn’t give you dry mouth after two beers. When you’re graduating past the college freshman stage of beer snobbery, say. I’d probably drink it as a beach beer, or for floating down a river. It smells like a river. “Pairs well with rivers, or full-bodied brooks and streams.”
Endnote: has anyone ever mentioned how easy it is to suck down three beers in the middle of a day in the name of science? Because… yeah, it’s really easy. I was so busy trying to be fancy that this buzz kind of crept up on me. I’m going to go eat something and hydrate before I start sending out “miss u” texts. Only 23 bottles to go! This should be fun.