Wisdom from The Clubhouse

Burning Question: IPA or Pilsner?

The eternal brew-dog is all but a birthright for the American male—right up there next to Spaghetti Westerns, flannel shirts, and a total ineptitude when it comes to changing the propane tank on the gas grill. Far more than just a refreshing beverage, it’s a workday savior, a weekend elixir, a catalyst for bonding, and for many of us, pretty much the only legal thing we’re still allowed to do as adults that could be categorically described as an ass-load of fun. Fireworks and speedboats excluded, of course.

But there is a question that’s haunted many of us for years, going all the way back to our first forbidden sips of the old man’s Scheisterbrau. Which to choose, between an IPA and a Pilsner? Both are very popular styles of beer, with the latter being brought over to America by German brewers in the mid-1800s, while the former—at least in the form we know it—came to America in the 1970s, thanks to a renaissance in craft brewing. As lagers, pilsners tend to be defined by a crisper, cleaner taste, while IPA’s (at least here in the U.S.) generally are maltier, hoppier, and thanks to their ale yeast strain, a little bit fruitier and more complex. Today, IPA’s are more often associated with high-quality craft beer, while pilsners (although craft brewers are just starting to make them as well) often carry connotations of something macro-brewed that comes in a can.

Don’t get us wrong—we love both. And having to choose is a bit like picking between Sophia Loren or Brigitte Bardot. They would BOTH make wonderful prom dates. But we’re choosing pilsners, especially with the warmer weather, and here’s why. A true well-made pilsner is a work of art. The good stuff, German or Czech, Budvar or Urquell, or even the domestic versions made by Firestone or Rogue. Because if you’re talking about the barley-pop in a can you get at the supermarket, then no, pilsners are not going to win over any hearts and minds. But an authentic old-world pilsner is a study in balance and refreshment. Not too hoppy, not too sweet, and with a foamy head and just enough carbonation to wet your whistle. Think of it as a brut champagne, clean and crisp. IPA’s are very good, but all that cloying richness and astringent hoppiness can be a bit much on the tongue in large doses. Pilsners, as one might expect from a style made famous by German and Czech immigrants, are made for all-day drinking and extended good times, be it in a beer garden in Munich, or a backyard in Texas.

Fireworks and speedboats not included, of course.