Fine-Tuning: Making a Better Pilsner

Ah, the pilsner. A style that your dad drinks because his dad drank it and his dad probably did, too. A style some people believe is better chugged than sipped, written off by many craft fans as the kind of beer “only macro breweries” make. A style that has seemingly gone the way of rock ‘n’ roll: why play the guitar when electronic music is all the rage? Why bother with a pilsner when there are so many extreme beer styles out there?

“Because a great pilsner is flipping delicious.”

That’s Steve Forman, Pub Brewer at GLBC, and while he didn’t actually say “flipping,” Forman is not one to mince words. The man loves pilsners and it shows in the newest year-round beer at GLBC, Turntable Pils. When the brewery decided to retire the long-time favorite Wright Pils, Forman saw an opportunity to reenergize a classic style. And so, like a musician reaching for a beat up Gibson instead of a brand new synthesizer, Forman found inspiration by getting back to the basics. I sat down with him to find out how he developed the Turntable recipe.

So what is a pilsner? Are there different types of pilsners?
A pilsner is a type of light lager. German and Czech pilsners are the two most traditional types of pilsner, but aside from the hops, there isn’t a huge difference between the two. German pilsners tend to be grassy, floral, and grainy in flavor, while a good Czech pilsner is a bit more spicy, crisp, and earthy. Turntable is an example of a Czech-styled pilsner.

Considering it’s a lager, I think it’s easy to forget how important hops are to a good pilsner.
Oh, yeah. We use Sterling hops for Turntable which shares a lot of characteristics of Saaz hops, a variety commonly used in pilsners.

Are pilsners easy to make?
Yes and no. The malt and hop bill are simple, so on paper, it’s a pretty easy beer to make. But pilsners can be so light that it’s very easy to pick up any off-flavors that may occur during the brewing process. If you want your pilsner to be crisp and clean, you have to be on your game during fermentation. I watch over any pilsner I brew like it’s a newborn baby.

How is Turntable Pils different from the Wright Pils?
It’s not that I didn’t like Wright Pils, it’s just I wanted to make a better pilsner. To me, the Wright Pils was a bit too bready, but Turntable is everything I want a pilsner to be. It’s crisp. It’s clean. I absolutely love how clean Turntable is. We wanted to make a great traditional pilsner and I think Turntable is as true to style American brewed pilsner as I’ve ever had.

What were you hoping to accomplish when you were working on the recipe?
I just wanted a pilsner I could enjoy. Turntable is the type of beer I could drink all day long because of refreshing it is. A lot of people say Dortmunder Gold is our “gateway” beer for new craft drinkers, but I think Turntable is going to take its place. It tastes great, but it’s approachable in how light and crisp it is.

You’re known for blasting music in the cellar as you brew. What’s been on the playlist lately?
Oh man, that changes every day. Whatever I’m in the mood for I guess. One day it’ll be something heavy like RINGWORM and the next day it’ll be Action Bronson.

If Turntable Pils were a song, what do you think it’d be?
Ha! “What’s Love Got to do With It” by Tina Turner.

You answered that without hesitation.
That’s because Tina Turner rules.

Turntable Pils will join year-round classics Dortmunder Gold Lager, Eliot Ness Amber Lager, Burning River Pale Ale, Commodore Perry IPA, and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter in 6-Packs, 12-Packs, and Draft starting in Ohio in January 2017 before rolling into all of GLBC’s distribution markets in March. Read more about our entire 2017 release calendar here.