In the traditional sense, a pilsner is something I rather like, whether German or Bohemian. Clear and crisp, these brews still manage to keep my attention with subtle nuances that don’t beat your taste buds, but tickle them slightly to keep interest. Classic American Pilsner, I can do without.
Somewhere on the extreme end of all this lies the imperial pilsner, a beer that offers “energy and indulgence, refreshment and reward.” I couldn’t have written it any better. So this is why I was glad to open up Magic Hat’s Over the Pils, a member of the brewery’s Humdinger series that offers 8.1 percent ABV, the use of Apollo hops and a 84 on Beer Advocate.
Would I travel through the woods to pick up a bottle again? Let’s find out after the jump.
Naturally, the pilsner offered up a gorgeous, foamy head that laced the glass like duct tape. It started high and never wanted to let go, carrying pleasurable yeasty booze notes up my nostrils. In addition, Over the Pils is crystal clear – somewhat hard to tell from my pictures. If not for the alcohol, this would be one hell of a summer day sipper.
On the nose, Magic Hat’s beer is a bit all over the place with a variety of scents. The use of San Francisco lager yeast is unique because it’s typically featured in California Common (or steam) beers. Instead of straight pilsner yeast to offer clean characteristics, this strain helps to impart plenty of banana esters that crawl over the biscuit backbone of the aroma. Beyond these, sweet honey, pear and grape show up as the beer sits, settles and warms a little. It reminded me a little of Olde Hickory’s Eiraphiotes.
Now, here’s the catch. The bottle of Over the Pils I drank was probably about a year old. Say what you will about “aging” beer, but this might have fallen in the general range of OK to “you should probably drink this now.” Because of this, I wasn’t sure how the flavors I picked up would’ve played had I enjoyed an absolute fresh bottle.
Nonetheless, the initial thought I had on my first few sips was how much Over the Pils seemed to taste like a watered down barleywine. Perhaps the boozy sweetness just came through too easy or some earthy hop warmth stuck with me too long. To me, the flavor profile was anything but the ideal pilsner character. It was the most non-pilsner pilsner I’ve ever had. But, that wasn’t a bad thing. I really enjoyed the fact that the beer turned out to be so flavorful. After you get past the alcohol, there’s some nice tingling spiciness that lingers, but leaves your mouth feeling rather refreshed. My taste buds never felt fatigued while I enjoyed this one.
About the pairing
I enjoyed Over the Pils prior to Thanksgiving, so things worked out great for the sake of pairing the beer and my ideal food intake. I love pilsners with a nice, light meal, so some baked salmon with bruschetta topping and salad was perfect. The beer didn’t necessarily make the food any better, or vice versa, but they matched well for cleanliness on my palate.
Over the Pils stats: