Here in Manitoba, we live in pilsner country.
Not as in Molson’s Old Style Pilsner country (the beer with the bunny on it — that’s Saskatchewan), but as in Prairie pilsner country.
If you grew up in Manitoba like I did, you grew up around pilsner-style lagers such as Labatt Blue, Kokanee, even Club and OV. When you go to a hockey or football game, a social, or your favourite bar or pub, generally they have lots of pilsner available.
Pilsners have changed from your father’s Labatt Blue. Lots of them nowadays are more true to the German-style pilsners that use several varieties of hops, only the best malted two-row prairie barley and a sweet citrus zest that makes you want more after a long hard day in the field.
Vancouver’s Steamworks Brewery now has their pilsner and pale ale available here in Manitoba. Their pilsner is rated one of the best in Canada and even won a gold medal at the 2012 Canadian Brewing Awards.
I’m not a pilsner fan as they’re generally too light for me, and all the corny pilsners I’ve had over the years have done a toll on my stomach — my stomach turns at the smell of abundance of corn from some of the larger brewed pilsners out there.
Steamworks Pilsner pours like your standard Canadian pilsner or lager — a clear, golden straw-yellow body, a decent amount of micro-carbonation, but nowhere near as bubbly as a Kokanee or Blue. To top it off, it has a frothy off-white head.
The aroma is a bit lighter than your standard Canadian pilsner but without that annoying corn scent. It has aromas of quality Canadian barley that gives off a light straw and grassy tone, a hint of lemon, very earthy and a bit of an early morning summer dew vibe.
The flavour is quite reminiscent of what we know and love about Canadian pilsners. It has back notes of barley — the taste reminds me of going into a brewery right as the kettles are boiling to brew the beer, a very barley-heavy pilsner — with a pinch of lemon and a blast of grass.
To the average Kokanee/Blue/Canadian fan, this would be much more malty than your standard pils as there are some sweet tones that leave a bit of an aftertaste.
As with any other pilsner, the hops are not really there — though Steamworks Pilsner does owe some of its grassiness to the Hallertauer hops used. It’s a tad bit less malty than Arden’s Farmery Lager, but with a bit more hops.
As I said, pilsners just don’t do it for me. I love them after a hot work day as they are incredibly refreshing and are no where near as heavy as a Belgian ale or a stout. But I like a bit more citrus or hops in my pilsners.
My current favourite pils is Half Pints’ Phil’s Pils out of Winnipeg, a very floral and flavourful pilsner that would be a bit too much for the average beer drinker out there — but for me, I can’t get enough of it. I like the medium amount of sweet maltiness coming from the two-row malt, but I’d like more hops please!
What’s surprising is that Steamworks Pilsner at 30 IBU is actually more bitter than Alexander Keith’s at 20 IBU — so in a way, this beer is more of an India Pale Ale than Keith’s.
Steamworks Pilsner is available at Liquor Marts in Brandon and Virden at $3.25 per 500mL can, 5.0 per cent ABV.On Tap
Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Brewing is coming out with some new treats in the near future, some that will shock and awe you — if they get past the experimental stage.
Fort Garry’s Big Buddha Lager will be hitting Liquor Mart shelves in Brandon in the next few weeks. Big Buddha is an Asian-inspired lager that has notes of ginger and lemongrass, giving it a bit of a bite as well as a citrus zest that’s perfect for the not-quite-autumn season.
I tried it the other day and if you are a ginger-ale fan and tend to drink lighter lagers or pilsners, this will be the best of both worlds for you. When it comes to town, it will be $2.97 per 473mL can.