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The perfect transition beer

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Since imperial pilsners started popping up on the market a few years back—even more so over the last year—I’ve struggled a bit to figure how the style could possibly fit into my regular drinking schedule. A 9%-ABV pilsner? Sure, [insert I don’t know when] seems like a fine time to drink something like that. I’m not a strict seasonal consumer, but I do like sessionable, crisp pilsners in the summer and chewy, warming styles in the winter. Where does the imperial pilsner fit into that? I recently figured it out: Now.

This amped up specialty beer is a worthy style to complement the transition from summer to fall. Think of it as grasping onto the last remaining rays of summer while acknowledging, “winter is coming.” Boulevard Reverb, which clocks in at 7.7% ABV, maintains the lively grains, floral accents and crisp finish of the summer-ready base style, but its sneaky alcohol is a nice touch when the wind turns cold. To me, the Kansas City brewery’s version is a pinnacle example of the style. Terrapin, at 8.9% ABV, is a little louder but still fits the bill: Biscuity, grainy and a touch sweet, the beer still maintains the foundation of a pilsner but adds a noticeable alcohol bite—a snifter and fireplace would suit this beer.

While I can’t imagine cracking open a bottle beachside in June, I wouldn’t mind seeing the style join this time of year’s seasonal Oktoberfests and pumpkin ales. What about you? Do you love imperial pilsners or hate them?

6 Comments

  • Aaron Lindberg says:

    Surprisingly, I really enjoyed Boulevard’s Reverb, (full disclosure: I am a huge fanboy of hometown Boulevard but this in no way skewed my opinion.)
    I am not a big fan of pilsners but this IP I would drink again. I agree this is not something I would open up in the summer after cutting the lawn but I could see it fitting in nicely as a fall relaxing drink outside wearing a long sleeve shirt near the firepit. I like the bold taste and dry finish of Reverb. I would recommend it.

  • A Boerum says:

    In NY, very few are available, so the old Sam Adams Hallateau Imperial is my only, albeit lasting memory of the style. That said, I do agree that now would be the right time for this style and would love to see more offerings in the 6 or 4-pack format. I would like to see Victory variant, personally.

    Anything to turn the tides and push out to sea the beer world’s worst trend….pumpkin beers. It seems pumpkin beers have put a screeching halt on Autumn beer innovation. The best exceptions, IMO, Ommegang Scythe & Sickle and Southern Tier Harvest(ESB. Texas Brown Ales would be a nice place to revisit as well.

  • sjjn says:

    Southern Tier Harvest is an excellent brew.
    I think Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Imperial Pilsner is a really good beer. Great with some hot pretzels and mustard.

  • Tim W says:

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a huge American lager/pilsner fan. I’m drinking an IP that I made the in beginning May now. It was in the primary for 6 weeks and was lagered for 5 more. Three weeks at cellar temp to carbonate up, then been sitting in the fridge for a month or so. It is an amazing beer with a simple grain bill and hop schedule. It is the perfect beer on these late summer evenings out here in Colorado. The warming effect of the 8.4% ABV would make it not the best beer for lawn mowing, as well as not being able to mow straight lines after a few! I am brewing my first dark and heavy beers for fall now. I have recently made an American Brown Ale, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale and an Imperial Chocolate-Cherry stout, realizing winter is coming fast and hard to the high country. The malty goodness of Imperial Pilsners mixed with the extra hops make this one of my favorite Autumn brews. I also think this beer would be a good one for hop crazy ale enthusiasts (me included). I don’t drink much commercially available beer (because my wife only lets me spend so much on booze, so I make my own), but I have tried a few available options, and I generally like them all.

  • Dustin S says:

    My first Imperial Pilsner was the Morimoto Imperial Pilsner from Rogue Brewing (Newport, OR). It is now my favorite style for anytime of year, but I think the author captures it perfectly for those with more strictly seasonal tastes. Tilted Smile Imperial Pils from Crooked Line Brewing in Utah is easily one of my top 5 favorite beers. Also look for Sudwerk Imperial Pilsner (CA) if you’re from the west coast of the U.S.

  • ChuckR says:

    I drink mostly IPA’s and just about any Belgian Style. But we have brewed CAP and BoPils for years. I agree with Dustin S. Morimoto Imperial Pils is a fine example. 9 % is a little large for a regular drinker at my house, but it is a trat when it is on at Issaqua Brew-house, Rogue’s Washington alehouse.

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