Started in 1991, John Harrington, of Harrington’s Breweries (Christchurch NZ), set out to brew affordable and tasty beers as an alternative to the overpriced brown ales dominant in New Zealand. At least that’s the story on their website. At the very least, Harrington’s tends to be a slightly more affordable craft beer and is available at most supermarkets. Today I thought I’d tackle their pilsner.
What is a pilsner? As mentioned in our previous discussion of IPAs and APAs, beer was traditionally brewed dark. With clean burning coal allowing for lightly roasted malts and a paler ale, all sorts of brewing possibilities opened up. In the early 1800’s England started producing pale ales and then especially the “Indian Pale Ale” which was exported to India with extra hops preserving the beer for the duration of the voyage. At the same time pale ales were also being brewed throughout Europe. Pilsner is a style of pale ale that takes its name from the Bohemian city of Pilsen, which at the time was a part of the Austrian Empire. While Indian Pale Ale took off in England and India, Pilsners were increasingly the rage in Europe. The clear golden beer was a welcome alternative to darker European Ales.
How is it different to something like an IPA? What should one expect from a pilsner?
IPA’s tend to try and balance malt and hops. Strong hops are added to strong malts and the result is a reasonably big beer full of flavor and complexity. Pilsners on the other hand tend to be lighter beers. The lighter malts used in a pilsner aren’t as strong as in an IPA and thus the bitterness of hops comes through without the brewer needing to be so heavy handed with the hops. A pilsner is still a hoppy beer but it is more easy going. One should therefore expect the bitterness of hops, but also more pleasant (but subtle) flavor profiles are given a chance to come through. This Harrington’s pilsner is promising gooseberry aromas and peachy/apricot flavors. We’ll see. Pilsners also tend to have a dry finish, which basically means a crisp finish rather than a sweet lingering finish. Let’s see if this is the case.
Price: $4.99 500mils
Alcohol content: 5%
Colour: A lovely bright golden colour. A lot more pale than an IPA which tends towards a browny/orangy gold. This is very pale. Slightly cloudy. Not much bubbles.
Aroma: Sweet to smell. Honey and peaches.
Palate: It’s fizzy. Feels light and refreshing in the mouth. You pick up the bitterness and grassy flavour of the hops straight away and then lovely hints of tropical fruit.
Finish: The contrast when it comes to the finish between this pilsner and the Epic Pale Ale from last week is quite remarkable. While the flavors of the Epic Pale Ale linger, with the pilsner the bitterness drops off straight away, closely followed by the sweetness of fruit. And then it’s gone. It is a clean and dry finish and a part of what makes a pilsner such a refreshing beer.
On the Chart: On the chart we’re in the hoppy and simple quadrant. Here the continuum between hops and malt on the chart doesn’t quite work. The Epic Pale Ale from last week was more hoppy than this pilsner but also had unmistakable caramel malt flavors in the mix. And so, while the pilsner is placed on the chart as being less hoppy than the Epic Pale Ale, it is not more malty. You don’t pick up any malt flavors in this pilsner. This of course make it less complex but also potentially more of a refreshing beer.
Conclusion: I’ve not drunk a lot of Harrington’s but I have most of their premium range at one stage or another. They genuinely are a more affordable craft beer but, at least in regards to this Rogue Hop NZ Pilsner, that doesn’t mean you are getting a second rate beer. This pilsner is on point; delicious and refreshing with the sweetness coming from the fruitiness of the hops rather than the caramel sugars of malt. I’d happily recommend this to anyone looking to sample a pilsner, especially after a great days fishing and with a plate of fresh Snapper.