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Chicagoist Beer of the Week: Half Acre's Pony Pilsner

By Jason Baldacci in Food on May 3, 2013 9:40PM

2013_5_3_pony_pils.jpgToday, we hop up onto our proverbial craft beer soapbox (which would probably just be an unopened case of beer) to give credit where credit is due to a style of beer that many people brush past when they're getting interested in specialty beer.

Pony Pilsner is Half Acre's latest easy-drinking offering for the sunny days to come (here's to hoping). It's refreshingly crisp, nice and clean, and comes with a brisk bite of earthy hops. It's snappy up front, with nice minerality on the mid-palate, and a floral tone that lingers on the finish. At 5.8 percent alcohol content, we feel like we could drink about eighteen of these in one sitting, preferably outside with the sun pounding down on our faces.

In our opinion, pilsner doesn't get the recognition it deserves. While craft beer's most militant fans are obsessing over barrel-aged stouts and imperial IPAs, or tracking down the latest representation of some obscure, ancient style of beer that their friends have never heard of, the vast majority of the beer drinking public (craft and mass market drinkers alike) are seeking out something that's simply quenching. Pilsner is the all-purpose beer, the style that anyone who likes beer can enjoy at any time of the year (or even the day). It's far and away the most popular and widely consumed style of beer in the world, and that's because it's approachable, easy to drink, and in certain cases, just inoffensive. We can understand how it might be difficult to get excited about a lighter beer, but the beauty of pilsner is that it's brewed NOT to be complex.

Very few American Craft breweries bother to brew a pilsner beer, for a couple different reasons. First, pilsners and other lagers take longer to ferment than their ale counterparts, since they ferment at refrigerated temperatures instead of warmer ones. A lot of American Craft breweries are struggling to keep up with demand for their products right now, so most of them prefer not to brew a beer that ferments slower and ties up valuable fermentation space when their customers are screaming for more beer. A pilsner usually takes 4 to 6 weeks from start to finish, while a light-bodied, blond ale could take as little as 2 to 3 weeks. The faster a brewery can clear out fermentation tanks, the faster they can load them up with more batches and keep feeding the beast. Bottom line, time is money, and sometimes it's more expensive to brew pilsners or other lagers.

Second, pilsner is actually an incredibly difficult style to master. Tracy Hurst of Metropolitan Brewing once told us that the hardest part about brewing lagers is that "they tell on you if you fuck them up." Seeing as Metropolitan only brews lagers, we're inclined to believe she knows what she's talking about. These beers aren't meant to be robustly flavored, they're brewed to be crisp, refreshing, and enjoyed in large quantities whenever possible. If there's even the slightest hint of an off flavor in a pilsner, it's oftentimes very apparent, even to the palate of a novice. If a brewer makes a mistake, or if a batch just doesn't turn out as good as they might have hoped, dumping a batch of beer that's already taken longer than another batch could prove to be very costly for a small operation.

Personally, a fresh pilsner is one of our favorite things to drink, and we're happy that Half Acre is taking the time to brew one. We enjoyed a pint this week up at Jerry's Sandwiches in Andersonville.