Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Perfect Pils, Part 2

I arrived in Germany on the 2nd of July. Berlin has been remarkably temperate, featuring temperatures around 72° - 76° F (22° - 25° C). My apartment is in a wonderful part of town which straddles the Charlottenburg and West Berlin line, and there is a very fine coffee roaster right next door (which I visited for the first time yesterday and was surprised to see a 25 page menu featuring all their different roasts and brewing methods). But as this isn't a coffee blog, allow me to continue onto the beer.

I had been warned by several people in-the-know that Berlin isn't a great beer town. Not to be deterred, I assembled a map of every brewery and bottle store, and, naturally, hit up one of these bottle stores on my first day.

I picked up several interesting looking beers, including one curious looking Pilsener which I tasted yesterday afternoon.

I am a sucker for good labeling, and this label was among the most unique I've seen: a solid black label with small white lettering, I had to read it several times before I could figure out who the brewer was. The answer? "Premium-Bier." Talk direct and to the point!

There is no entry for them on either Beer Advocate or Rate Beer, and their website doesn't reveal as much as I would have hoped (and my German is not terribly great to begin with). But from what I can gather, they are a tiny 100% organic soda and beer brewery based in Hamburg. All of their ingredients are hyper-local (the hops are grown 3km away). A humorous and honest moment on their website: they apologize for not being 100% vegan because they need to use glue for their labels, explaining that they are simply too small to be able to afford vegan labeling.

As for the beer? It certainly delivered.

Pouring a crystal clear gold with a fat but fast-receding head, the nose is full of mineral aromas; it smells fresh, and vaguely reminiscent of the hard well water I grew up with. (They use untreated spring water.) Tremendously dry in the mouth, I was first struck by a dark roast, almost burnt coffee flavor. This shocked me! I took another sip. Again! There is no hint of darkness in the pour or nose, but a roasted malt backbone in the mouth gives it a dimension quite unlike any other pils I've had. Added to that is a dark caramel flavor, a sizable dose of upfront hops, and very little finish. I was tremendously impressed with this, and wonder if this comes from the water or a special method of roasting their barley. (They do malt their own barley, though I am unsure if it is actually roasted or not.)

As it sits and as I eat my lunch, the darker side of the pils falls away as it is accompanied by food, and I get an easy drinking, very smooth Pilsener.

In all, a mighty fine Pilsener that is arguably the best pils I've had on German soil.

Great, now the bar has been set really high...

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Also worth quickly mentioning are a couple of Pilseners I had prior to leaving the States: EKU (Kulmbacher Brauerei, Germany) and Heater Allen (McMinnville, Oregon).

A solid German pils, crystal clear,
a bit fruity, a tad herbal, goes down easy.
A small Oregon brewery that only brews
German-style beers. Lemon, hops, honey,
and floral up front, morphs into a dry
crisp finish. Excellent.

This afternoon, it's off to Brauhäuser Lemke. Stay tuned.



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