Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Harpoon – Big Bohemian Pilsner (Leviathan Series)

You may have noticed that I don’t often review pilsners on this site. What is a pilsner, you ask? It is a Czech beer style that is the basis for most of our American domestic beer (Budweiser, for example, is a pilsner). Pilsners are characterized by their clear yellow color (something that Greg Koch would probably label “fizzy yellow beer”) and thin, dry taste. They’re the beer equivalent of a mild white wine.

But, I thoroughly enjoyed the other offerings in Harpoon’s Leviathan series, so I picked it up anyway.
It pours like the perfect beer commercial – clear yellow with dancing bubbles and a fine, rising head that spills a little bit over the edge of the glass. But that’s where the similarities to Budweiser end. The smell is flowery, hoppy and absolutely inviting. The taste is thicker in the mouth (more syrupy) than any other pilsner I’ve ever tried, and has a nice level of malty smoothness. Its finish is slightly dry, but not as much as I expected. This could be because Harpoon has added quite a bit of malts in here and the alcohol flavor might take away some of the dryness too. For me, that’s a good thing, and I enjoyed drinking this a lot.
There is a vague hint of that “beery” taste that I can only describe as what happens to cheap beer when it warms – I don’t know where it comes from but its one of the reasons I don’t drink domestic beer very often. Maybe its the particular types of malts used that make it a pilsner. I will say that the tiny hint is enough to give it character, without making it a “beer for wussies.”
The 9%ABV also speaks to that, and I don’t think I’ve had anything in a long time that’s that color and that light packing so much of a punch there. Harpoon has another winner here, and if you thin you know all about pilsners, watch out, this one will change your mind quickly.


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  1. Dan

    (Sorry for the late comment; I had gotten behind on my feeds)

    I think you've fallen into the craft brewer aficionado trap of assuming all pilsners — and lagers in general, if we want to get down to it — are watery, flavorless macrocrap. Just because something calls itself a pilsner doesn't make it so: BJCP style 1A is Light American Lager, yes, but Bohemian pilsners, Vienna lagers, even a Classic American Pilsner (which I don't think is really brewed commercially anywhere) are all great beers with a ton of flavor and shouldn't get snubbed just because the Big Guys give them a bad name.

    Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago (right now only available in that area) is lager-only, and I applaud them for that because they're up against anti-lager snobbery.

  2. Anonymous

    I don't think enough craft breweries make pilsners. I enjoy pilsners, I think they're the most refreshing beer style out there if made well.

  3. Beer Haiku Daily

    If you get the opportunity, you should try Clipper City Uber Pils from their Heavy Seas line.

  4. Anonymous

    I believe Budweiser and Miller are properly termed an "american" style pilsner. In my opinion Budvar (known as Czechvar in the US) and Pilsner Urquell, both pilsners, taste very different and are full of flavor by comparison.

  5. Laura

    I'm glad you reviewed this (and liked it)–I've been very curious to try it since I learned they were making a big bo. I've enjoyed their imperial IPA and Quad styles too. Hopefully I'll start seeing it at my local soon!

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