As this pilsner thing bubbled up unexpectedly this week, it revived an idea I've been toying with for a few years. Four or five years ago, as Oregon started to be fertile ground for these really good, classic pilsners, I thought it would be cool to do a blind tasting with the brewers who made them. My inspiration was more journalistic. I thought it would be fun to have them discuss pilsners while tasting them, and from that session I'd get a sense of why they had returned to this classic (and un-American) old style.
I didn't manage to get around to it, though, and then more and more breweries started making them. Now there are, off-hand, eight examples I really like (Arch Rock, Breakside, Buoy, The Commons, Ecliptic Spica, Heater-Allen, Occidental, pFriem, Upright Engelberg). If I'm in a pub and any one of these beers is on tap, I almost certainly order it at some point. Hop Valley apparently discontinued its great Czech Your Head (also a great name), and it looks like Ninkasi has, too. Then there are others like Widmer's PDX Pils that I've never tried. There are even helleses like Zoiglhaus Lents Lager and Ninkasi Helles Belles that are pretty close to the wheelhouse. Add all this up and you've got something approaching a score of great pale lagers.
There oughta be a competition.
I'm terrible at implementation, but I'd love these wonderful little beers--perfect standards of counter-programing in hoppy, aley Beervana--to get more attention. They aren't braggy beers, and they are misunderstood. The people who prize them form a kind of secret society. And yet making them isn't easy, and it takes more time and is more expensive. Breweries who put in the effort do it for the love of these beers, and I feel that love. So someone (obviously not me) should arrange a Pilsner Cup to select Beervana's finest. A good blind-tasting like Willamette Week implemented for its beer awards this year would produce a credible winner. I for one would be fascinated to see who would come out on top. I don't know that I could make a call myself.