Pils Continental Pilsner by Fulton

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This story is a product of Heavy Table’s first Listening Session, underwritten and hosted by the Lakewinds Food Co-op. On May 23, we interviewed 15 local food artisans over the course of eight hours, with a goal of taking a snapshot of the vibrant Minnesota food scene.

These are the salad days of beer writing. Barely a week goes by without the release of something new and beguiling: High-end coffee beers! Barrel-aged sours! Cross-brewery collaborations! Beers infused with (insert local/seasonal/rare ingredient here)!

Local craft beers increasingly come out with a ready-made hook or handle to grip into: It’s super spicy! It’s hoppy beyond belief! It’s loaded with real blueberry flavor! It’s a re-creation of a (domestically) obscure German style! Some of these angles are gimmicks, some of them are delicious and brilliant, and some are unquestionably both. And many of them are routes for the brewer to boost the price (to, say, $12-$18 a 750 milliliter bottle) and compete head-to-head with wine in terms of depth of flavor and prestige.

Therefore it’s interesting and noteworthy when local craft brewers head in the other direction with their product — putting it out in cans, simplifying the flavor profiles, aiming for sessionability and accessibility without losing the “craft” balance and quality that they’ve become known for. Many local brewers with sophisticated barrel-aging programs have begun a simultaneous surge into the everyday thirst-quencher market, and Fulton has been right in the mix with the launch last year of its Standard Lager brand.

Now Fulton is doubling down, with the addition of a no-frills Pilsner to its roster of perennial beers.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

“Everything we do at Fulton is to make sure we’re covering the basics and releasing a really quality, solid product before we branch out and do some of the crazier stuff,” says Fulton brewer Jeff Seidenstricker. “The Pilsner style is an extremely classic recipe. The vast majority of the malt is Pilsner malt, and the same thing with the hops. We stuck with the noble hops, the Saaz hops specifically, characteristic of the Pilsner style. And that’s it — just letting those ingredients shine.”

Pils is among the most balanced beers we’ve tried, with subtle, earthy noble hops and a malt backbone that offers depth of flavor, plus a bold, fruity, “hey, am I back in Milwaukee in the 1980s?” yeast bite that brings the package together. If there’s a platonic ideal of “beer,” this might be it. There’s no lavender nose, no palate-scorching astringent finish, no barnyard funk — just straight-up, balanced, refreshing brew. The impression of moderate sensibility that Pils imparts is supported by its numbers: 5.3 percent ABV, and 30 IBU, comfortably hanging out at the median for a contemporary craft-beer release.

“It’s very true to the style, as far as fermentation process and the yeast that we’re using,” says Seidenstricker.

If you’re looking for a break from overhopped booze-bombs, or if “classic and balanced” happens to be your thing, Pils represents.

Editor’s note, June 15, 2017: This story was edited to remove an inaccurate reference to esters.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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