Local Breweries Dive Into Pilsners

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Beer styles are seasonal.

Stouts and darker heavier beers dominate the cooler months. IPAs are perfect for a fall afternoon of watching football.

And, when things start to heat up, there are pilsners.


Yes, a pilsner. It’s light, refreshing, crisp, thirst quenching, and delicious.

Some may say they are “basic” or “bland,” but I beg to differ. Our palates continue to be bombarded with overly-hopped DIPAs and sweet tooth pastry stouts, and you need a break.

You need something that you can throw back again and again on a hot day at the pool.

You need a pilsner.

Pilsners aren’t new. They really haven’t changed too much in the last near-200 years since first brewed by Pilsner Urquell. It’s a simple beer. It’s a beer that tastes like beer.

“I think pilsners are interesting because if an alien species were to visit here and ask about beer, this is what you would give them,” said Bill Helzlsouer, co-host of local beer podcast, It’s Friday Somewhere. “You wouldn’t show them an IPA or a stout; you’d want to show them a pilsner.”

And, in my opinion, pilsners are finally getting their day with local brewers.

Simple yet difficult

pilsner Millworks

Pilsners, maybe to the surprise of some, are not easy to brew.

“There’s nothing to hide behind when you brew a pilsner,” said Jeff Musselman, head brewer at Millworks Brewery.

The general recipe is two-row malt for a sweet and bready malt backbone and a variety of hops. The hops do vary from beer to beer, but you’ll usually see some sort of German noble hop that has a bit of bitterness and zip of citrus.

“In our brew, we’re using a combination of Hallertau and Mandarina Bavaria,” said Musselman. “Hallertau is pretty common, and the Mandarina Bavaria lends a bit of orange and citrus.”

Helzlsouer said to determine a good pils, you have to be able to discern all the elements.

“You have to taste the malt, it has to have a proper level of bitterness, and the yeast has to activate properly,” said Helzlsouer. “There’s no real place to hide. It has to be crisp, clean and refreshing.”

Musselman just brewed his first true-to-style pilsner for the Millworks. The soon-to-be-released pilsner was a collaboration with Bamberg, Germany-based Keesman Brewery.

“They brewery owner came over here, and we worked with them to create a collaboration,” said Musselman. “It made sense to do a pilsner because we sell a lot of lagers, and their pilsner is their best selling and most popular beer.”

Millworks will release their first-ever pilsner Friday, July 13.

Celebrating a style

ZerØday Brewing Co., right down the road from Millworks, is also getting in on the pilsner game.

Their first-ever pilsner is set to release in a matter of days, and for ZerØday’s brewers, it’s been something they have wanted to do for a while.

“Pilsners are what Theo and I always want to drink,” said Hannah Ison, assistant brewer at ZerØday. “We’ve wanted to do this for a while, and now we finally have the tank space to do it.”

Tank space. That is something else that makes this style difficult for other brewers. Pilsners and lagers, unlike ales, take time. Sometimes a pilsner can take two months to ferment and lager-out.

“The time really allows for the flavors in the beer to round out and clear the beer up,” said Musselman.

For smaller breweries who don’t always have the capacity to lose a fermenter for almost two months, this is a problem.

Now that ZerØday is a two-person brewing operation, they have the opportunity to create one of their favorite styles, and they want to celebrate it.

“We were in Nashville for Craft Brewers Conference, and stumbled into a brewery that was having a lager and pilsner tap takeover,” said Brandalynn Armstrong, co-owner of ZerØday. “We thought, we should do this back home, and the event was born.”

Along with brewing their pilsner, ZerØday is also celebrating the style with their PA Pilsner and Lager Tap Takeover on Saturday, July 28. They will have lagers from several breweries across the state perfect for the heat of the summer.

Pilsner roundup

I would say our area is pretty lucky to have so many damn good pils offerings to drink. Here’s a list of not only local but global pils that show the diversity of the style.

Local Pils

brewery pils pizza boy brewing co.

Tröegs Independent Brewing Sunshine Pils — It’s a classic. Now available year-round, you don’t have to wait until the middle of spring to sip on this beer of ultimate refreshment.

Pizza Boy Brewing Co. Brewery Pilsner — I just discovered this one not too long ago, and I love it. If the taste doesn’t get you, the price point certainly will — It’s $10 for a six-pack of pounders or just $36 for a case.

Ever Grain Brewing Co. Camp Pils — It might be one of the most fitting beer names around, and it’s incredibly easy to drink. It kicks in with a crisp hop bite and then finishes dry.

Pennsylvania Pils


Victory Brewing Co. Prima Pils — Another standard Pennsylvania pilsner that stays true to the style with a slight lean on the hops more so than most.

Penn Brewing Penn Pilsner — Penn has been making this beer for what may seem like forever. It’s no wonder it’s a staple within the Pennsylvania craft beer landscape.

National Pils

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Pivo Pils — Pivo means beer in many languages. Serbian, Polish, Croatian, and I could keep going, so it’s fitting that this beer is essential named “Beer Pils.”

Global Pils

Pilsner Urquell — A beer that created and defined the style. It’s a legendary beer that has been brewed the same way since 1842. No list of pilsners can be complete without this one somewhere.

What is your favorite pilsner?

James Werner
Author: James Werner

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