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We Asked A Panel Of Craft Beer Experts To Name Their Favorite Pilsner

While craft brewers are still cranking out West Coast IPAs, fruited sours, hazy IPAs, and all manner of barrel-aged stouts and porters, there seems to be a slight shift in the last few years back towards beer that, to paraphrase an old Denis Leary-ism, tastes like beer. We’re speaking specifically here about the classic, iconic, and crisp pilsner.

This light, easy-drinking beer was named after the Bohemian city of Plzeň, where the style was refined way back in 1842 based on a combination of pale ale and lagering methods started in Bavaria a little earlier. While trendier beer styles and unique, over-the-top flavors grab the headlines, for many drinkers it’s still hard to pass up a tasty, thirst-quenching pilsner.

Chris Collier, the brewer at Biggerstaff Brewing in Atlanta, believes the best pilsners are those made by traditional brewers in Europe who have been brewing the pale lager since its creation. “I’m specifically a fan of clean, crisp, and refreshing German pilsners, which showcase noble hop flavors and med/high bitterness.”

Yet when it comes to the pilsner marketplace in 2022, there’s a nice mix of classic and contemporary. When we asked our panel of brewers to name their favorites, we heard about traditional pilsners from the Czech Republic and Germany and American craft versions in almost equal measure. It seems that these days, no region has a monopoly on crispy boys.

Notch Session Pils

Notch Session Pils
Notch

Eddie Leal, head brewer at Ellis Island Casino, Hotel & Brewery in Las Vegas

ABV: 4%

Average Price: $10.50 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

One of my favorite pilsner styles is Czech Pils. They are a bit more complex than your German Pilsner. They are slightly sweet with a spicy hop character to them. I enjoy these because they are a clean lager with more flavor than your typical pilsner. The perfect end-of-shift beer. One of the best examples of an American-made Czech-style pilsner is Notch Session Pils. It’s crisp, refreshing, and the closest thing you can get to an actual Czech lager in the states.

Holy Mountain Three Fates

Holy Mountain Three Fates
Holy Mountain

Zach Fowle, advanced Cicerone™ and head of marketing at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. in Phoenix

ABV: 4.8%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

A great pilsner has to have great malt character, and Three Fates from Seattle’s Holy Mountain Brewing delivers on that front better than pretty much any pilsner I’ve tasted. The flavor is round, full, and classic, with hints of oyster crackers and a fresh sourdough bread note that becomes toastier as the beer warms in the mouth. The hops are bright and herbal, but that smooth malt is the star—as it should be.

Trumer Pils

Trumer Pils
Trumer Pils

Mike Kelly, senior brewer at Harpoon Brewery in Boston

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $8.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Trumer Pils – Trumer Pils is everything you look for in a pilsner with a crisp bitterness, light body, and great noble hop character. Trumer Pils is a beer that is easy to appreciate and hard to pass up. While unfortunately not distributed to the Boston market, it’s a must-buy whenever I can get my hands on it.

Firestone Walker Pivo Pils

Firestone Walker Pivo Pils
Firestone Walker

Matthew Osterman, president of Sleeping Giant Brewing in Denver

ABV: 5.3%

Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Firestone Walker Pivo Pils. Hoppy pilsners are amongst my favorite styles and this is one of the best of them around. Formative in my craft beer education, it’s a perfect blend of floral, citrus, and spice. It’s my desert-island beer.

The Tank Brewery Playita Pils

The Tank Brewery Playita Pils
The Tank Brewery

Marshall Hendrickson, co-founder and head of brewing operations at Veza Sur Brewing in Miami

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

The Tank Brewery Playita Pils is my pick. Playita Pils is a perfect example of the style – it’s got a clean malt flavor with some subtle noble hop flavor and aroma. While most beers taste better the fresher they are, I find this particularly true for pilsners (and lagers in general). So, if I’m in Miami drinking Playita, I can guarantee it’s always going to be fresh.

Austin Beer Garden Industry Pils

Austin Beer Garden Industry Pils
Austin Beer Garden

Ryan Pachmayer, head brewer at Yak and Yeti Brewpub & Restaurant in Arvada, Colorado

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Austin Beer Garden Brewery’s Industry Pils is delicious. It has a bold hop flavor that really pushes the boundaries, yet works so well with this crisp, clean beer. It’s a refreshing, delicious, easy-drinking beer for any time of year.

Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils

Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils
Bierstadt

Charles McManus, head brewer at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in Colorado Springs, Colorado

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: $11.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Slow Pour Pils from Bierstadt Lagerhaus is one of the best pilsners made in the US and possibly the world. The beer is a perfect display of brewing acumen with a glistening straw-colored body and a rocky, white head, bursting with the finest hop aromatics. This beer is genuinely and authentically Pils.

Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell
Pilsner Urquell

Todd Bellmyer, head brewer at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver

ABV: 4.4%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

This one is easy because it is a world-class example of a pilsner – Pilsner Urquell. The world’s first pilsner, it gets a lot of its unique flavor from the soft water profile in the underground wells that feed the city of Pilsen (Plzeň). I visited in 2019 and it was an amazing city full of great beer, good food, and nice people that spoke a language I can never begin to understand.

Writer’s Pick: Heater Allen Pils

Heater Allen Pils
Heater Allen

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $16.50 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

This Bohemian-style pilsner is a classic malt-forward, crisp, refreshing beer that hits the spot any time of year, but especially when the weather starts to warm up. The traditional, bright flavors make this one of the best interpretations of the Czech-style lager. It’s a beer you’ll go back to again and again.

Writer’s Pick: Bitburger Premium Pils

Bitburger Premium Pils
Bitburger

ABV: 4.8%

Average Price: $6.50 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer:

While Pilsner Urquell gets a lot of acclaim in the pilsner world, we believe you shouldn’t sleep on Bitburger. This German pilsner is known for its crispy, refreshing flavor with a nice, grainy malt backbone and floral, slightly bitter Noble hops. It’s hard to beat its crushability on a hot day too.

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