Allow me to introduce you to my new Italian friend
Chuckanut Brewery just released a new beer: Italian-Style Pilsner. When it comes to European-style pilsners, most beer lovers know about Czech-style and German-style. You will find plenty of information on the internet about those two styles. Recently, a few breweries around the Northwest have introduced the word Italian to the pilsner dialog. So, what is so Italian about Italian pilsner?
Many people credit one brewery in Italy for introducing the earliest version of this style. Birrifico Italiano’s Tipopils is brewed in a small Italian town southwest of Lake Como. Birrifico Italiano began brewing the beer over 25 years ago.
For most American beer lovers, the introduction happened several years ago, though they probably didn’t realize it. Tipopils was the inspiration behind Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils, which hit the market in 2013.
What makes it Italian?
So what is it? The shortest answer, Italian pilsners are super-hopped versions of German pilsners. Brewers accomplish this extra-hoppy character by dry-hopping the beer with noble hops (traditional European hop varieties). If that’s all you know about Italian pilsner, you know more than most of the other people at the bar. There really isn’t anything that makes it Italian.
But that ain’t the whole story, just most of it.
Some brewers ferment Italian pilsner at a higher temperature. Not insanely high, but higher than other styles of pilsner. Without diving too deep into the biochemistry of brewing, the intention is to get more flavor out of the grains and the yeast, though the technique does present some challenges.
Some brewers also adjust the water chemistry when creating Itailan pilsner, as Jeff Alworth explains in his book Secrets of Master Brewers. The adjustment typically involves the pH level of both the mash and the sparge liquor. If you find this level of beer geekery appealing, you need a copy of Secrets of Master Brewers.
Of course, I should point out that the most significant difference between Italian pilsner and other styles of pilsner is the label. Without fail, you can expect an Italian pilsner to feature the word Italian on the label. Seriously. Most craft brewers would not put that word on the label unless it deserved to be on the label, but no laws exist to prevent using the word Italian just because it’s trendy.
Now that I’ve said all that, I want to reiterate that the extra-hoppy character is the primary attribute differentiating Italian pilsner from other pilsners. Dry-hopped with noble hops.
Chuckanut Brewery Releases an Italian Pilsner
Chuckanut Brewery has twice participated in the Pils and Love Festival at Birrificio Italiano, a brewery in northern Italy. That’s where they learned to appreciate the Italian pilsner style.
This is the second batch of Chuckanut Italian Pilsner. “The first was brewed a couple years ago for Chuck’s Hop Shop in Seattle,” explains a release notice from the brewery. “Since that time Italian Style Pilsner has become an up-and-coming style of beer, popular in the northwest.”
“The Chuckanut Brewery rendition uses pilsner malt to lay down a backbone that delivers graininess and a light malt sweetness. But the stars of this pilsner are the noble hops used for a clean bitterness and those dry-hopped for flavor and aroma. This is a German-style pilsner on steroids! A highly drinkable lager with huge notes of spicy and herbal hops. Chuckanut Italian Style Pilsner goes great with oysters, seafood, and really anything. It’s best just by itself, cheers!”
For more news about recent beer releases, visit the Washington Beer Blog’s New Beer Releases page.