Photo: Avery Brewing
For years, the words "premium American pilsner" have been oxymoronic, the kind of marketing dribble used to describe Miller Lite and its cohorts of low-cost, low-flavor beer. So color me surprised when I spied a black can of Boulder, Colorado–based Avery Brewing's newest year-round release: Joe's Premium American Pilsner.
See, since 1993 Avery has built its name on bold, uncompromising ales that give your palate the ol' one-two punch. There's the Czar, a souped-up Russian imperial stout; the massively hopped Maharajah imperial IPA; and the burly Beast, a deeply nuanced, rum-esque elixir that can age for more than 10 years. Then there's humble Joe.
"We all love IPAs, imperial IPAs and high-gravity hoppy brews in general, but the problem is that sessioning IPAs takes a tougher toll on us with each passing year," says C.V. Howe, Avery's marketing manager. "The solution? Make an über-hoppy pilsner [50 IBUs!] that is low in alcohol [4.7 percent ABV] and high in flavor. We call it a session beer for hop heads."
This is no easy task. A delicate, golden pilsner demands precise brewing techniques, since the beer can't hide defects like, say, a supercharged stout. "We set out to put the Avery mark on a style steeped in tradition, while simultaneously proving our mettle by making a very clean example of a notoriously difficult style for small craft brewers to brew," Howe explains.
My verdict? When you first pour Joe from a can, the bright, pale-gold hue might trick you into thinking that it's a cut-rate quaff. Don't let first impressions fool you. Joe's nose is zesty and floral, boasting a nice herbaceousness balanced by biscuity malt. The pilsner drinks prickly and crisp, with a light body, lingering hop bite and a thirst-quenching character that makes you want to crack a second can as soon as you suck down the first.
Hey, Joe. I think we'll good friends all summer long.
Joshua M. Bernstein has written about brews, bars and booze for New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Imbibe Magazine and The New York Times. His beer book, Brewed Awakening, will be published by Sterling this fall. Follow him on Twitter @JoshMBernstein. Hungry for news about fast food, slow food, food politics, food personalities, and food controversies? Then sign up for our weekly newsletter. Plus, be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.