2006 | FEATURES | BEER & FOOD
The Importance Of Pilsner
By Lucy Saunders
I grew up surrounded by people who love pilsners. Pale yellow,
spritzed with white foam and scads of bubbles, pilsners filled
the glasses of our neighbors and friends at barbecues, at
backyard picnics and on summer nights spent playing cards
on the porch, when it was just too hot to stay inside. One
of the sounds of a good porch party was the cascading hiss
of carbonation released by uncapping a longneck bottle, followed
by the glug of a straight pour into a tall glass.
As a kid, I loved the feeling of foam evaporating on my upper
lip when I was allowed just one taste of suds. When I reached
the legal drinking age, exotic Mexican lagers, bready stouts
and English ales captured my curiosity — and my cash.
By the time I tried a first fragrant sip of raspberry lambic
ale, I’d decided that pilsners were dull.
But a recent excursion to the Breakfast Creek Hotel in Brisbane,
Australia, proved the enduring importance of pilsner.
Brisbane sprawls along a brackish estuary about an hour’s
drive from the Pacific Coast in Queensland, Australia, and
has truly subtropical weather. Public transit in the city
includes catamarans that dart from docksides to take travelers
through the city along the water’s edge. On an inlet
is the historic Breakfast Creek Hotel, fondly called the “Brekky
Creek.” Topped with an ancient XXXX Castlemaine sign
that turned the building into a historic landmark, the hotel
is famous for its barbecue and lager served from the wood.
Though the lager is not fermented in the wood, the hotel
staff does keep up with the labor of conditioning the wood
barrels and keeping them cool and clean to serve lager. A
keg of Castlemaine XXXX (“Fourex”) lager cellars
for a few days in the wood before being hoisted to the Brekky
bar for tapping. The wooden cask is ceremoniously tapped every
day at 5:00 p.m.
Anxious to get a photo of the tapping of the cask, I decided
to take a catamaran to the nearest stop along the river. On
the map, it looked like just a short stroll to the hotel.
However, I’d not counted on the walkway running alongside
a four-lane highway choked with clouds of exhaust in the late
afternoon sun. Without a hat, I hiked several miles in the
90°F heat, the orange sun blazing down. By the time I
reached the Brekky, I was almost at my breaking point.
Sad to say, it was too late for the photo. The cask had been
tapped, my face was as ruddy as a cooked prawn, and I was
more than ready for a cool drink. That first pint of pilsner
from the cask tasted like nectar. The second was even more
refreshing when paired with prawns and a grilled steak from
Such is the importance of a well-made pilsner: quenching,
refreshing, drinkable and — in the right place at the
right time — quite a lot better than water. In addition
to the “Fourex” from the wood, the Breakfast Creek
Hotel serves its own “premium lager,” contract
brewed by the Oxford 152 Pub Brewery in Bulimba,
Other BBQ-worthy brands include Lagunitas Pils, the classic
Pilsner Urquell, Blue Tongue from Queensland, and James Squire
Original Pilsener from the old Hahn Brewery (now Malt Shovel)
of Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia. Trumer Pils from
Berkeley, Calif., just won a gold medal at the World Beer
Cup. And in Wisconsin, a new craft lager with lovely yeasty
notes is the Yokel from New Glarus Brewing Company. It’s
a balanced, quaffable lager created by Brewmaster Dan Carey
to go with grilled burgers.
Please see below for a quick recipe to add spice to your
summer barbecue — perfect to pair with the pilsner of
your choice on the side.
Peppery Pilsner Barbecue Sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons minced Serrano chili pepper (1 large fresh
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup tomato chili sauce or ketchup
12 ounces pilsner
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon (or more) hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons bourbon
1. Mix vinegar, sugar and pepper flakes in a large
saucepan set over medium heat and cook 5 minutes. Add
garlic, chili pepper, onions, ketchup, pilsner and Worcestershire
sauce and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low and simmer
25 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until sauce is
reduced by one-third.
2. Add hot pepper sauce and bourbon; simmer 15 minutes
more. Baste on grilled chicken or ribs during the final
15 to 20 minutes of cooking over indirect heat (the
sauce is sugary and will cause flare-ups if applied
while over direct fire). Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
Lucy Saunders edits beercook.com
and thinks of beer as food.