I’m an ale guy. Typically the hoppier the better, though I’m finding that balancing all those hops is more important to me than ever. As the hops arms race continues, I’m actually finding fewer new IPAs that I love.
Pilsner is a style that I don’t like at all. Or at least I thought I didn’t. I’ve always found them skunky with some weird off flavors and a bitterness that’s different from the juicy hop bombs that I prefer.
Then I took a flier on a can of Threes Brewing Vliet (rhymes with “fleet”) at my local beer bar, mostly because I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tasted from brewmaster Greg Doroski’s portfolio. It was an eye opener, a revelation really. Refreshing and free of any off-putting flavors, there was a delicious, clean bitterness at the end. And at 5.2% ABV, it was not as hefty as those IPAs I adore.
I emailed Greg and asked him, more or less, why his Pilsner tasted so much better than 99 percent of the examples I’ve had in the past.
“I suspect that at least most of the imported stuff is too old. Age is especially unfriendly to pilsner packaged in green bottles,” he told me. Apparently sulphur — which can cause those off flavors I dislike so much — can be more pronounced in lager fermentation. And, because of often-rushed fermentation schedules at some breweries, that feature can be exacerbated.
Pilsner is an extremely straightforward style of beer. But that’s why it’s so difficult to make.
“As with making many simple things proper technique and focus is paramount,” Doroski said. “There is nothing to hide behind. Minor adjustments have significant impact. There is no room for distractions. Unlike say IPA, which is almost more about figuring out how to add more of something (hops!), subtraction is almost more important.”
I hesitate to call a beer like this a “lawnmower beer” but that was the first application I thought of. You come inside after a sweaty, 90-degree afternoon working in the yard and you want a beer. This is a great choice. And, as Doroski puts it “It doesn’t scream for your attention — it’s just good. You don’t need to think about it to enjoy it. It sits quietly between the poles of simplicity and complexity, equally suited for careful consideration or a day at the beach.”
Doroski is incredibly experimental in his brewing, with time-intensive, hard-to-get beers an important part of the lineup. But Vliet — which, by the way, means “canal” in Dutch — is a beer that he hopes to make available year round.
“I hope to scale Vliet production significantly, if we are ever permitted to build our production brewery,” he said, referring to the brewery’s proposed production-only facility in Southold.
For now, it’s available at Bruce & Sons in Greenport and at Beers Burgers and Desserts in Rocky Point. It sells for $14 for a six pack at the brewery in Brooklyn.