In the early days of B.C.’s craft beer renaissance (like, 2013), craft-brewed lagers were about as common as sushi restaurants in Saskatchewan: there wasn’t very many of them, and the few examples that did exist weren’t that great.
Craft beer, at least initially, was about rebelling against the omnipresent, boring North American lager. It was about big, bold flavours, the likes of which many people had never experienced in a beer before. So it didn’t make a lot of sense to brew a lager.
Also, on a more practical note, true lagers are actually a pretty technically challenging style to brew, they’re expensive and they can take a month or more to make, compared to as little as a week for ales. Which is why many fledgling breweries go with a simple blonde ale as their go-to “lager-y” beer.
But it’s 2019, now, and things have changed. The batshit crazy experimentation is starting to fade. People want balance, they want quality beers, and if they can get them from their local brewery, all the better.
Today, craft lagers are everywhere. You even have breweries like Vancouver’s Slow Hand, which specializes in nothing but lagers. And breweries you never thought would do a lager are getting into the act. Like Strange Fellows Brewing, for example.
I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say Strange Fellows is one of the most respected breweries in the province. Brewer Iain Hill has been on the cutting edge of craft beer since he started brewing back in the 1980s and Strange Fellows’ Belgian-inspired barrel-aged, foeder-aged, mixed fermentation beers regularly take home gold medals.
So I’m not sure why Strange Fellows felt compelled to brew a pilsner, but I’m sure glad they did, because this one is delicious.
Touted as an “Old World Pilsner,” Beldame is refreshing and well balanced. There’s a pronounced grainy, cracker-like malt character that’s supported by a lovely earthy, herbal, slightly spicy hop note. The hop bitterness is apparent, and more in line with traditional northern German pilsners, as opposed to a helles lager, while its crisp, dry character distinguishes it from the Czech variety.
Pilsners are not the kind of beer you should dissect, though. They’re not made for dainty little sips—they deserve to be quaffed with reckless abandon and appreciated on a purely visceral level. So I’m going to leave it right there, and pour myself another.
Beldame by Strange Fellows Brewing
5.0% ABV • 30 IBU • 473 mL tall cans
Appearance: Slightly hazy, translucent golden straw with a sturdy white head.
Aroma: Cracker, cereal, herbal.
Flavour: Cracker, grainy, cereal, herbal, earthy hop character, slight spice, moderate hop bitterness, well-balanced, refreshing and smooth.
Body/Finish: Light bodied with a crisp, dry finish.
Pairs with: Pretty much anything—pizza, burgers, curry, light yardwork, more beer.