For Friday afternoon of American Craft Beer Week Friday, I drank a glass of Downright Pilsner —from Port City Brewing Company — at the brewery in Alexandria, Virignia.
Brewer Jonathan Reeves brewed the Pils —his late-spring limited release— with a Pilsner malt-only grist and hopped it exclusively with Czech Republic Saaz hops, often referred to as "noble' hops because of their perceived elegant aroma and flavor: over 30 pounds in kettle and an additional 11 pounds as 'dry-hops' after fermentation. 43 bittering units (BUs), 4.8% alcohol-by-volume (abv). Reeves used only Saaz hops in the Pils this year, because, he told me, the Czech harvest had been good, and the bittering compounds of the hops higher than normal.
The beer poured deep golden, with a tinge of chartreuse and haze (from the dry-hopping?). There's a wonderful aromatic surfeit of hops, but some sweet malt can be tasted in the background. Reeves describes the aroma and flavor as piney and woodsy, with the herbal heat of fresh ginger. I also tasted citrus like the twist of lemon. The finish is spicy, long-lived, and refreshing.
That I could drink a glass of the Pils at the brewery was itself a special thing. Only last summer, a Virginia law took effect allowing production breweries to sell pints to customers, much as Virginia wineries could already do (with wine, of course). To borrow the vernacular, this was a game changer: several breweries have opened in Virginia since the law changed, and several more are under construction or in planing. Neighboring Washington, D.C. allows its production breweries the same, and the Maryland legislature recently passed a similar law which will take effect 1 July.
I thoroughly enjoyed my taste of Downright Pilsner. That's why I bought a six-pack to take home.