A Study in Hops: Samuel Adams Noble Pils

Pils 1

Samuel Adams Noble Pils

This beer seems to have an identity crisis:  You’ll notice that the label says that it’s a lager, but also says that it’s an ale in Texas.  I don’t understand that at all.  Does the brewery supply a different beer (an ale) to Texas than it does to all other states?  Or does Texas have a different standard for what constitutes a lager?  I dunno.  But I’m pretty sure that what I drank was a lager.

At any rate, I’ve put off writing this one for about a month because I couldn’t make up my mind about this beer.  But tonight I finished my last bottle so I guess it’s time.

Pilsner Glass

Pilsner Glass

You need a Pilsner glass to drink this beer.  No other vessel will liberate the hop aromas quite as nicely.  It does make a noticeable difference in taste.  It pours light golden from the bottle, building a medium white head that dissipates quickly but is refreshed with every sip.  The aroma is spectacular:  The unmistakable floral quality of true noble hops in abundance.  It perfumes the entire meal.

You’d think that with that huge hop infusion, you’d have a very bitter brew.  But remember that this isn’t a Pale Ale:  It’s only bitter enough to be crisp and refreshing.  The first sip is a burst of citrus not unlike limeade.  The mid taste is of good crystal malt and the five noble hops singing to your tongue.  The rear taste is a touch of refreshing hop bitterness.  The aftertaste is of crisp, clean hops.

Hallertau Hops

Hallertau Hops

Throughout the glass, you should have a few little fountains of bubbles streaming steadily from the bottom of the glass.  This is characteristic of the Pilsner – the minor variations in the texture of the glass provide nucleation sites for the carbon dioxide that wants to come out of solution.  Each bubble that forms has a skin of hop oils, which it carries to the surface.  When these bubbles burst, they fling tiny droplets of hop oils into the air.  That’s what makes this beer so wonderfully aromatic.

This beer appeals mainly to fans of Pale Ales and Pilsners.  In other words, people who already like beer.  If you’d like a lesson in hop respect, then I highly recommend this beer.  It’s VERY drinkable and you will learn volumes about the five noble hops that give our beers that wondrous aroma.

  1. #1 by Joshua on April 11, 2010 - 4:33 PM

    BTW, The five Noble Hops (Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, Polish Lublin and Saaz) give such a great aroma without making the beer bitter because they contain high levels of the oil humulene and low-levels of Beta acids, which contribute to bitter taste. Humulene is also responsible for the way marijuana smells.

    • #2 by Chadwick on April 11, 2010 - 5:32 PM

      That’s…kind of odd. I’d never have guessed that.

      • #3 by Joshua on April 12, 2010 - 12:59 PM

        Well, the genus Humulus is in the Cannabaceae family, along with the genus Cannabis (Hemp) and Celtis (Hackberries).

  2. #4 by Chadwick on April 11, 2010 - 5:45 PM

    Apparently, the Texas bit is to do with their regulations of what constitutes a beer or an ale (and not involving lagers at all). From what I can determine, any malt beverage with an ABW (Alcohol By Weight) less than 4% (~5% ABV) is considered a “beer”, where anything over that mark is an “ale” or “malt liquor”.

    For reference, I found that bit of info at Great Brewers, where they have some suggestions for updating Texas' laws.

    • #5 by Joshua on April 12, 2010 - 1:00 PM

      That’s one of the dumbest laws ever. Sorry but ale vs. lager has nothing to do with alcohol content and everything to do with the species of yeast that ferments the wort.

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