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Originally, I wanted to start our new German series with a North German Pils right out of the gate. I ended up doing the more accessible Helles first, then the Vienna as a softer, maltier version of the lager category, then the very assertive Northern Pils. Kind of like trying to make a set list to make the show better for the folks listening,maybe.
The reason why I saved the North German Pils for last is that it comes across as relatively bitter even though, at 28 IBU, it’s not a particularly high alpha iteration of the pilsner style on paper. Pilsner Urquell, for example, is around 40 IBU and doesn’t present as much subjective bitterness as our Pils at Old Nation. In ours, the mash profile leaves very little unfermentable sugar in order to get the clean, snappy finish the style needs. I picked Danish yeast because of it’s high attenuation and its ability to accentuate hops and for the effect I’ll explain below.
I think the best way to explain the style of Northern German Pils might be to pass on the same advice as I got years ago. For me, the first of the style I tried was Jever Pils at my local pub in Berlin. You can get it in the US, and I still buy as much Jever as they have whenever I’m near Bowling Green OH., since the little beer shop there is the closest place I know of which carries it. Anyway, the “advice” I got was from an engineering professor named Hartmut Evers and I’ll try to recreate that here, but you have to promise you’ll read this with your closest version of a kind of bored sounding German accent… He said,
“Northern Pils is very bitter and people do not like that. They are wrong not to like it. Here is how you know you have a good one: On your first drink, breathe in between your teeth sharply, directly after you’ve swallowed. You should feel a certain zing on the sides of your tongue, almost like peppermint in its feeling, along with the bitterness. The bitterness may linger a bit. On your second drink, the same should happen, only the bitterness shouldn’t linger nearly as long. On your third or fourth, the so-called zing will be gone, also the bitterness. After that you call for the Keg.”
I thought this was hilarious, until I tried it. It’s true, and it’s awesome. I think a lot of folks may not have had this particular style, and it may confront them too aggressively. I hope you go all the way to the fourth drink.