We love pilsners. Not the American adjunct lagers you grew up on. Real pilsners. Czech, Bohemian, German, what ever you call them - we love them all. A well done pilsner is everything we like about beer: clean, drinkable, refreshing, yet featuring a nice, crisp hop and flavor with underlying malt complexity.
The truth is, many years ago, Low Bridge was intended to be a pilsner the first time we brewed it in the winter of 2011. We (Corey and Matt) brewed the beer in my kitchen, split a 12 pack of Sam Seasonal, realized we didn’t have a wort chiller, set the kettle in the snow for two hours to chill, and went out for more beer. And also, tacos. The brew day took something like 12 hours.
The beer wasn’t that bad – once the fermentation started. We pitched one pack of Danish lager yeast and started our fermentation at 45 degrees F. Nothing happened for the first 72 hours or so. We warmed it up to get it started then chilled it back down. It lagered for 6 weeks. It was pretty good actually, for the first try.
Lagers are different than ales: they require more yeast, and more aging time (lagers are actually named from the German word "lagern", which means "to store"), and tend to be a little less forgiving than ales – that is, they need to have a very clean fermentation profile. For these reasons, the lager we brewed on that day became an ale by about version 5, a few years later. We thought we could still make a very clean and refreshing Golden Ale by controlling fermentation temperature and pitching a little more yeast. And we did, and it worked well. Low Bridge is quite lager like and has a lot of the nice qualities we like about pilsners – clean, refreshing, and flavorful.
But, it isn’t a pilsner. And, so, we finally brewed one.
The thing about brewing a lager is that to brew one means you need to have the capacity in your brewery to store one for a while. We couldn’t possibly make one for the first 2.5 years of operating our brewery because we were always behind in keeping up with the ales we make. So, we consider making this pilsner to be a big step in our brewery’s evolution - almost like we've finally grown up, so to speak.
The other thing about brewing this lager, our pilsner, is that we think it’s pretty good.
We originally brewed a pilot batch of the beer for our tap room first anniversary party. We celebrated our anniversary alongside Toutant and called the beer Toutant Pils. We liked it then. But temperature control is more difficult at small scale, and we thought it would be even better when we scaled it up. Just like you should have with a pilsner – the ingredients aren’t very complex. Simple malt bill, noble hops. Making this beer good is a lot more about the process. And the beer is good; having now brewed it at large scale, we can say that it’s very tasty.
We’re calling the production batch - which we actually brewed as our 500th batch brewed since opening - Electric District Pils, which is a nod to our neighborhood, where the Electric Tower serves as a beacon for locating our brewery as well as several other new and wonderful restaurants. It’s 5.1% ABV, a German-style pilsner, with significant floral and spicy hop aroma and flavor, very mild bitterness, and nice, light, bready malt undertones. Come try some soon and celebrate our first lager with us. Cheers!