Scrimshaw Pilsner Style Beer, 4.7 percent ABV, North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, California. Since 1988 (Carpe Diem, Vita Brevis) Modus Operandi.
This California treasure has been voted one of the 10 best breweries in the world by the Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago, but you won’t need anybody to tell you this if you ever get a chance to visit this wonderful beer brewery. It is located on the California coast surrounded by absolutely breathtaking coastal scenery. The building in which it’s housed was once a Presbyterian Church my childhood friend’s grandparents used to attend.
This particular style of beer was created in 1842 in the little Bohemian town of Pilsen, or Plzn, outside of Prague in the current Czech Republic.
It was done by blending the unbelievable hops of Bohemia with the equally wonderful malted barley of Moravia, creating the world’s first golden colored, clear filtered beer. That beer was Pilsner Urquell, the original Pilsner-style beer.
Two-thirds of all the beer produced in the world is in this style. Before 1842, all beer was brown or opaque, unfiltered, cloudy and most often sour – especially in the Flanders region of Belgium with their wild Flemish ales, lambics, krieks, and geuze, and the almost lost art of beer blending.
Scrimshaw Pilsner is a great tribute to the most widely sold style of beer on earth.
In the ‘90s, I remember brewpubs shying away from the term “Pilsner” because American macro brewers had totally cheapened and destroyed the original style and recipe by using cheap starches and sugars like those found in rice and corn, of all things. Those are cheap ingredients used to make cheap beer of the worst quality. They use synthetic chemicals and adjuncts which they call Trade Secret ingredients (yuck). They also pump CO2 into their products to bring it to Market faster. Instead of waiting for carbonation to develop naturally. These are the sins of American macro Brewers.
The term “California Golden Blonde” ale or lager was used instead of Pilsner. Scrimshaw Pilsner Style Beer has four ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast – that’s all. The pour is typical for this version of the style, with quickly dissipating whitehead and quickly disappearing (Brussels lace) around your glass. All beer should be enjoyed in a glass or else you’re just throwing away your money. The attention of this beer goes straight to your nose right before your first drink – it’s that subtle hop character and grassy barley. When the beer hits your palate, you realize you are tasting and swallowing a really good quaffable beer.
Initially, you taste the sweet nuttiness of the malted barley which quickly gives way to fresh aromatic yet faint “ghost hop” taste. It lingers nicely on the finish to quell any remaining sweetness of the malted barley, yet it leaves the nuttiness of the malted barley intact, creating and leaving this faint hoppy nuttiness flavor on your palate.
“From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf stream waters,” this Pilsner was made for you and me. (Cheers!) Carpe Diem, Vita Brevis means “seize the moment, life is brief.” That is North Coast Brewing Company’s modus operandi.
In my opinion, all beer, especially in America, should be required to be at least real, using real ingredients, no chemistry. I look at beer not as an alcoholic drink but as a main food source. In olden days, people who didn’t drink beer would die because the water was so contaminated. Beer has preserved whole civilizations throughout millenia. Even Trappist Benedictine monks use beer as a food source during Lent. We need to keep beer solid and clean to respect the art of brewing. Solid and clean beer means no chemical additives, no cheap starches and sugars like those found in corn and rice, or who knows what some people are sometimes using nowadays. A true beer consists of malted barley or wheat, hops, water and yeast – that’s it. These giant brewery corporations use the cheapest ingredients available. Their practice of injecting beer with CO2 before it’s ready should be made illegal, not to mention all the chemical additives and adjuncts – synthetic chemistry to increase profits at your expense. America needs a beer purity law.
All real beer in any style should be appreciated and enjoyed slowly and respectfully, preferably quietly and responsibly. Only then will you be able to have the capacity to appreciate all its layers of complexity, history and, of course, pleasure.
Eli Morgan is a 43-year-old lifelong Martinez resident who has been actively beer hunting since 1992. In those days, you really had to get out of town in order to get a decent beer.