Saturday, 5 March 2016
Bitter Wife: Pilsner Edition
Living with Stout Man means a lot of adventures that involve ranking things, tasting things, and usually both. Never have I met someone who so loves to make top five lists. So it was not really surprising when he suggested a pilsner taste test - a thoughtful concession to basically the only kind of beer that I like (it is NOT his favourite).
Here's how it worked: Stout Man bought five pilsners (I was not told which ones), which he poured into numbered tasting glasses. I tasted each one, taking careful notes (of course), and then ranked them from favourite to least favourite. Stout Man then revealed the secret beer identities, and we marveled at how my unbiased preferences did or did not line up to my regular beer purchases. Yes, marriage can be this exciting! #saturdaynight
I am not a beer expert like Stout Man, and I really only drink pale lagers, so I don't have his meticulous process, but I do okay. I smelled each contender, sipped it carefully, and tried as much as possible to identify subtle notes of whatever. Here are my judgments, from least to most preferred:
5. Stone Hammer Pilsner
The colour was very light - the second palest overall. That's as detailed as I can get about colour, so deal with it.
Right away I noted a strong, sweet, fruity smell - like apples. This was underscored by a faint odor of burnt caramel; usually a pretty appealing feature, especially in concert with apples, but not what I'm looking for in a beer. The taste was also sweeter than I prefer, although mercifully there wasn't much of an aftertaste.
I know what I want in a pilsner - light, crisp, a little bit of body and some fizz (an area where this beer also came up short). Stone Hammer seemed like it was trying to be a different kind of beer. Altogether too sweet and bread-y for my taste. Like expecting a refreshing bite of apple and finding yourself with a mouthful of French toast instead.
You might recognize this one from the fun, colourful can - a hype to which the contents were sadly unable to live up. The smell of this one was clean, light and metallic - definitely promising. It was also pleasantly fizzy.
The metallic quality translated better into scent than taste, as it became the overwhelming feature on the palate. I'll just say it: this beer tastes uncomfortably like blood. I feel like taking my iron pill that day might have been overkill.
It's too bad, because Old Style had some of the best features of a pilsner - the fizziness was on point, it was light in colour, and crisp, with basically no aftertaste (in my notes I wrote, "not my fave taste but at least I'm not still tasting it.") Unfortunately, these good qualities were overwhelmed by the vampire lager quality.
This one was right in the middle of the five on the colour spectrum. It was the first one I tried, and I felt right away that I wasn't going to be very good at this because I could not detect a smell at all. I ended up snorting some into my nostrils (elegant). The smell is VERY faint, a thin citrus whiff.
In taste, the citrus promised by the scent is basically non-existent. This one has a malty flavour I wasn't thrilled by, but it only lasts a second. In fact, this beer has never heard of aftertaste - basically immediately after drinking it, I have forgotten it exists. In that sense it would probably make a good session beer, but I do prefer something more refreshing and with a bit more fizz.
I liked it - it was a bit bold in taste for a pilsner, which I admire, without being overwhelming. I needed a little more overall character though. I don't think I would remember ever tasting this if I wasn't writing it down right now.
Full disclosure: this is my go-to beer order, so I was relieved that it ended up placing so high. It was the darkest of the five in hue, with a very faint citrus smell not unlike the Creemore, although with a bit more follow through.
The taste was a little maltier than I would usually go for, with a great citrus back-kick. The words I used in my notes were "ambitious" and "well-constructed" and I stand by them. It tasted like it fancies itself a more full-bodied beer but isn't quite there (I also wrote "keep dreaming, little guy!").
The Steam Whistle had a perfect refreshing fizziness, and the citrus saved the more full taste that I wouldn't usually care for. I was surprised to find it was Steam Whistle, which I always felt had a skunk-y edge that I didn't taste here; Stout Man posited that the green bottle could have that effect, and for this test we were using tall cans.
My surprise favourite! I detected absolutely no smell (this might actually have been the one that went up my nose - or maybe that happened twice). Already I'm on board; no smell means light and sessionable.
The taste was a perfect pilsner balance: just fizzy enough, a very slight malty aftertaste to add some interest, along with a tiny skunk-y kick. This is what I thought Steam Whistle tasted like - who knew that all along, Pilsner Urquell was my favourite beer?
There's nothing else to say about this one because there is nothing else to it, and that's how I like my pilsners. Not quite forgettable - just inconsequential enough to make it easy to order another.
Bitter Wife (no, not that one!)