In winter, easy-drinking light lagers can be cold comfort during those basketball quadruple headers. They deliver big refreshment, but the trade-off is minimal taste. Increasingly, craft brewers are creating crisp, Czech-style lagers that offer moderate alcohol, rich malt flavor and an enlivening bitter pop that cuts through chips, wings and other hefty game-day grub. The refined approach is gaining traction among beer fans burned out by two too many hazy IPAs.
“It’s the natural progression of beer lovers,” says Lisa Allen of Heater Allen in Oregon. The brewery’s biggest seller is its unfiltered, naturally carbonated pilsner (a type of lager) that ages cold for eight weeks.
Brewers across the country are experimenting with crafty Czech styles. In New Hampshire, Schilling’s Alexandr, a Czech-inspired winner featuring Moravian pilsner malt, pairs subtle sweetness with smooth bitterness.
The beers can be cleaved into sub-styles generally classified according to color and alcohol content. A proper Czech lager forgoes gimmicky ingredients in favor of high-quality hops and malt, the grain’s character intensified through a process called decoction. It imparts a richness Eric Larkin of Denver’s Cohesion Brewing calls “so drinkable.” His Czech-style lagers are served with lustrous froth.
1. Wild East Brewing Patience & Fortitude
Where it’s brewed: Brooklyn, NY
The brewery opened just prior to the pandemic and produces lagers like this cracker-crisp Czech-style pilsner packed with the country’s herbal Saaz hops.[Price varies in stores]
2. Heater Allen Pils
Where it’s brewed: McMinnville, OR
“Time is our expensive ingredient,” says head brewer Lisa Allen. Her pilsner is inspired by Pilsner Urquell, the Czech standard-bearer born in the early 1840s.[Price varies in stores]
3. Urban Roots Brewing & Smokehouse 10°
Where it’s brewed: Sacramento, CA
Brisket, nachos, and pulled pork are spot-on pairings with this low-alcohol, high-flavor pilsner made, per tradition, with Saaz hops and malt produced near Prague.[Available in stores]
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