Finally! Samuel Adams Noble Pils
Although they are now this close to being a full fledged macro brewer (if they aren't already – it's just semantics), Sam Adams continues to put out quality beer. They have successfully proven that it is not necessary to dumb down the flavors to win over American beer drinkers. They have also filled a niche by brewing true-to-style beers that aren't so insecure that they need to go horribly over the top like so many of today's micros. Their new seasonal, Noble Pils, is a great addition to their lineup, a style that is absurdly nearly ignored on these shores.
As you'll hear from any Czech, real pilsners are nothing like the ones that call themselves that in the States. It's not just the water, either. A Budweiser is to a pilsner as the Geiko lizard is to a dragon. Except real pilsners do exist – somewhere. The Sam Adams is a true pilsner. I've had fresh-from-the-source pilsners in Prague that were no better. And, even when you can find them here, it's next to impossible to find a fresh one. Freshness is vital to a good pilsner. They aren't meant to age on dusty import shelves, like some ales can.
I've no idea why the style is so ignored here. Maybe it's because you either have a good pilsner or a rubbish pils – not much in between. And, a pilsner doesn't have room for much creativity. You get cute brewing pilsners, and you end up with the rubbish variety very quickly. But, this is a style nearly perfect for American tastes. Light, crisp, refreshing, and goes well with copious amounts of food. They aren't snobbish and complicated. They are the beer-flavored beer. Nothing crazy lurking underneath to scare the squeamish.
The Noble Pils pours nicely. Clear, golden and crowned with a finger-sized white head. The aroma and flavor hold no surprises. The five noble hops spring out front, and impart various citrus and floral notes. Thankfully, for me, the pine flavor is kept mostly in check. Too often, American stabs at pilsners are so overpowered with pine that tramples all over the softer tones, you feel like you're drinking a forest. Noble hops aren't the extreme bitter varieties that hopheads have talked themselves into loving so much. These are smoother, more delicate and aromatic. Even though all five varieties are included, this is not an over-hopped mess. Sam Adams doesn't need to even try balancing this beer, but they toss in a touch of malt to sweeten things with a hint of honey. It's just a whisper, though; you'll barely notice.
Pilsners are almost always good food beers. The better ones are complex and flavorful enough to be interesting on their own, but they all tend to pair well with anything on the menu. The Sam Adams version is true to form. The low alcohol, 4.9%, and easy drinking, light feel also make it an ideal session beer. Perfect anytime, but particularly in the non-winter months. Unfortunately, for some reason, Noble Pils is only available from January to March. Yes, it's a great spring beer, but it's equally well suited to the summer. And, fall for that matter – and I wouldn't turn one down in the winter, either. Hopefully, a few decent pilsners brewed here and there will get the ball rolling in this country, and we'll be able to get good, fresh pilsners year round.
I suppose the more creative brewers at some of the better American micros just don't want to bother with what they apparently feel is a pedestrian style. Pilsners don't have to be plain Janes, though. The best are almost perfect examples of what beer should be. There is a very good reason why the Czechs, the biggest beer drinkers on the planet, prefer this stuff. You can get more dolled up beers. Beers that are so hopped your tongue gets singed. Beers as complex and interesting as any wine. Beers that are heavy enough to eat. But for day-in and day-out drinking, it's hard to beat a good, solid pilsner. Thanks to Samuel Adams, it's finally easy to find a quality version in practically every corner shop.