Although we haven’t gotten to the truly hot months yet, May is a great time to take a look at some of the beer styles you should get to know ahead of all of the upcoming season’s outdoor entertaining. Although personal preferences vary, the one beer style that’s sure to quench your thirst on those hot days at the park, the barbecue or the poolside bash is lager.
Known for being crisper, cleaner and more refreshing than ales, lagers are lighter in body and alcohol while being moderate to high in carbonation. Two of the more common styles for summer entertaining are Euro pale lagers and American adjunct lagers.
Euro pale lagers generally have low to moderate aromas, flavors and bitterness, and are backed by a solid malt body, while American adjunct lagers offer little to no hop presence and light, effervescent mouthfeels. Both typically have moderate alcohol (between 4.0% and 6.0% abv) and carbonation levels, and are frequently intended as session beers.
Then there are Pilsners (or Pilseners, or Pils for short). Overall, Pils are known for their light color, low alcohol and immense drinkability.
Born in the 19th century city of Plzen in the Czech Republic (or Pilsen in Bohemia), Czech Pilseners are pale lagers, light straw to golden in color with a crystal-clear appearance. One of the defining characteristics of these brews is the use of the noble Saaz hop, which can produce lovely, spicy-bitter aromas and flavors.
German Pilsners are similar to Czech Pilseners but use a wider variety of hops.
Here’s to the warm days ahead, and to being prepared with a fridge full of refreshing brews. Prost!
88 Pilsner Urquell (Czech Pilsener; Plzensky Prazdroj, Czech Republic). Considered by many brewers to be the “original” Pilsner and a benchmark for the style, this is a highly refreshing and well-balanced selection that’s very sessionable. Light gold in color, faint aromas of bready grain, fresh-cut grass and herbal hops lead the bouquet. The mouthfeel is smooth and bright, with moderate carbonation and subtle flavors of sweet malts and biscuit dough, with a tough of spicy hop character that carries through to the dry, clean finish. Pilsner Urquell USA.
abv: 4.4% Price: $9/12 oz 6 pack
87 Herrmannsdorfer Schweinsbräu Gold Bavarian Lager (Munich Helles Lager; Herrmannsdorfer Schweinsbräu, Germany). This clean, highly refreshing selection pours a clear light-gold color, with a frothy off-white head that lingers. Initial aromas of mildly sweet malts open the bouquet, with secondary notes of grain, hay and subtle accents of grassy hops and honey. A hint of mineral adds character to the palate, which is clean and well balanced thanks to slightly tart and astringent notes that counter the sweet malt flavors. This would be an ideal match for a plate of cured meats and cheeses. Magellan Wine Imports.
abv: 4.8% Price: $4/500 ml
87 Theresianer Premium Lager (Euro pale lager; HTS 1892, Italy). Clear yellow in color with a small but lingering white head, this looks bright, clean and refreshing right from the start—and it is. The aromas are very faint, with soft hints of husky grain, dried grass and herbal hops. A mild bitterness adds interest to the lightly flavored palate and a bit of texture to the otherwise smooth and light mouthfeel. This is highly drinkable, with a clean and malty finish. Magellan Wine Imports.
abv: 4.8% Price: $2/12 oz
86 Wolters Pilsener (German Pilsener; Hofbrauhaus Wolters, Germany). Here’s a sessionable Pils that pours a crystal-clear clean gold color with a thin white head. There’s a faint mineral and skunky edge to the nose that dissipates with time, leaving soft scents of grassy grain and malt. The palate is quite grainy and green, with flavors of husk, crushed malt and a touch of grassy hops. The body is light, with medium carbonation and a crisp, clean finish that makes this an ideal session selection. Iron Horse Beverage LLC.
abv: 4.9% Price: $7/11.2 oz 6 pack