9 Great Pilsner Beers That Aren't Budweiser
Budweiser and Bud Light are two of America's top-selling beers, according to data cross-referenced from myriad sources. Also rounding out the top five are Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Michelob. What do all of these beers have in common, without editorializing on their taste profiles? You got it: they are all pilsners.
A pilsner, named for the Czech city of Plzeň (pronounced "pill zin"), is a lager style of beer, meaning it is brewed using lager yeasts and is fermented at cold temperatures. Pale in color and usually mild in taste, pilsner beers are anything but tasteless, the common conception of those top-selling American beers notwithstanding.
Indeed, even within that milder taste of a fine pilsner beer, there can be found complexity and nuance, with flavors ranging from the sweet to the bitter to the bready to the grassy, and pilsners can vary greatly in their hop profiles, too. If you have long written off pilsners based on the offerings of the megabrewers, it's time you try a sip or two of these beers and see what the style truly has to offer.
In many ways, this is the beer that started it all, pilsner-wise. Introduced in 1842 in the aforementioned town of Plzeň, Pilsner Urquell was the first pale lager produced in any sort of large capacity. And the beer tastes today much as it would have nearly 200 years ago, which is to say crisp and lightly hopped. And very refreshing.
Dogfish Head Blue Hen Pilsner
This is a perfect example of what an American pilsner can be: simple, crisp, tasty, and pure. Blue Hen is made using only the classic four beer ingredients, namely water, barley, hops, and yeast, and it is lightly bitter with a malt background and faint sweetness.
Victory Prima Pils
Victory Brewing Company is known for some wild beers, like its Golden Monkey Belgian-Style Tripe, which clocks in just under 10% ABV. Another one is Sour Monkey, which is just as boozy but also ultra tart. So it's kind of amazing the brewery can also make such a mild but pleasant beer as Prima Pils, a 5.3% ABV brew that uses three kinds of hops to create a flavor that has notes of citrus, flowers, and even a bit of spice.
At the risk of setting off a fiery debate, Stella Artois is a pilsner-style beer. All pilsners are lagers, not all lagers are pilsners, but this Belgian brew is, despite the fact that it might not self-brand as such. And also at the risk of outcry, it's a good beer, too. Balanced, refreshing, and widely available, it's a global go-to beer for good reason.
Made with water from the California mountains and barley grown on California farms, with hops imported from Germany, and with a yeast strain that dates back some 400 years, it's little wonder this pilsner is one of the most award-winning beers in the category. It tastes exactly like you imagine when you imagine a classic pilsner beer.
Rothaus Tannenzäpfle Pils
Good luck pronouncing the name of this beer if you're not a competent German speaker (it's kind of like "tannin zep fleh") but that has no bearing on its taste, which is sublime. A bit breadier than many pilsners thanks to the the notable hop presence, this German brew is must try if you spot a bottle or, better yet, head to Germany to drink it fresh.
Moonlight Brewing Reality Czeck
This California beer may be harder to find than most others featured here, as it's not sold outside the state, but it's worth the hunt when you're in the Golden State. That's because a Reality Czeck Pilsner manages to have both a floral and lightly bitter hop presence and a sweet toasted bread flavor, striking a balance you'd usually only find in beers with a much bolder overall flavor.
Sam Adams Golden Pilsner
This pilsner from The Boston Beer Company—yes, everyone calls it Sam Adams, but the brewery is actually called that—is a beautifully balanced beer. At 5% ABV, it's mild on the alcohol. It's also got a pleasant bitterness provided by two different types of hops, and thanks to the blend of two-row pale malt barley, it's got a notable malty presence as well.
Athletic Brewing Athletic Lite
This non-alcoholic beer from Athletic Brewing is an impressive feat indeed: not only does it taste like a true beer, something many NA beers fail to do, but it tastes like a true pilsner. Also, at just 25 calories per can, it's a beer you can sip without any concerns at all really—it's not going to inebriate you, nor will it add any pounds.