American Brewers are Giving Italian Pilsners a Fresh Taste

A photo of Italian-style pilsners
Photo by Jens Johnson

Italy’s winemakers have long inspired vintners the world over, but the country’s brewers have become trendsetters, too.

The latest buzzy style inspired by the boot’s beer? Pilsner. The approach marries a magnified zesty, herbal fragrance with moderate alcohol and high drinkability.

“It combines a touch of what we love in IPAs with the sensibility of a crisp lager,” says Matt Brynildson, brewmaster of Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles, California.

The style’s inception tracks to Birrificio Italiano brewery in northern Italy, circa 1996. That’s when Agostino Arioli, the founder and head brewer, created Tipopils, a dry, bitter German-style Pilsner with an unorthodox twist.

In Germany, dry-hopping (a process that incorporates fragrant hops after fermentation) is prohibited by the Reinheitsgebot, or beer purity law that limits the ingredients allowed in the country’s beer.

Arioli, however, chose to dry-hop Tipopils. He used refined varieties known as noble hops, famed for their earthy, floral and spicy characteristics.

Italian regulations have temporarily halted the beer’s export to the U.S., making its recent stateside popularity all the more fortuitous.

A Fresh Guide to Hops in Beer

Five Italian Pilsners to Try

Luppolo
Oxbow Brewing Company

The Maine farmhouse brewery’s unfiltered Luppolo (Italian for “hop”) was the first to label itself as an Italian-style Pilsner. It’s generously dry-hopped with spicy, floral Tettnanger hops for a pop of lemon zest.

Birra Alpinista
Schilling Beer Company

New Hampshire’s Schilling got together with Maine’s Foundation Brewing Company for this “convivial collaboration” that contains Eraclea Tipo Pilsner malt, grown northeast of Venice. Pale straw in color, it drinks dry, with an earthy and herbal aroma reminiscent of mums.

Pivo Pilsner

Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Inspired by Italy’s archetypal Tipopils, this was built with both German malts and Saphir hops, and lavishly dry-hopped like a West Coast IPA. The result is a crisp, calibrated Pilsner, its bracing aroma redolent of fresh-cut lemongrass.

Terrifica

Wayfinder Beer

Conceived in conjunction with Heater Allen Brewing and Modern Times Beer, this is a tribute to both Tipopils and Italian-style horror films. Snappy, sunny and tinder dry, it’s assertively hopped with spicy German varieties like Spalt Select and Tettnanger.

Sense of Purpose

Green Cheek Beer Co.

Smoothed out with a smidgen of white wheat and seasoned with German hop varieties like Magnum and Huell Melon, this is a super-effervescent Italian style Pils from sunny southern California. Think: lemon zest delicately scattered atop just-baked bread.

Published on August 24, 2020
Topics: Beer