The imperials: Pilsner
The styles we have covered already include Russian imperial stout, imperial amber, imperial rye and even imperial pumpkin. But the imperial pilsner is about as hard to spot in the wild as the Imperial California Common.
Over the summer, while pouring for Odell on the Haskell’s Cruise, I tried the Odell Double Pilsner and it was everything good about the style plus a serious little punch.
And that, to me, is the mark of an ideal imperial – it carries the style to new heights and defines itself as a separate beer without losing elements of the basic style.
So what could be hidden by imperializing a pilsner? The aroma, for one, should still be crackery, spicy or slightly floral. Many of those same elements should come through in the taste including a slightly sweet Pils malt.
Because the imperial pilsner will have a slight heaviness and viscosity associated with the high alcohol and requisite malt content, some of the dry crispness gets lost.
Both Odell Double Pilsner and Breckenridge Regal Double Pilsner retain some of the pilsner characteristics while amplifying the body and the alcohol content.
At 8.1%, Odell’s version packs a smooth wallop of Saaz hops and crackery malt. The mouthfeel is very smooth and pretty slick.
The second imperial pilsner I have enjoyed is the Breckenridge Regal. The BJCP guideline states that “bitterness is prominent but never harsh” and that describes the Breckenridge Regal.
The floral notes come through nicely in the Regal with a harmony of earthiness and slight citrus.There is an odd minty note to the hops which was not unpleasant but not ideal for a pilsner. It is slightly less intense than the Odell at 7% ABV.
If you like pilsners but find yourself wanting more from the body or the flavor, try an imperial version.
The loss of the crisp and dry character makes them less ideal for me because those are some of my favorite elements of a pilsner. On the other hand, having a slightly more substantial beer makes them better for winter enjoyment!