Back to Basics – Pilsners

- by Madeline Stefan

The wide-ranging, far-reaching world of beer — and novel complexity of craft beer — can be intimidating. So, let’s get back to basics. While we drink beer largely for the flavor, talking about what’s in our beer and why it tastes the way it does is a great way to understand what we’re drinking — why we like it, or why we don’t.

To start, let’s remember that beer has four primary ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. Now this fact isn’t meant to oversimplify the brewing process, but it does serve to remind us that beer isn’t all that complicated. What’s amazing is that, even limited to these four ingredients, we can end up with a huge range of flavors in the hundreds of styles of beers that exist.

In this six-week blog series, we’re zooming out to get a better look at the big picture. We’ll take you through the flavor profiles of six common beer styles and explain why you taste what you do – focusing on Legion beers that you can find in our tap room as well as many of your local Charlotte bars and restaurants!

And what better style to start with than a Pilsner? As we like to call them here at Legion, these ‘beer-flavored beers’ taste exactly as you’d expect — bitter, clean, crisp and refreshing. Pilsners have a unique ability to foster relaxation and nostalgia within us — their flavor profiles can transport us to our favorite beach spot, or remind us of the glory days from our fleeting youth.

Noble hops, widely used in both German and Czech style pilsners, bring the lightly floral, spicy, or herbal notes that we associate with this beer style. Pairing these hops with pilsner malts gives this classic style the delicate impact many beer drinkers know and love. The earthy notes, oats, barley and a hint of lemon tang commonly associated with pilsners cleanse the palate when coupled with the beer’s brisk hoppiness to produce a dry, snappy finish.

One of Legion’s flagship beers, Project Pils, is brewed with 100% Riverbend Pilsner Malt that we source from a malting facility located in Asheville, North Carolina. In speaking of these malts, Head Brewer Alexa Long highlights their ability to bring “unique grassy/grainy flavors distinct to North Carolina’s territory, which carry through in the beer.”

In terms of the brewing process, Alexa adds that a true Pilsner should follow the Reinheitsgebot – the German Purity Law – which strictly limits the ingredients that can be used during the brewing process: water, barley, yeast and hops. Alexa adheres to the belief that “no single ingredient should be too prominent. Instead, the beer should be well-balanced with a neutral flavor profile.”

The clean, crisp and refreshing flavors we experience in a pilsner have become unequivocally associated with drinking beer. Widely loved and easily drinkable, pilsners are a classic style — and for good reason. Next time you find yourself with a pilsner in hand, perhaps you might make an effort to parcel out the flavors that make this beer such a beer.