Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 January, 2016

The Surprising Transmogrification of Berghoff Beer: Pilsner (Hop Forward Lager) by Berghoff Beer

Berghoff has been around since the late 19th century and I have been drinking their brews since the early-90s and have memories of buying it at the Pinkus McBride convenience store. Back then Berghoff held a middle ground between the swill of macros and the fuller-flavored microbrews of Capital, Sprecher, New Glarus, and their ilk. Berghoff's beers were much better than a Miller or Bud but not as good as a Capital Amber, an Edel Pils, or a Black Bavarian. And the price of Berghoff reflected this.

Flash forward to 2013. Ben Minkoff, whose family owns Berghoff, had taken the company reins and the fruits of his plan to revamp the brewery's beers and reputation began to be realized. New brews appeared on store shelves while the old staples were reformulated. I reviewed one of the former, Germaniac, a Kotbusser-style ale, that summer. Then last year Berghoff continued its transformation with the introduction of two new beers: an IPA and a pilsner.

Pilsner says "Hop Forward Lager Beer" on the label in nice, friendly letters. Such bragging gave me the impression that the bier was an IPL or some other American neo-lager style undreamed of by the mid-19th century brewers of Plzeƈ. But I decided to try it out anyway. Besides, "Forward" is the Wisconsin state motto so perhaps that's what lured me in.

Berghoff Pilsner pours a moderately dark yellow and had the expected crystal clarity of the style. My glass had about 1/2" of creamy white froth on top and lots of bubbles inside going up looking for a place to live.

A very pretty bier, to be sure. But would it beat my tongue into submission with a citrus/pine hop flavor or the latest pretender to the hop throne, tropical fruit?

The aroma was quite surprising as my nose took in a really nice, potent floral/herbal hop aroma. This was not going to be a big, spicy Saaz-y Czech-style pils nor was it going to be a West Coast grapefruit, spruce, mango smoothie, and lime chutney American take on the style. A pleasant surprise. There was also a bit of grain/cracker scent to be had. Pilsner had a medium-light body with a clean grain flavor with a slight malt sweetness to it as well. The hops kept the floral aspect of the aroma into the taste but took on more grassy notes. For a bottle boasting hop forwardness, Pilsner did not boast a lot of hop bitterness. It was there but not overwhelming as I had expected. And there was some bit from the carbonation.

Pilsner finished with its malty flavors fading which allowed the hops to step forward, so to speak, after having transmogrified yet again. Here the hops took on some spiciness and along with that a more pronounced bitterness. That and the carbonation made for a fine, dry ending.

I was pleasantly surprised that Pilsner in no way attempted to mimic an American IPA and that Berghoff instead hewed to tradition by making what I would characterize as a German pils. While I mean no offense to Minkoff and company, I am also surprised to be able to write that my tasting notes say, "Great!" This is a fantastic German pils. Berghoff hit my sweet spot here with the perfect malt taste. There's just the right amount of clean crackery grain along with just the right amount of malt sweetness. After a spate of imperial pilsners with a rather more pronounced sweetness, it was so good to taste just a hint of that honeyed malt flavor.

This bier is hop forward insofar as all pilsners are that way. Pilsner was hopped very well and I enjoyed very much how the hops change from aroma to taste to finish. The hops are always pronounced but never assertive and find harmony with the malt.

Junk food pairing: Berghoff Pilsner is 5.7% A.B.V., a little more than your standard pils, so you'll need something to chow on while drinking it. You cannot go wrong with pretzels but try some Steakhouse Onion Funyons. Frito-Lay didn't go overboard with the roasted root vegetable flavor which will complement Pilsner well.

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|| Palmer, 8:02 AM


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