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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sam Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

Wow. I don't believe I remember a beer that reminded me more of sticking my nose right in a fresh handful of crushed hops. Have you ever been to hop harvest, grabbed a handful of fresh-picked hops, rubbed them together in your hands, and shoved your nose right in there and snuffed up hop? That's what this beer is like. The bitterness is there, it's huge and follows in on the gale of hop aroma and flavor, but it's the aroma. It's intense, it's full, it's full-body contact.

Is it a pilsner? No. And to tell the truth, the whole "this is an imperial pilsner" thing kind of doesn't do it for me, kind of pisses me off. But...if you're not going to call it an imperial pilsner, not going to call it a "double-hopped maibock," not going to call it a lager-brewed double IPA...what are you going to call it? I'm at a loss, and "imperial pilsner" fills that gap.

Can I drink more than one? Not on this 97 degree day at my bro-in-law's house in Virginia, no. Not most days, to be honest. But am I really rocking, really enjoying this one beer shoved frickin' full of noble hops? Hell yeah! Cheers, Jim Koch!

Hey, an interesting follow-up. The second bottle we opened got shared with some of the devoted wine drinkers at the party...and they liked it. "Complex, floral, fruity, very deep," comments like that. And I always thought that wine-drinkers didn't get hops. Maybe it's the Noble hops that did it. Have to look into this.


Steven said...

Hop Head.


Lew Bryson said...


Bryan Kolesar said...

yeah, but they're only noble hops :-p

Mark said...

Sam has always been all about the Hallertau. They used to advertise the hell out of that fact when they first burst upon the scene.

I like the fact that they're doing an extreme beer with a hop that isn't cascade or chinook. Drinking a pine tree gets kinda tiresome after a while...

Anonymous said...

There's a picture of the stuff over here.

Sure doesn't look like a pilsner.

Is this a wide release?

Lew Bryson said...


I dunno about the wide release. Sorry. But this dude seems off on the "balanced throughout." This baby is anything but balanced. And it glories in that.

Kathy said...


::raises hand::

And don't my taste buds want the rest. Sigh.

The hop cooler is my favorite part of any brewery tour. I just like to stand in it, close my eyes, and, well, huff it up. I love the malt room, too, because it reminds me of the farm, but the hop cooler... whoa.

Lew, have you ever smelled such a handful of hops that you wanted to get nekkid and roll around in it? :-)

Jeff Alworth said...

Maybe it shouldn't be called anything. "Boston Lager" isn't a style designation and that worked out all right for them. The thing that these bizarre designations do is confuse casual consumers who--thanks to industrial lagers--already have a misplaced sense of what pilsners are. This isn't going to clear things up.

Stan Hieronymus said...

Mittelfrueh Cubed would be a nice name.

Anonymous said...

Lew, is that a 12 ounce or bomber in the photo ?

Lew Bryson said...


It's a 12 oz., comes in a 4-pack.

Stonch said...

There's nowt wrong with Sam Adams calling their beer an "Imperial Pilsner". What will piss me off is if people on beer websites start saying "Imperial Pilsner" is now a "style".

Jeff Alworth said...

Too late for that, Stonch! (At least out here on the West Coast, it's signed, sealed, and certified.)

Stonch said...

That depresses me greatly.

Steven said...

If it stems the Imperial Pilsner fear any, the BJCP hasn't recognized it as a "style."


I have to agree with lew when he says, "And to tell the truth, the whole"this is an imperial pilsner" thing kind of doesn't do it for me, kind of pisses me off."

I think the Dbl-hopped Maibock is closer than anything -- anything "imperial" from Germany would have been saved for the Kaiser (or Prinz), not shipped overseas! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Since when have BJCP styles been recognized by anyone but homebrewers (their actual target)?

Now the Brewers Association on the other hand...

I believe it is recognized there, and furthermore Rogue made one YEARS ago.

Anyway...enough style crap already. At least until tomorrow.

Steven said...

"Since when have BJCP styles been recognized by anyone but homebrewers (their actual target)?"

They're a baseline on which to start discussions.

"Now the Brewers Association on the other hand..."

You mean the folks who don't think Goose Island is a "craft brewer?" And isn't Charlie Papazian a charter member there? :-O

Lew Bryson said...

Actually, Steven, I think Loren has a valid point on the BJCP styles. More people are familiar with and give credence to the GABF guidelines. But Loren, there is only a passing reference to (God help me) "quadruple pilsener" in the "Other Strong Ale of Lager" Category, that I hope was facetious, but probably wasn't. Otherwise, that's the only place something like this could hope to get a medal. Oh, and maybe Experimental, although I'd laugh it right out of there if I were judging.

But "a baseline to start discussions"? Not in this case, I don't believe. We're already past that point: the discussion's underway.

Steven said...

"We're already past that point: the discussion's underway."

True 'dat, but all my recognition of the different aspects of beer, including input in this discussion, originated from either BJCP guidelines or Michael Jackson's books. They were the catalyst for me to seek out new and different beers in the world.

Now -- I just need to allow my mind to accept such things as Imperial IPAs...even if it's stretching the "Imperial" definition juuust a bit. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Most, if not all, style guidelines are for what? Competition. How many brewers follow a recipe book, with every brew?

Not many I would guess.

The calculus you studied in you open that book daily or...


Remember this though...categorization for a square peg that doesn't seem to fit in a round hole will always be necessary. As will the arguments that will no doubt follow. So deal with it or ignore it. Most brewers already are.

Steven said...

"Most, if not all, style guidelines are for what?"

Knowledge, background, history, inspiration.

How many brewers follow a recipe book, with every brew?

They still had to start with the basics before they expanded their repertoir(s).

And I'll bet they still fall back on some of those old "calculus notes" when they feel the need. I still do when it comes to my profession.

Steven said...

BTW -- I can't believe most brewers are "ignoring" the original styles -- every beer out there is basically a variation on a theme (to quote a phrase) -- just look at the original topic of this discussion.

Though it would be interesting to survey some brewmasters on their methods.

Lew Bryson said...

I'm with Steven on this one: I know brewers who get out the notes and books when they want to formulate a new beer. And guidelines can serve as inspiration, or at least a jumping off point.

I just don't think we necessarily need a new style guideline every time a brewer throws another shovel of hops OR malt into the kettle.

Anonymous said...

I was being facetious. Mostly. Of course brewers need to follow some set of "rules" when brewing...but...

God, arguing styles is so much fun.

Steven said...

"I just don't think we necessarily need a new style guideline every time..."

That's the real bottom line, IMO too.

Steven said...

"I was being facetious. Mostly."


Is it arguing styles, or arguing the need for styles?

Okay, I'll admit -- this has probably run its course. Again! ;-)

Stonch said...

Loren said: "Most, if not all, style guidelines are for what?"

Steven said: Knowledge, background, history, inspiration.

As far as I can see, immediately creating new "style guidelines"* when a brewer comes up with an innovative recipe hardly has any historical basis - it's a pure fiction. I can't see how it helps inspire further innovation, it simply creates further rules that purport to bind.

As for the BCJP - even if their guidelines couldn't be picked apart immediately as inaccurate, I'd still be opposed to giving such a body any authority whatsoever, particularly internationally.

I really hope this "styles" thing doesn't catch on in Europe.

* the speech marks denote utter contempt.

Steven said...

"I really hope this "styles" thing doesn't catch on in Europe."

Well, considering that's where it all originated, you are probably SOL.

But I agree that immediately creating new style guidelines is wrong (mentioned that above in agreeing with Lew). My comments on history and inspiration were referring to tried and true guidelines from styles that were defined long before either of us were contemplating good beer.

Stonch said...

When I say this "styles" thing I mean this odd tendency to consider any unusual beer as representative of a brand new sub-category of beer, and then building rules around that. I clearly don't mean the natural and broad concept of style that has arisen over time.

I think you're wrong when you think styles were "defined" in the past, unless you mean it in the broadest possible sense.

I just don't get this desire to categorise and sub-categorise, and I doubt I ever will. It serves no purpose other to annoy the rest of us.

Ron Pattinson said...

<"Most, if not all, style guidelines are for what?"

Knowledge, background, history, inspiration.>

If that's the case then the bjcp ones fail on three counts for a start.

Brian, the brewer at the Moonlight Brewery has the right idea. This is a summary of what he said was his method of working. If you want to brew a beer in a style you're unfamiliar with, the first thing you do is try as many examples as possible. Then, when you've got your head around a style, you have a go yourself, tweaking the recipe until it's how you want it. No need for style guidelines whatsoever.

As far as I can see, style guidelines are only any use for:

1. homebrewers entering competitions
2. professional brewers who are too lazy to investigate for themselves
3. geeks who want to pretend they understand about beer

As many of the bjcp definitions are deeply flawed, using them as a basis for formulating recipes or discussions is just plain stupid.

Steven said...

"I think you're wrong when you think styles were "defined" in the past, unless you mean it in the broadest possible sense."

I guess it would have to be researched to dates (who really wants to?), but the definitions I've always followed were published by Jackson back in the mid/late 70s or early 80s, and I don't think he was making the names up on his own.

Broadest sense? I suppose they were/are, in dealing with as broad a range of different "types" of beer brewed over history.

But yes, a good analogy may be the periodic table of elements; no other element has been found -- all new beer styles are no more than variations on elemental themes. Even the IIPA is a variation, sorry Stan.

Stonch said...

steven, you need to go back further than the 70s. Beer (in the form we know it today) has been brewed for centuries. The period in which the American craft beer movement took off does not represent a "year zero", though many people seem to think otherwise.

If you look at Ron Pattinson's stirling work on researching from original sources (early twentieth and nineteenth century brewer's logs, for example) you can learn about the history of the "building block" beer styles we know today. I'd urge you to do so.

Steven said...

"you need to go back further than the 70s."

Only speaking of my own sources and awareness, my friend. I'm fully aware (and appreciative) of our favorite beverage's long, rich history.


Ron Pattinson said...

Michael Jackson (god rest his soul) described beer as it was in the mid 1970's. And a very good job he made of it.

He was my inspiration, too. He pointed me to the Altbiers of Dusseldorf, Lambic, Kölsch and the lagers of Czechoslovakia. I owe him an enormous debt.

But what he wrote in the 1970's was a snapshot. Beer styles have changed considerably since then. As they always have. To use his style desciptions as some immutable truth misses the point. Beer styles are inherently dynamic.

Steven said...

"But what he wrote in the 1970's was a snapshot."

Indeed, an awakening snapshot. We all eveolved with the awakening; enthusiasts, brewers, even MJ himself.

Things have changed, beer has evolved, but many styles hold true to what was enjoyed in 1870, 1970, and today.

Ron Pattinson said...

I've only drunk two beers that resemble those from 1870: Courage Russian Stout and Harveys Imperial Stout.

I've been drinking since 1973 and I've noticed considerable changes. Go back another hundred years and just about every style has been totally transformed.

An example: Michael Jackson, in his original World Guide to Beer describes the beers sold at the Munich Oktoberfest as being amber in colour. They are no longer - they've been pale yellow for a couple of decades.

That's why trying to pin down precise definitions of a style is a crap idea. They are in a constant state of flux. The bjcp definitions are, at best, 20 years out of date when it comes to European styles.

Steven said...

"...describes the beers sold at the Munich Oktoberfest as being amber in colour."

Fortunately for we in the U.S., Spaten, Paulaner, & Hacker-Pschorr still make that beer for export to us. I think I was at the last Okto'fest where they sold the Amber Märzen (1990?). And Sam Smith's Imperial Stout is still as lucious as the first sample I tried around 1986.

I don't disagree that things are ever-evolving, but there isn't that much overall change in what's in the glass (no matter what they're calling it). The ingredients and process haven't changed that considerably. As said above: variations on a theme.

Lew Bryson said...

Take it to e-mail, guys: I'm shutting this down for a while.