There's been a burst of popularity for pilsners among local brewers. Pilsners have long been part of the portfolios of Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin Brewing in Verona and Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. However, several new ones are being introduced in taps around Madison. Lone Girl Brewing in Waunakee, the Parched Eagle Brewpub in Westport, and Lake Louie of Arena all introduced pilsners in the past few weeks. And now Madison’s Ale Asylum has unveiled its take on the style with 12 oz. Curl.
What is it? 12 oz. Curl from Ale Asylum of Madison.
Style: The German pilsner is bright yellow to deep golden in color, light-bodied, well-balanced, crisp and clean. These pilsners are often a showcase for German hops and malts. German pilsners tend to be lighter, crisper and drier than the closely associated Bohemian pilsener style. German pilsners commonly range in alcohol from 4.6 to 5.3 percent. Modern pilsners are often filtered, leaving them bright and clear. When left unfiltered and unpasteurized, they can appear hazy to cloudy. Brewers also called these unfiltered lagers “kellerbier” or cellar beer.
Background: Good pilsners are light, with a balanced, firm hoppiness and maltiness. It’s the most popular type of beer in the world.
Offering it over the bar, 12 ounces at a time, is what tavern regulars call “bar curls” for the constant action of hoisting one after another. That’s also the logic behind this beer’s name.
“We just like drinking them,” says Ale Asylum’s Joe Walts, who led the effort to create the beer. “It’s inspiring when you have a really good one.” he says. Lagers, and especially the pilsner style, aren’t what Ale Asylum is known for.
Curl is one of 17 limited seasonals coming from the brewery in 2017. It’s also only the second lager from the brewery that has been packaged in six-packs. The first was Oktillion Oktoberfest last fall.
Curl is made in the tradition of a south German pilsner. It features German pilsner malt and Hallertau Mittlefruh hops. Having a light lager in the line-up is a great move for Ale Asylum. It’s light, yet flavorful. Unlike mainstream and big brewery pilsners that are clear, Curl has a cloudy appearance by design. Ale Asylum brewers have some strong views about how filtering can rob a beer of flavor. “We wanted to use a specific type of German malt, and to get rid of the haze it would compromise the taste,” says Walts.
Curl comes in at 5.2 percent ABV. You’ll currently find it in the Ale Asylum taproom for $5/pint. Twelve-ounce bottles in six-packs should start appearing on Madison shelves in early March.
Aroma: Firm, herbal hoppiness.
Appearance: Hazy yellow-golden color. A soft, white head.
Texture: Light- to medium-bodied with subtle softness.
Taste: Herbal and light spicy hoppiness throughout. There’s floral bready maltiness in the background that gives balance to the flavor.
Finish/Aftertaste: Balanced and clean.
Glassware: It’s served over the Ale Asylum bar in the basic bar pint.
Pairs well with: lighter entrees such as baked fish and seafood. That said, the German pilsner is a nice pre-meal beer, with crisp, clean bitterness and carbonation that cleanses the palate. It goes well with just about everything.
The Verdict: All the flavors that one enjoys in a pilsner are found in Curl. I especially like the level of herbal earthiness from the Hallertau hops. That doesn’t mean this is a hoppy beer. Curl has hop character, but it’s well-balanced, with the soft bready sweetness of German pilsner malt. The cloudiness of Curl will surprise some, perhaps because the world’s big beer makers have conditioned us to think all pilsners must be crystal-clear. Just get over the haze, because this is a pilsner to not overlook.