I haven’t been drinking in Holland since an enjoyable afternoon at the Red Lion in the Limburg city of Venlo several years back; here Lindeboom’s uncomplicated but enjoyable Pilsner was the order of the day amongst others, including the landlord’s own home-brewed take on a tripel (it was pretty good). I enjoy Grolsch and Christoffel’s beers, as well as the ones I have had from De Molen, but more recently I have discovered Plzen Ij from the Amsterdam-based Brouwerij Het Ij. It’s an honest, unreconstructed, complex, horny handed, rough arsed, plain-spoken beer that dubs itself a Pils (see below) — and an utter delight. The nose is sweet and herbal, with hints of resiny hoppiness; on the palate it was balanced between its bittersweet notes and the start of a long bitter finish. My version was unfiltered and slightly cloudy and all the better for it. Like swallows and summers, one bottle does not make a classic but it’s a beer that really stands out and makes me want to try it again. I really like unfiltered Pilsners and I still drool over the deliciousness of the Pilsner Urquell that was served to me straight from the wood in the old tunnels beneath the brewery back in 2005 — I wonder if it is the same?
Just as I prepare to post this, I read that a top fermenting yeast is used for Plzen Ij — once again the thorny question comes to mind: is this a lager? It brings to mind something someone from one of my favourite British craft brewers said to me recently, when I asked if they were joining the British Lager campaign: ‘we make good beer, full stop.’ I won’t change the heading of this post, but if we are going to be doctrinal it’s incorrect. Oh lord, the semantics of beer don’t half drag one down.