When a regional craft beer powerhouse the size of Brooklyn Brewery says it’s going to reformulate such a basic beer as its pilsner and puts the marketing behind that concept, that’s a time you should probably take notice as consumer. Beer recipes are constantly being changed, but for a brewery like Brooklyn to play the new version of Brooklyn Pilsner, with new cans and new marketing, it implies that the company wants this to be a launch by which its current ethos is judged. Iconic Brooklyn brewer Garrett Oliver essentially said the same thing, calling this new pilsner a beer that “fits our current lifestyle of combining flavor and drinkability.”
What does that mean, though, when it comes to the idea of a craft brew pilsner in 2022? A beneficiary of the craft lager revolution and a wave of appreciation for German lagers and noble hops among a certain breed of beer geeks, modern pilsner has become something of a haven for hop lovers from the naïve and clumsy use of hop flavors in IPAs, always chasing the next level of “juiciness”. At the same time that the hazy IPA was failing, exchanging genuinely juicy flavors for encompassing vegetal and green flavors, the modern pilsners of American breweries were a saving grace: pungent, bitter, floral, herbal revelations, spicy and drinkable quite the opposite of the decadent, overly sweet messes that now characterize your average 16 oz haze.
In short, I love modern pilsner. I love noble hops and the combination of sweet and bitter impressions they can provide. While there’s a lot I’ve hated about the craft beer world over the past few years, the surge in pristine lagers (in many styles) has been what continues to inspire me. hope.
I was a bit surprised to find, then, that the new pilsner from Brooklyn doesn’t exactly remind me of that modern pilsner setting that I’ve come to expect more and more. Instead of the assertive buoyancy of floral, grassy, spicy, bitter noble hops that I was looking for, their new effort tends towards softer, smoother dimensions instead. Maybe I should have expected that, given that the website only offers “crispy, golden, and surprisingly refreshing” as a tasting note. Oliver, on the other hand, offers something that sounds more appealing: “Relatively light with a floral hop aroma, a refreshing hint of bitterness and a clean, quick finish. In practice, however, that’s not quite how I perceive the contents of these eye-catching cans, which weigh in at 5% ABV.
On the nose, the new Brooklyn Pilsner suggests a slightly corny sweetness, reminiscent of a bowl of cornflakes, with the slightest hint of floral vanilla. It’s a bit malty here too, and the noble hop impression is less evident than on many pilsners from well-known modern breweries. In general, this hints at a profile with more in common with “premium American lager” than I expected.
On the palate, it is slightly sweet and slightly malty, with an impression of crunchy grain and hints of slightly toasted malt. Again, the hop presence strikes me as quite subdued, with light citrus and floral notes contributing to a low level of bitterness rather than the more robust backbone I crave. Overall this reads as very soft and round rather than angular, very affable and very drinkable, but not particularly complex. More than anything, it reminds me of how regional craft breweries often made clean, grainy pilsners before 10 years ago, before the greater emphasis on the noble aromas and flavors of hops began to change the perception of the style in the United States. new Brooklyn beer something you could describe as a throwback, which again was the last thing I expected for a newly redesigned brand.
Maybe I’m missing something, and maybe I’ve just gotten used to a hoppier pilsner these days. As it is, it’s an extremely easy to drink beer in large quantities, but it’s not the delicate hop showcase I was hoping for.
Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
City: Brooklyn, New York
Availablity: 12 ounce cans
Jim Vorel is a staff writer at Paste and a resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.