The craft-beer boom of recent decades has largely focused on hop-heavy, bitter beers – the bigger the beer nerd, the more hops he or she can take. Pilsners and their ilk were left to the masses. But lately, local craft breweries have been putting out Pilsners; after a day of tasting and testing hops and barley, brewers crave something light and easy to drink.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. was early to get on the Pilsner train: It’s been producing their Stammtisch, a traditional German Pilsner, since 2013. “When I think of a Pilsner, I think of a nice, clean lager,” says Jason Thompson, Urban Chestnut’s production manager. “We use a blend of noble and French hops – Hallertau and Strisselspalt – and I think they really stand out.” Pilsners are notable for their intensive production process. At Urban Chestnut in St. Louis, this means taking a variety of hops and working a rigorous mash schedule. And because Pilsners are light and not heavily hopped, it’s hard to hide any flaws. Thompson says the skill required for brewing Pilsners is partly why brewers enjoy making the style so much. “It tests your skill as a brewer,” he says. “Brewers want to show off that they can make a cleaner, more delicate beer. And for drinkers, I think it’s really approachable.” Urban Chestnut also has a new single-hop Pilsner, Reine Liebe, a portion of which benefits the children’s charity Catherine Cares, plus Forest Park Pilsner, a pre-Prohibition American-style Pilsner brewed to celebrate the iconic St. Louis park’s 2016 anniversary.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., multiple locations, urbanchestnut.com
Charleville Brewing Co.
Charleville Brewing Co.’s signature Pilsner, Long White Cloud, is far from traditional. It’s made with hops from New Zealand, where lead brewer Kevin Klein lived for about a year and a half. “There are a fair amount of tropical-fruit flavors, lime zest and a little bit of grape from the Nelson Sauvin hops,” he says. Klein uses the same hops he brewed with in New Zealand: Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, Green Bullet and Pacific Jade. Although Ste. Genevieve, Missouri-based Charleville has only been brewing Long White Cloud since May 2016, director of operations Tait Russell says his team has noticed an uptick in craft Pilsners for several years. “I’ve always felt that Pilsners are kind of the brewer’s beer,” he says. “If we had a choice to sit down at a bar and order anything, that’s probably what we’re going to have.” The longer production time means that a Pilsner will tie up tanks longer than an ale, and the yeast tends to be more expensive, too. “But that’s what makes a great Pilsner all the more rewarding,” Russell says. This spring, look for the second run of Long White Cloud, plus a new brew called Paul’s Pils, a traditional Czech-style Pilsner exclusively available at Hamilton Hospitality restaurants.
Charleville Vineyard, Winery & Microbrewery, 16937 Boyd Road, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, 573.756.4537, charlevillevineyard.com
KC Bier Co.
It’s no surprise that KC Bier Co. – opened by German-beer enthusiast Steve Holle in Kansas Citys’ Waldo neighborhood in 2014 – produces an excellent Pilsner. Simply called Pils, KC Bier’s brew is a northern German-style Pilsner brewed according to the German Purity Law of 1516, which allows only four ingredients in a lager: barley malt, hops, water and yeast. “We use imported malts from Ireks Malting, which started in Germany 160 years ago,” says KC Bier Co. brewer Mike McGuigan. “We also use the traditional noble hops from Bavaria as well as some from the Czech Republic.” McGuigan also emphasizes the labor-intensive process involved in creating the Pils, which is naturally carbonated and clarified by extended cold fermentation. “This process creates a beautiful malt aroma and flavor,” McGuigan says. “For me, it has a kind of wine-fruit flavor. It’s dry and a little bitter – and it’s really tasty.”
KC Bier Co., 310 W. 79th St., Waldo, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.214.8691, kcbier.com
▶ Brewery Emperial There are just six beers on tap at Brewery Emperial, the newest microbrewery in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. Don’t miss its pre-Prohibition-style Pilsner.
▶ Stockyards Brewing Co. Want a Pilsner with a twist? Kansas City’s Stockyards Brewing Co. has a smoked imperial Pilsner; weighing in with a whopping 8.5 percent ABV, it’s anything but your average Pilsner.
▶ White River Brewing Co. This Springfield, Missouri, brewery’s Pulltite Pilsner is made in the traditional Czech style, brewed with double the malts for a bigger flavor.