Light. Refreshing. Crisp. Clear. These descriptors are almost synonymous with many of the mass-produced “adjunct” beers that dominated the American beer scene for most of the 20th century—beers like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. And so, in the world of craft brewing, these adjectives and the beer styles they described were for a long time all but verboten.
That’s changing. Independent craft breweries now account for more than 12 percent (and climbing) of all beer sales in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association. And since craft now has a solid grip on a sizeable share of the American beer market, its brewers seem more willing to pursue and perfect some of the lighter, toned-down styles they’d once shunned. Pilsner is one of those styles.
Arguably the most popular type of beer in the world, pilsner (sometimes spelled “pilsener”) is a style of lager popularized in Germany and the Czech Republic that features a spicy, often-bitter hop kick. While craft pilsners tend to be light-to-medium-bodied and crisp, that hoppy shot of aroma and flavor elevates them above the Buds and Coors Lights of the world.
In a lot of ways, craft pilsners are a kind of microbrew-macrobrew hybrid—combining the easy-drinking qualities of light lagers with the nuance and hoppy charm of craft brews. If you’ve ever found yourself hesitating at the bar—unsure if you’re in the mood for another ultra-bitter pale ale or super-dense porter—the new wave of craft pilsners is for you. (They’re also great with bar food.)
Here are 14 excellent brews to try: