Imperial Pilsner? What the heck is that?
Well, there was only one way to find out.
|Me and Jeff get ready to taste Sierra Nevada's Imperial Pilsner.|
We cracked open the first Imperial Pilsner with something like glee. The pilsner is probably the most common more-or-less traditionally American style beer in this country, but I'd never heard the term "imperial" attached to it before. Classically, imperial beers were brewed in England for export to the nobility in Russia, though in later years the term has come to indicate the highest quality of beer that a given brewery makes, bottled for export to upscale markets. In the American craft brew market, imperial tends to indicate "big", full-bodied beers, especially stouts.
This is why the idea of having an imperial pilsner was so weird. Because in America, we tend to associate the term "imperial" with stouts, but this was being applied to a pilsner. Just based on the name, therefore, I expected a super hopped pilsner running at least 8% alcohol by volume (ABV).
In the event, the Imperial Pilsner poured golden and crystal clear. I was a little surprised, having expected a certain murkiness based on the "imperial" in the name, but it was still a very pretty beer. When I looked on the bottle, I was further surprised to see that the Imperial Pilsner came in at only 5.6% ABV.
Given the clarity of the beer, the smell wasn't too surprising. The Imperial Pilsner was a very fresh smelling, slightly malty beer with just a hint of hop fruitiness. A very appealing smell, but not by any means strong or overwhelming.
Taste & Mouth Feel
Right at the front, this was a beer with a lot of carbonation. It popped beautifully in the mouth and then settled back, delivering that distinctly drinkable experience that you can only get from a well-made, well-balanced pilsner. On my second sip, I noticed the distinctly tangy, hoppy notes that were no doubt the origination of the "imperial" note on the label. These weren't by any means overwhelming, but they were definitely there, balancing the malt and the carbonation to give this beer the flavor its crafters were looking for.
Jeff and I both liked the Imperial Pilsner a lot. Like I said, it was an even, drinkable beer, made with obvious care and quality ingredients. I won't say that it's my favorite pilsner, and I'm still not sure that it's "imperial" in any way that truly matters, but as part of the total Beer Camp experience, this one held up its end nicely.