Holy Shit! A Decent European Lager!

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I am a white American male, and thus privileged. I do not use "privilege" as a pejorative. It's an awesome experience. I can't recommend it highly enough. My peers who try to talk their way around acknowledging the obvious tend to do so by pointing out that there are degrees of privilege. This is true, in much the same way that some parts of Alaska are colder than others, and some kittens are particularly cute. But just because some of us have it extra-good doesn't mean the rest of us have it bad.

That said, fuck my city's despicable population of life-long grad students. I was spoiled, but only "parents will cosign loans to pay for a private college that's no better than the state university" spoiled. Which is pretty spoiled! But it's not "Sure, kid, just kinda dick around Cambridge until you're 32, then think about getting a job if it suits your temperament when the time comes" spoiled.

I hate these balding teenagers, because I envy them. If I'd wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or some real shit like that, my parents probably would've tried to make it happen, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't even have believed me if I'd tried to explain that a masters in journalism is a thing that exists. They'd have thought it was a scam, and that I was going to legally change my name to "Boston University Accounts Receivable" and cash their checks for beer money.


My impotent, hypocritical, jealous rage toward these super-privileged people was at its peak back when I worked for a cooking magazine that used unpaid interns. These interns were by and large cool, talented people who'd decided to freshen up their resumes with culinary school after deciding their multiple advanced degrees in nonapplied poetry were getting a little stale. They were mostly in their late twenties and early thirties, and I'm not certain any of them had ever filed a tax return, but every last one of these motherfuckers had been to every food-having country on earth. So whenever you mentioned a remotely ethnic food, you got to hear about how the local knock-off had been ruined for them after their many rapturous backpackings through its native land. It's infuriating to listen to gray-haired people who don't pay their own phone bill talk about how the neighborhood falafel guy just doesn't cut it after a pre-post-pre-grad semester in Lebanon.

How does it feel to listen to a pampered guy complain about even more pampered guys? Pretty good, I bet, but it's still time we get to the beer around here.


I've never liked a European lager. Drunkspin has brought righteous hellfire down upon Heineken and Amstel Light in particular—those kind of posts are fun, because it's cool to be mean, and because imported lagers are the very fattest fish in the beer-blogging barrel. Everyone knows they suck, and they don't even get the nostalgia points we'll sometimes dole out to, say, Budweiser. No one's granddad drank Heineken while listening to baseball on the radio or fighting to keep the schools segregated.

So I say hateful things about easy targets, and everyone claps, and it's all very gratifying. Except for the exception, which is when the fancier-pantsed commenters feel the need to inform us that shitty Dutch beer tastes so much better at the Vermeer Museum on the Eastwest Bank of the River Holland. To which I always respond, "I bet it does, and I hope you die!" See? There's that jealousy again.


I'm not constitutionally opposed to European beer (love the Belgians) or lagers (last year's "Spring Beers, Ranked" column was a dirty trick to get you to read a list of my favorite American pilsners). But European lagers always taste like skunky notebook paper by the time they get to me, and I don't have the means to meet them even halfway, so I'd just kinda written off the entire category. Until!

You can get Pilsner Urquell in cans now. Tallboys, too. I'm a sucker for pilsners and cans and four extra ounces of beer, so I bought a relatively fresh Urquell the other day figuring I'd have some nice hate-post fuel that would maybe even be good enough to make chili with after I was done exaggerating my outrage. This was not the case. It turns out that if you get it in something resembling a fresh state, Pilsner Urquell is a damn fine beer.


This is the original pilsner beer, btw, brewed in Plzen, Czech Republic, since 1842. But just because you invent the style doesn't mean you're any damn good at it nearly 200 years later, and word on the street is that quality slipped mightily during the Communist period. But they're making a marketing push to get back in good American graces, and they've switched from green to brown bottles (which helps a lot) and to cans. (Which helps the most: Beer gets wrecked by UV light, which makes clear bottles worthless, green bottles only a bit better, and so on until you reach aluminum.)

These days, pilsners are broadly understood to be light lagers brewed with Saaz hops, a distinctly earthy, peppery variety native to the Czech Republic. The water's said to be special over there, too. I dunno. My understanding is that with modern treatment options, a water's source isn't as big a determinant in a beer's quality anymore. But, I repeat: I dunno. I'm not some kind of beer-rocket scientist.


Pilsner Urquell is a nice orange-tinted copper color, a shade darker than I'd expected. (I have still yet to determine an ounce of correlation between a beer's color and its quality. I only include this part so people have to complain, "This 1,000-word beer review only has 71 words about beer!" as opposed to "... only has 57 words about beer!") It smells like biscuity malt, light lemon zest, and herb(s?)—I don't know which herb or herbs, not tarragon or dill I guess, maybe one of the other gourmet French soup ones—and it tastes that way, too, with a pronounced spicy black-pepper kick from the hops. There's not as much of a fruit or pine sensation as an American drinker might expect from a hop-focused beer, which is part of the fun. Pilsner Urquell is good!

This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.


Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.

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