For all the thousands of beers I've had there are still surprises. I delight in those times when I find (or revisit) a beer or brewery that I'd taken to writing off in my head and am pleasantly surprised. Here's how it played out this time.
Yesterday was the first day of the Portland International Beerfest and my first time attending. A few weeks ago I had been contacted by the PR folks for Pilsner Urquell encouraging me to stop by their set up at the festival if I was attending. At the time, and even up until last week I wasn't sure I'd be attending, and in all honesty Pilsner Urquell isn't a beer that was a big draw for me.
What I found was a branded and wrapped (inside and out) sprinter van that was decked out with a fully functional Pilsner Urquell tap, bar stools, a barrel "table" and a TV as wide as it was. And cases of glass Pilsner Urquell mugs. Here there would be no pouring into the festival's sampling glasses, they were going for the full experience.
Prior to yesterday I had seen a Pilsner Urquell poster once at a bar showing about the three ways to pour it. At first glance I thought they were talking about three different beers but no, three different ways to pour the exact same beer that provides three very different drinking experiences. The quick version is that Na Dvakrat or Crisp is the standard way we're used to having beers poured, Hladinka or Smooth has a greater percentage of head and Mliko or Milk is something that just might blow your mind.
I opted to start with Smooth and yes it was. It was also nothing like the unpleasant-to-me flavor I associate with pilsners in general. Then it was time to try the Milk. It's nearly all foam although not like the head on a beer that is a bit choking to ingest, but a dense foam like you'd enjoy atop espresso in a cappuccino. It's standard to shoot a Milk pour although I enjoyed mine at a slightly slower pace.
Beyond learning about and trying first hand the different pours I was surprised to find the I truly enjoyed the beer. Having previously only had it from a bottle, the draft version made for an entirely different beer. Those who know me know I'm not keen on pilsners as a style and that I drink very few imports. I'll chalk this up to another eye/taste bud opening experience. I'll also be much more likely to order a Smooth or Milk if find myself at a bar that has a Pilsner Urquell tap than I would have been before yesterday. So if you find yourself at PIB this weekend I'd encourage you to go visit the folks at Pilsner Urquell, too.
Oh, and keep an eye out for opportunities this fall to drink the unpasteurized, unfiltered version at a few select locations around town.