Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Lager (?) of the week — Plzen Ij

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.


  1. "horny handed, rough arsed, plain-spoken beer" is a great description for all the 't IJ range. Whatever the opposite of "designer beer" is, they make it.

  2. Sounds like a grand drop there. Assuming that the beer in question was left to cold condition for a substantial period of time then it would surely count as "lager", seeing as though it fulfills the linguistic requirements of "lagern"?

    At this point I will duck and head for the hills.

  3. Beer Nut — I would have also used the word rusticity except they’re in the city.
    Velky — keep a seat in the truck spare I’ll be joining you.

  4. It used to be bottom fermented but they had problems with the yeast interbreeding.

  5. Ron — it was actually on your website where I read the interview that alerted me to the change in fermentation.