What's in your pint glass tonight, Matt?
It's been so long since you asked!
Well, it's Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner. I bought some last night in honor of finishing my finals.
Friends, this is a big beer. But big in a GOOD way. You know about, by now, how Tams and I are hopheads. Hops, the traditional bittering agent and aromatic agent in beers, is most pronounced in India Pale Ales, which feature long boils with hops in the pot, as well as "dry-hopping," wherein hops are just stuffed by the handful into the barrel that the beer is stored in. IPAs also traditionally have a lot of alcohol in each glass. This is because alcohol and alpha acids (the chemicals that make hops bitter) are preservatives, which helped British Beers get safely around the cape to the SubContinent during imperial times.
A little while after this, an American guy named August Busch was visiting Czechoslovakia, and discovered this little village in the Pilsen region, where in a little town named Budweis, they were brewing light, pale beers using a bottom-fermenting yeast at lower temperatures, in a technique called lagering. They also filtered the beer through its own sparged grains, resulting in a very bright, clear beer. This was a sensation, and Augie Bush knew a winner when he saw one. He rushed home and began marketing his Budweiser as fast as he could. In a style unfortunately associated with American enginuity, he took a style that the Czechs had perfected over more than a half millenium, and in two years had boiled it down to a brew that he could mass-produce, mass-market, and sell with minimum flavor to the world. (If he were a modern car-maker, he would have come back from Germany, and mass-marketed a new Chevrolet called the Porsh, based on a Chevette with a new trim package, priced to sell.)
Of course, Bush's version of the pilsener beer, while popular, was lighter than the Czech style, and that trend continued in the U.S., through Prohibition, when the Volstead Act allowed brewers to use unmalted grains to make beers under 0.5% alcohol. When Prohibition was lifted, Bud stuck with the rice that it had taken to using, and the American pallete was ruined for real beer, ever since.
But some remember that a Pilsener (or pilsner) style is strong on hops, mostly clear, pale, and strong on hops. It should have a very strong nose as well as bittering.
Samuel Adams has a bunch of seasonal beers, and some beer snobs have taken to eschewing this mini brewery. I will not. This Boston company brought our national beer tasting palette a long way. This winter, they released their Hallertau Imperial Pilsner, with the subtitle: "An Intense Hop Experience."
It's a lot of hoppiness, and they're not ashamed of it. Remember: hops can provide bitterness and aroma. In this beer, founder Koch put in Hallertau Mittelfrueh Noble Bavarian hops. I'm guessing that those high-dollar green flowers are what jacked the price up so much-- a 4 -pack cost me $10 US, which is roughly a buck less than what you'll pay for a Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA 4-pack. The awesome thing about this kind of beer is that flavor is everything-- one will last you the evening. (You get a "fair-thee-well" that seemingly lasts for days.)
The flavor is big. Although this is first, middle, and last a hoppy beer, they raised the malt to compensate, so the flavor is more balanced. Those Noble hops are incredible. Nowhere nearly as harsh as the American Cascade hops, they bitter without being rough to the mouth.
The beer has some chill hazing, and you would not want to read a newspaper through it.
Fine. Drink it and read like normal.