On Thursday, I brought home two of the new Imperial Pilsners that we just got into the shop: Dogfish Head's Golden Era (the beer formerly known as Golden Shower until the oblivious BATF finally caught on to the obvious innuendo) and Sam Adams' Hallertau Imperial Pilsner. So last night, I thought I'd bring them head to head and see what happens...
First, here's the contenders:
What struck me the most is that DFH, an "extreme" craft brewery, was the one who filtered theirs and made it truer to style, while Sam Adams, the more mainstream of the two breweries, made an unfiltered cloudy version.
The theme carries through to the end, too. The nose on the DFH is more restrained and malty...even slightly sweet. The 9% ABV hides itself well, until 10 minutes later when you're stumbling around. The Sam Adams, on the other hand, is massively hoppy, and incredibly bitter for the style. Very surprising.
The palate on the DFH is clean and malty, and very weighty for a pilsner...but despite the fact that there's not a whole lot of precedent for this style, it really reads like an "imperial" pils. The hops are there, but it's really balanced. Incredibly restrained and subtle for a DFH imperial anything. The Sam Adams is all hops. If I were them, I wouldn't be calling this a pilsner...just a hopped-up blonde or something. There's nothing about this, other than the apparent use of pils malt, that makes it a pilsner. But that's not to say its bad...it's actually immensely enjoyable. The hops are in your face, and very spicy & fresh. The complexity is heads and shoulders above the Golden Era, and I really enjoy every sniff and every sip.
At the end of the day, these are two very different beers. DFH wins on the style front, which is very interesting given their background as an extreme brewery. The Sam Adams wins on the enjoyability factor...and their claim of an intense hop experience is warranted. There's plenty of complexity here, and I just like the beer better overall...and yes, I am a hophead.
I've got to call this one a draw. DFH made a more "correct", subtle beer, while Sam Adams made a wacky, hop-heavy pilsner, something that is almost never done...and succeeded at making a great hoppy blonde ale.