April 11, 2014 by Matt Michini
With springtime upon us, it’s time to start enjoying one of my favorite beer styles, Pilsner. This light lager style is typically hops-forward, with crisp malt flavors and moderate to high carbonation. Pilsners are typically light in color and body and are hopped with German and Czech varieties, which lend earthy, spicy flavor characteristics to the beer. Because of the light flavor profile, any imperfection in a Pilsner will not go unnoticed. In addition, the brewing process for a Pilsner is usually longer than that for a typical ale. These may be a few reasons why craft-brewed Pilsners are few and far between today. Because of their scarcity, I usually scoop up any craft Pilsner I can find on the shelf. The other day, it happened to be North Coast Brewing Co.’s Scrimshaw Pilsner.
What is scrimshaw anyway? Being an engineering graduate student, I don’t know much about anthropology or nautical history. But using Google, I found that scrimshaw is actually a form of engraving, often made from the bones and teeth of whales — fitting for a brewery with a giant sperm whale swimming through its logo. It turns out I could have also just looked at the beer’s label — there’s a giant scrimshaw right in the middle of it.
I’ve heard much about this American Pilsner, but I hadn’t had the chance to try it until I picked up a bottle at RyBrew. North Coast Brewing Co. is located in historic Fort Bragg, Calif., which is about a three-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco. The brewery was one of the first of the craft beer revolution, having opened its doors in 1988. Since then, its beers have won over 70 national and international awards.
Into a Pilsner glass, the Scrimshaw pours a straw yellow-gold with a bubbly white foam stand. Likely unfiltered, the beer appears hazy in the glass, in contrast with the typical brilliant clarity of other Pilsners. Grains and soft hop notes abound in the aroma. The flavors are mild and smooth, with malt notes and earthy hops standing out. A nice amount of carbonation and light body make Scrimshaw easy to drink.
Coming in at 4.7 percent ABV, this Pilsner is neither aggressively malty nor lacking in flavor. The nice balance between flavors results in a refreshing, drinkable brew. This beer is an indispensable barbecue companion, and its tastiness is evidenced by the many medals it’s won. It’s compellingly agreeable on the palate and a refreshing brew to throw back on a warm day. Cheers!