Sam Adams Noble Pils

  Posted on March 12th, 2010

Well, it’s been a busy few months, and clearly this blog has suffered (not so much my drinking-time, just my writing-time. Gotta have priorities, kids). But now I’m back on track, and this will be the first of [hopefully] many more regular articles. So, here goes…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in Utah), you’ve probably noticed Sam Adams has a new spring seasonal beer: Noble Pils. I was hesitant, especially in light of some of their other more recent introductions, but I figured Sam Adams has impressed me before and deserved another chance. So, I took some time out from cursing Jim Koch for taking White Ale off the market, and bought myself a pack.

The History
Sam Adams dates back to the Civil War era, when Louis Koch began selling his eponymous lager. His operation lasted until Prohibition (and then again briefly in the 1950’s). Then, like almost every other American brewery at the time, things sort of died out.
Then, in the mid-80’s, Jim Koch, with the somewhat ironic help of Joseph Owades, reintroduced the recipe as Samuel Adams Boston Lager. It was almost immediately awarded the title of “Best Beer in America” at the ‘85 GABF and exploded into the mainstream (well, as far as craft brewing goes). Growth continued until the point where the term ‘craft brew’ basically had to be invented because ‘micro brew’ just wasn’t accurate anymore. Currently, Sam Adams - more officially known as The Boston Beer Company - is the largest American-owned brewery (since the Belgian InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch). How’s that for the Great American Dream Story?

The Style
Noble Pils is a German-style Pilsner. Originating from the town of Pilsen in what is now Czech Bohemia (hence the name), pilsners are pale lagers typically valued for their crisp and refreshing qualities. Real pilsners are effervescent and well-hopped (unlike their American bastard cousins, the light lagers, who so often and so wrongly appropriate the pilsner name), with spicy or herbal aroma & flavor.
Specifically, the name ‘Noble Pils’ comes from the fact that all five varieties of Noble Hops are used in the recipe. The Five Noble Hops - Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, Polish Lublin and Saaz - all come from Central Europe (primarily Bavaria & Bohemia) and are generally prized for their subtle bitterness and high aroma. The ‘Five’ are somewhat debated. In my extensive research (italics for emphasis, not sarcasm), I’ve yet to find out why, but Lublin isn’t always on the Noble Bill. Also, English varieties Fuggles and Kent Goldings hops might also be arguably considered Noble. If you’re interested (I can’t imagine that many of you are, but…), read more about the great Nobility debate here, or here. For the rest of you, it’s beer time…

The first google image result for ‘beer time’

The Tasting
Noble Pils pours a crystal clear hay with a pillowy white head. Enormous bubbles evaporate with a disappointing quickness leaving only a few isolated islands of carbonation behind.
Scent is a zesty, grassy hop with a tiny lemon citrus (also hop). Quite aromatic, and it’s nearly all hops, yet more subtle than an IPA. There’s a grainy malt smell, but it takes a big backseat to the hops.
Biscuity malts quickly give way to the herbal onslaught. Flavor is in lock-step with the smell. Earthy, grassy, almost spicy bitterness washes over the palate. The flavor is somehow both strong and pungent without being overwhelming. Pils finishes fairly clean with a brief puckery dryness.
Fairly easy on the mouth. Not exactly light bodied - maybe a 3-4 out of 10 on the Beer Thickness Scale I just made up - but in concert with the brew’s excellent carbonation and crisp finish, Noble Pils turns out a nice refreshing feel.

The Verdict
A solid Pilsner. Very easily accessible to the average American Bud Light swiller (which seems to be Boston Beer Co.’s recent marketing strategy), yet just authentic enough to appeal to the beer-snob crowd. I’m not sure if it’s quite as good as the still-mourned White Ale, but it’s definitely a good release and a win-win for Samuel Adams.