Tag Archives: pilsner

Beer of the Week – Christoffel Blond

This article was originally written in July 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.

Selections from the LCBO’s seasonal beer release for summer have recently started hitting the shelves, and as usual, the range on offer is somewhat meagre, although with nine beers planned to be included, at least it’s better than the pitiful spring release. And while more than half of them are fruit or flavoured beers, even a couple of those aren’t the cloying sugar-bombs that you might expect.

As always, I’m looking forward to trying the several new beers in the release (although I have some trepidation about the Chapeau Banana Lambic – watch for my reaction to that in a future column), but it’s the return of a couple of favourites from past releases that has me the most excited. My “cellar” (a.k.a. a couple of cardboard boxes in the closet) will be getting restocked with a few bottles of the rich and complex Liefmans Goudenband once it arrives, but for immediate drinking satisfaction, I’ll be grabbing multiple bottles of the unique Dutch Pilsner, Christoffel Blond (LCBO 696955, $2.80/330 mL).

I first tried this beer a few years ago as part of a Christmas gift box where it was packaged along with a bottle of Christoffel’s Vienna-style lager, Robertus, as well as a very nice branded glass that still serves me well. While I enjoyed it at the time, it struck me as a beer that would be much better suited to warmer weather, so it was nice to see the Blond return on its own as part of the summer beer release for the last couple of years.

As noted above, Christoffel Blond is a somewhat unique version of a Pilsner, at least in comparison to the ones that most people are familiar with. The appearance is pretty much right on point, with a rich golden hue and a good sized snow white head. But the aroma reveals a stronger herbal and floral hop character than you might expect, with some candyish notes as well. The body is crisp and full and quenching, and the flavour is a tasty combination of sweet orange candy, sharp green herbs, and a refreshingly bitter citric finish.

It really is a perfect summer beer, although like all LCBO seasonal releases, stock is limited, so grab a bunch when you see them. And here’s a tip: it’s a fantastic beer for steaming mussels. Throw in some chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, and various herbs; serve them with some frites and crusty bread to sop up the broth; and have a couple more bottles on hand to wash it all down. It’ll be one of the best meals of the summer, guaranteed.

Beer of the Week – Creemore Springs Traditional Pilsner

This article was originally written in May 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.

Back in 1987, just as Canada’s modern craft brewing scene was kicking off, a small brewery called Creemore Springs opened in their namesake town of Creemore, Ontario. Unlike most of the other microbreweries launching around the same time, they decided to concentrate their efforts on a single brand, Creemore Springs Premium Lager.

This flavourful lager with a rich amber colour has been praised by beer drinkers and writers from around the world, and is often listed with Brooklyn Lager and Samuel Adams Boston Lager as being a landmark lager in the North American craft brewing scene.

It took ten years from the brewery to add a second beer to their line-up, the dark and malty Creemore Springs urBock which is available during the fall and winter months. Another ten years on, and they’ve decided to mark the end of their second decade with a second seasonal brew, Creemore Springs Traditional Pilsner (LCBO 53686, $2.55/473 mL), which will be available from May through October.

While this may seem like a redundant brand extension given that the original Premium Lager was said to be inspired by the classic Pilsner Urquell, it’s actually quite a different brew from its predecessor. To start with, the colour is a clear yellow-gold, capped with a good sized snow white head. The aroma has some similarity to the Premium Lager, likely due to the same or similar yeast strain being used, but it’s softer, with notes of bread, honeyish malt and zesty herbal hops. It’s medium bodied, with a slightly sticky finish, which causes it to be not quite as refreshing as it could be, but still pleasant. The flavour starts off sweet and somewhat delicate, and finishes with grassy, herbal hop notes that get quite bold and dry as it warms up.

Is it as good as the Premium Lager? That’s probably a matter of personal preference. Is it a good beer in general? Well, if you’re looking for a pilsner that is an equal to Urquell or Czechvar, you’ll probably be disappointed, as it just doesn’t have the same character as those classics. But put it up against some of the other European pilsners available at the LCBO such as Wernesgrüner, Radeberger and Staropramen, and it holds its own quite nicely. And at the very least, you’ll probably be getting a fresher beer for your money.

Beer of the Week – Steam Whistle Pilsner

This article was originally written in January 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in September 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after the Taste T.O. blog was shut down and taken offline.

For this inaugural instalment of Beer of the Week, it seemed fitting to take a look at a beer that is synonymous with Toronto for many drinkers. Since its launch in 2000, Steam Whistle Pilsner has become one of Canada’s fastest growing craft beer brands, but even as their popularity has spread beyond our city’s borders, they’ve still managed to build and retain a reputation as Toronto’s hometown beer.

It’s a reputation that has been well-earned, as Steam Whistle founders Greg Taylor, Cam Heaps and Greg Cromwell were all employees of Upper Canada Brewing, one of Toronto’s first microbreweries. When Upper Canada was bought by Sleeman and the original brewery closed down, the three friends moved on to other things, but the brewing world pulled them back in, and they began concocting plans in 1998 that led to the launch of Steam Whistle two years later. With it’s iconic 1950s-style branding and the picturesque brewery in The Roundhouse where they host numerous art and social events, it didn’t take long for their painted green bottles to become ubiquitous around the city.

Ah, yes, the green bottles. It’s hard to deny that they look snazzy as hell, but they are also one of the reasons that some beer aficionados have a problem with Steam Whistle. ‘Cause if there’s one thing that can ruin a beer – especially a light lager like Steam Whistle – it’s putting it in a green (or clear) bottle. Leave it sitting under light for even a little while and the beer will become light-struck or “skunky”, which is obviously not an ideal state for beverage enjoyment. In fact, the very first Steam Whistle I tried soon after its launch was completely skunked, and it took me a couple of years to give it another shot.

When I did try it again, it was on draught from a fresh keg, and I found it to be an enjoyable and refreshing pint. The colour has a nice golden hue, the aroma holds some inviting grassy hop notes, and the flavour is fresh and clean with a mellow maltiness and a nicely hopped finish. The flavour isn’t quite as full as some of the classic European pilsners like Czechvar and Urquell, and it also has a less prominent hop character, making it less bitter. But if you can find a place that has it on tap and keeps it fresh, it pairs well with many pub foods, and provides a fine accompaniment to warm afternoon on a patio.

I still stay away from the bottles, though…