For local beer lovers, this is an introduction to a new beer style: Scandinavian Pilsner. Currently, only one brewery in the United States brews this style of beer: Atwood Farm Brewery in Blaine, WA. Scandinavian Pilsner is a historic beer style with a lineage dating back centuries. Its proud history is also entirely fabricated.
It is new, it is different, but is it a pilsner? Yes and no. Pilsner is a word. So is SKANDIPILS. Stylistically and technically, SKANDIPILS Scandinavian Pilsner most closely resembles Cold IPA in that it blurs the lines between style and method. It also shares another important kinship with Cold IPA: it is sure to inspire heated criticism from purists who hate seeing beer words thrown around so recklessly. SKANDIPILS is crisp and clear, like a pilsner, so…
The brewery even includes IKEA-like instructions for how to drink SKANDIPILS. Those instructions include directions for how to bash the beer on UnTappd.
Beer is serious business, but to a larger degree, it is fun. With that in mind, here is what Atwood Farm Brewery says about its Scandinavian Pilsner, in their own words
ATWOOD FARM BREWERY UNLEASHES SCANDINAVIAN PILSNER ON UNSUSPECTING WORLD
BLAINE, WA – Pilsner is the world’s most popular beer style, and while you can now easily find Bohemian Pilsners, German Pilsners, American Pilsners, Italian Pilsners, Mexican Lagers, and various other interpretations of the Czech-born beer style, no one ever talks about Scandinavian Pilsner.
The origins of this Pilsner sub-style can be traced back to the glacier-scoured western shores of Norway. Families from that part of Norway moved to western Washington, to places like Ballard, Poulsbo, Bellingham and Blaine, and brought with them their deep knowledge of commercial fishing and their even deeper thirst for pale, crisp beers.
“When I first heard about Scandinavian Pilsner, I wondered how I had never tasted an example of the style before, especially considering all of the commercial fishermen I know who can trace their family lineage back to Norway,” said Atwood Farm Brewery brewer/owner, Josh Smith.
After researching Scandinavian Pilsner on his iPhone while drinking Akvavit and eating pickled herring at a local tavern near Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Smith felt confident enough to brew his own interpretation of the novel Nordic beer: SKANDIPILS.
The beer has sold well, and with the buzz around this initial batch, Smith predicts there will be a great surge in other breweries tackling the style and that, “there will be as much debate about the merits of Scandinavian Pilsner as a beer style as there are about Cold IPA, given enough time for the style to percolate amongst craft brewers.”
Smith says he draws the comparison between Scandinavian Pilsner and Cold IPA because they both blur the lines between beer styles, by straddling the dueling realms of ale and lager to make delightful, tasty beer. With the impending, meteoric rise of the Scandinavian Pilsner style, it is important to note that it is, in fact, a completely made up beer style without any factual history, created by Smith to help sell Atwood’s newest beer, SKANDIPILS.
The concept of Scandinavian Pilsner, however, is born out of a very real and simple idea that Smith takes zero credit for: brewing pseudo lagers with a clean ale yeast. Craft brewers have been doing this for decades.
What makes Atwood’s SKANDIPILS different, though, is the isolated strain of Norwegian farmhouse yeast, or “kveik,” used for fermentation. ‘Lutra Kveik’ was identified by Omega Yeast Labs from a mixed kveik culture and is marketed on the merits of its ultra clean fermentation profile. From a technical standpoint, the yeast allows for Atwood’s SKANDIPILS to complete primary fermentation in just 2-3 days, at an elevated temperature between 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit, ultimately going “from grain to glass” in under two weeks. In almost every way, SKANDIPILS is the opposite of a lager fermented in the low 50s and cold conditioned near freezing temperature for six to eight weeks before packaging. That is, until you consider how it looks and tastes.
SKANDIPILS pours a clear golden yellow, with a persistent white head that leaves fine lacing on the glass. Notes of sweet grain, biscuit and mild nuttiness combine with herbal, floral hops and a light fruitiness in the aroma and flavor. While purists may argue that it doesn’t taste exactly the same as a traditional Pilsner brewed cool and slow with lager yeast, Smith says, “it’s pretty damn close.”
SKANDIPILS is branded in the style of an Ikea instruction manual, but instead of putting together a bookshelf, you are given guidance on how to drink the beer and leave a low Untappd review when you are done, “because it’s a Pilsner-style beer,” Smith jokes. Smith collaborated closely on the branding concept with Atwood’s graphic designer, Amanda Nolan, and, “she executed it perfectly,” Smith said.
Despite the cheeky marketing angle of this Scandinavian Pilsner, Smith was quick to point out his respect and appreciation for traditional lagers and his colleagues that are devoted to producing them: “In an effort to be transparent while still having fun with the marketing of this beer, we made a point of using the description ‘Kveik-fermented Pilsner-style Beer’ on the cans so people may understand this isn’t actually a lager, but the flavor will be familiar.”
SKANDIPILS was brewed entirely with raw materials grown and processed within 50 miles of the brewery, including pilsner and vienna malts from Skagit Valley Malting in Burlington, WA; and Mt. Hood, Sterling and Triumph hops from Bredenhof Hop Farms in Abbotsford, BC.
SKANDIPILS is currently available in cans directly from the brewery, and is also available in cans and on draft at select retailers in northwest Washington and Seattle. For more information about SKANDIPILS, visit www.atwoodales.com and follow @atwoodfarmbrewery on Instagram and Facebook.
About Atwood Farm Brewery
Established in 2016 in rural, northwest Washington State, our small, family farm grows ingredients for the on-site brewery where we produce unique ales inspired by French and Belgian farmhouse brewing traditions. We start with local ingredients: water from our local aquifer; malt from less than 50 miles away in the Skagit Valley; hops from less than 40 miles away in the Fraser Valley and also estate-grown hops from less than 100 yards away on our own farm. Then, we add other ingredients sourced from our own farm; gathered and foraged from the peripheries of our property; or purchased from local organic farmers, producers and processors. Finally, we often ferment at, or near, ambient temperatures, using a variety of vessels (open, closed, stainless and wood), with expressive yeast strains, before packaging and bottle conditioning or canning the vast majority of our beers.
For more news about recent beer releases, visit the Washington Beer Blog’s New Beer Releases page.