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A good pilsner is one of our favorite party beers: it's refreshing and easy-drinking, but still offers enough interesting flavor to please serious beer nerds. Which sixpack should you buy? We asked our crew of beer experts about the best pilsners out there—plus some food pairing ideas. Here's what they had to say.
"My favorite pilsner is Pilsner Urquell—it's the epitome of a beer you can think about but you don't have to. Urquell is yellow fizzy beer and you can treat it like that, buy a bunch for the party and leave it in a tub of ice. But that's not all it is: You get the depth of malt character from the decoction mashing and the house made malt. It's physically soft on the tongue, which is an exciting sensation after drinking IPA all the time."—Collin McDonnell (HenHouse Brewing Company)
"Pilsners are difficult to compare because they are easily altered by storage conditions that can dull or skunk the delicate flavor. Pilsner Urquell is still my favorite pilsner in the world, assuming proper handling. In response to complaints in the years past, the bottles are treated better now, covered to prevent skunking by exposure to light and cold shipped more rapidly to better maintain freshness. I have had the opportunity to drink it unfiltered, unpasteurized and only a few days old and it was even better, but that's pretty rare unless you are in the Czech Republic. If you encounter fresh pilsner anywhere, jump on the chance to taste it! The crisp bitterness, light malt flavor and dry finish are very versatile and can complement a light meal of sushi, but can also cut through a stronger and spicier Thai curry."—Judy Neff (Pints & Plates)
"I look for a nice balance of hops and malty sweetness, and Pilsner Urquell delivers it beautifully. Serve it with aged hard cheeses such as aged Parmesan, hard farmhouse cheddar, and aged Gouda. The strong, pungent, earthy nature of these cheeses really bring out the sweetness in the beer."—Hannah Davis (Molson Coors UK)
"I have to pick a true German Pilsner, Bitburger Premium. I may be a bit biased since I lived in Bitburg for a number of years; however Bitburg is the home of pilsners and I compare every pilsner I try to this one. Bitburger uses Hallertauer hops and has a slight grainy quality with a mellow sweetness and a dry finish. My favorite food to enjoy with Bitburger is a rich and hearty Hungarian goulash on a cool autumn day."— Melissa Long-Higgs (Nevada Beverage Company)
"If you're in Europe, drink the classic German and Czech versions that defined the style. They will be amazing. If you're elsewhere, seek out pilsners made by local breweries. They may not all be world class, but you will find some exceptional beers that are much fresher than anything shipped halfway across the world. I'm fortunate that Chuckanut Brewery is one of my locals. Their pilsner has a great balance of Pilsner malt and noble hops. It has a firm bitterness and finishes crisp and dry. Drink it with grilled salmon, preferable outdoors, with a view of the water."— Justin Bajema (Cicerone)
"Firestone Walker's Pivo Pils keeps the extremely light grist of a German pilsner while incorporating a large amount of late hop additions characterized by Czech style pilsners, then for an American twist, the beer is dry hopped with Saphir hops, bergamot zest, and lemongrass to boost the aroma even further. This beer has all the light, easy-drinking elements of a classic pilsner but with a kicked up spicy/floral hop aroma to separate it from the rest."—Ryan Spencer (Bailey's Taproom)
"I frequently reach for the Firestone Walker's Pivo Pils from Paso Robles, CA. This unique and quite astonishing example tilts the balance toward the bright and hoppy, but maintains much of the elegant toasted malt qualities expected from the style. Serve it with citrusy shrimp and corn chowder. The corn will latch onto similar qualities displayed by the pilsner malt, and the beer's overall crisp presence slices through much of the soup's richness."—James Tai (Beer Acolyte)
"Firestone Walker Pivo Pils is the crisp, clean, and refreshing pilsner you love with the wonderful hop aromatics and relentless dedication to freshness that has earned Firestone Walker's place among the very best breweries in the world. I love pairing it with any grilled white fish, particularly halibut with rosemary and lemon to complement the grassy and citrusy hops."—Tyler Morton (Mikkeller Bar)
"My favorite German example is Weihenstephaner Pilsner. This is such an underrated beer. In fact, ALL of their beers are. At their price point of 'basically whatever change you may have in your car's center console' and with a label that doesn't really jump out at you, I'm sure people walk right past this beer without giving it a second thought. This is a grainier version of the pilsner with a drier finish. Pair this with something off the grill, such as a bratwurst with kraut. The dry clean pilsner allows the sweet fattiness of the brat to shine."— Andrew Hicks (Cinder Block Brewery)
"Reality Czech by Moonlight Brewing Co. The crisp lager nature of the pilsner comes through but this beer also has a great hop aroma and flavor. Citrus, grass, and slight bitterness makes this pilsner stand out for me. With pilsners, I tend to get hungry for Buffalo wings, the spicier the better. The heat is cooled by the beer's slightly sweet malt, but the nice hop burst will bring out the natural flavors of the buffalo sauce. Also, I like blue cheese with my wings, and the pilsner is hoppy and carbonated enough for the creamy nature of blue cheese."—Corey Esoldi (Societe Brewing)
"Sam Adams makes great lagers and Sam Adams Noble Pils is no exception. It has a complex bready maltiness and uses not only Saaz hops, the typical variety used in Czech pilsners, but also Tettnanger, Spalt, Hersbrucker, and Hallertauer. These "noble" hops are known for their low alpha acid but high oil content. That means lots of hop aroma and flavor without excessive bitterness. It all makes for a crisp, refreshing, and refined beer."—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)
"Victory's Prima Pils has an advantage over its German cousins: it's fresh. I like German Pilsners, but they don't arrive in prime condition after a long ocean voyage from Deutschland. A good pilsner is the great complement to spicy food, like Cajun gumbo with andouille sausage. I love pils with pizza too."—Kendall Joseph (Beer Makes Three)
"Victory Prima Pils: the light body makes the beer easy to enjoy any time of year, and that spiced, snappy bitterness will please any hophead. This is one of my favorite beers to pair with Hawaiian Ahi Poke. The beer's flavor won't overpower the fresh ahi and the hops will play with both the seaweed and the spice of the chilies, while the malt is a great match for roasted sesame seeds."—Bill Carl (Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii)
"My current favorite is Hoyner Pilsner from Hoyne Brewing on Vancouver Island. I first tasted it in February, on what might have been a record breakingly cold day in Victoria when I would almost always steer to something way bigger and richer, but I still can't get it out of my head. Old world hops, subtle bready notes from the yeast and malt, nothing in your face but still sneakily complex. I like to pair pilsners with something light and delicate, to not overwhelm the beer itself. Some greens, prosciutto, a light lemon dressing, grana padano... Or maybe just some soft pretzels, you know, for history."—Bill Bonar (Taste)
"Paradise Rd. Pilsner from Figueroa Mountain is my go-to for Czech-style pilsners. Herbal hop aroma, sweet malts with overtones of fresh hay and just a hint of spice to the clean hop finish. That subtle spicy bite to the hops makes this so much more than just a crisp and clean lager. Spicy tuna rolls and Paradise Rd. are a match made in heaven. The subtle spicy hop enhances the burn of the spicy tuna while the clean, sweet malts help cool the fire with every sip."—Becki Kregoski (Bites 'n Brews)
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