Your Beer O'Clock thirst is quenched this week by the ever-SOBA Stu from Real Beer.
Not enough gets said about Emerson's Pilsner. She's that great friend who seems to have been around for ever; she's always there when you need her, but you might just find yourself on occasion taking her a little for granted. "The pride of the plains" they call her, an obvious play on her runty older "Gold Medal" cousin. This woman is perfect by virtue of her own her own flavour and aroma, and there's no hard road of "manly" adverts to negotiate to be seduced.
Emerson's Pilsner is probably the flagship beer in Richard Emerson's excellent and varied range of ales and lagers (the fact the beers are almost all made with the same yeast doesn't hamper naming rights). It's certainly the beer that has garnered the attention of the world's beer geek community (and don't underestimate how big this community is, folks - "trainspotting" is passe, "beerhunting" is hot).
In the best traditions of Kiwi loquacity, the labels of Emerson's beers are terse and honest. While the Oatmeal Stout states "Chocolatey Silky Smooth", the Pilsner sums it all up with a simple "Crisp." That might be selling itself short, or just being cheekily southern. Either way, it is certainly crisp and it sure takes some beating in this department. Visitors to the brewery's website will find more, including claims that the beer "begs comparison with Marlborough's world-beating Sauvignon Blancs" and "oozes citrus and passionfruit aromas and flavours", while also showing a "hint of early malt sweetness". Richard has a reputation of surrounding himself with the best people and it seems their wordsmith is another. I needn't say more.
Don't just take my word for it. The knowledgable folk at RateBeer and Beer Advocate have spoken. Emerson's Pilsner is in the world's top 10 Pilsners at both sites - and is streets ahead of the next widely rated pilsner at RateBeer. Michael Jackson (the beer and whisky expert, not the dancer) has it as one of the few pilsners in The World's 500 Best Beers, as does Australian beer-writer Willie Simpson's in his Beer Bible. It's too easy to take for granted when it's in most good supermarkets and bottle stores down the road.
Emerson's have recently made a well-publicised brewery move - along with a huge upgrade to help keep us thirsty folk happy. Along with this physical move, they have been undertaking a shift from imported European malts to predominantly New Zealand grown and malted barley. The jury is still out for me; it's early days and I do miss the grainy juiciness last year's model, but I'll be interested to see how the beer develops and the beer geek community responds. It could well be could be a ground-breaking move for New Zealand's tiny barley growing industry, as well as for Emerson's themselves.
Try Emerson's nice website too. It's as nicely crafted as their beers, it just doesn't taste the same. Don't get too excited about their seasonal Belgian-style Tripel while you're visiting, as it sold out in two days! Stay posted for the next release.
If you already love Emerson's Pilsner and would like to try something similar - try Invercargill Brewery's "Biman". As crisp, and just as staunchly southern.
Slainte mhath, Stu