What differentiates an Italian Pilsner from, say, a German or Czech Pilsner? It’s all about the hops. All Pilsners should be clean and smooth, but the Italian style will impart a strong floral aroma thanks to dry-hopping. No surprise, then, that it is currently seeing a surge in popularity in the Pacific Northwest, as brewers continue to experiment, dry-hopping this Pilsner with various new and old-world hops.
California-based brewery Firestone Walker was the first in the United States to put their own spin on the style when, in 2012, they attempted to emulate the dry-hopped Tipopils, first brewed in 1996 by Birrifico Italiano, near Milan, Italy. Since then, brewers from around the world have been seeking to marry the clean taste of a Pilsner with the aromatics of hops.
Here are five great expressions of this style made by talented brewers from Oregon to British Columbia:
Italian Pilsner | Lowercase Brewing – Seattle
Lowercase acknowledges Tipopils right out of the gate as its main inspiration. It uses Pilsner malt from Europe and is double dry-hopped with Hallertau Mittelfruh and Saphir hops, which are both of old-world origin and most commonly found in German Pilsners. This beer finishes both clean and soft, with spice and grassy hop notes both in the aroma and on the palate. (4.8% ABV)
Pils Bernina | Ferment Brewing – Hood River, Ore.
Hood River’s Ferment Brewing has been making a lot of heads turn in the Columbia Gorge and, by extension, the Portland beer scene as they continue to churn out well-executed beers since they opened in 2018. Ferment’s Italian Pilsner expression is filtered to shine bright and clear, while bringing the most heat at 6% ABV. but Still, it doesn’t come across hot on the palate, instead finishing dry and round, with a fuller mouthfeel than other expressions. It is dry-hopped with German hops Hersbrucker, Hallertau Blanc and Tettnanger. (6% ABV)
Italian Pilsner | Old Stove – Seattle
Since opening their doors at Pike Place Market in 2016, Old Stove has been carving out a name for itself, earning accolades such as Seattle Magazine’s “best brewery taproom” of 2018. Its take on the Italian Pilsner starts out the classic Czech way, with Saaz and Saphir hops in the boil before being dry-hopped with German Saphir hops. This gives the beer a decidedly grassy character, making it a great food beer for dishes with similarly assertive herbaceousness. (4.73% ABV)
La Piazza | Luppolo Brewing – Vancouver, B.C.
It makes sense that Luppolo would crank out a quality offering in this style, given that a refined, Italian style is their entire ethos. Should one happen to find their way to the taproom on the east side of the Strathcona neighborhood in Vancouver, they’d likely find the modern aesthetic a perfect backdrop for fresh Italian-style pies and beers; especially La Piazza. This beer was made with all Pilsner malt and dry-hopped with Hallertau hops. The star of the show here is the tall, fluffy white head and lacing sitting atop this beautiful golden lager. (5% ABV)
Blippo Pils | Baerlic Brewing – Portland, Ore.
What Portland’s Baerlic does differently from the other Italian-style Pilsners in this list is employ a relatively new hop from the Alsace region of France. This hop, known as Aramis, offers spicy and herbal character along with citrusy flavors to create a beer that is both complex and full bodied. Baerlic has recently expanded their location in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood in SE Portland, collaborating with pizzamaker Ranch PDX, and calling the union a “piehall.” Here, customers can pair fine lagers and ales such as Blippo Pils with crispy, chewy, thick slices of Sicilian-style pizza. (5.2% ABV)