Derek Dellinger would rather people stick to reinventing the IPA.
“If every brewery in America did a pilsner we’d all go under,” said the head brewer at Kent Falls Brewing Company, while hanging at his taproom on a recent weekend visit to the Connecticut farm brewery.
He means that the pilsner is nuanced and clean, singular and already well defined. It’s not designed to spark innovation, so all these American craft breweries are better off exploiting the still very wild IPA. A pilsner is a pilsner is a pilsner, and while there may be exceptional straight German-influenced pilsners out there that lap the competition (Suarez Family Brewing’s Palatine Pils is in another universe and you need to get there and try it now; both I and Dellinger agree), most are pretty tepid. Typically, the tepid pilsners are from breweries trying to show off and step away from the actual style.
That brings us to Kent Falls’ pilsner; it comes in bright pink and yellow cans and is called The Hollow. And like many pilsners in the market, there’s a bit of individual character in there, a wink from the brewery that it’s doing its own thing. But The Hollow is measured well, staying nuanced, clean and good. It’s really what a new-era American pilsner should be.
Mine came in that tall-boy can, perfect for a summer afternoon pounding. Kent Falls primarily distributes to its home state of Connecticut, plus New York and Massachusetts, but you can find The Hollow in random locations across America. If you spot it in the wild, grab yours, sit back and sip away a Sunday, preferably while on a grassy lawn or field of wildflowers.
You’ll get a variety of farmhouse ales, sours laced with local sweeteners like wild honey, and clean, easy-to-handle lagers.”
The Hollow pours a banana gold, almost looking like a cider with just a few bubbles dancing to a substantial two-inch white head. It smells like grass, and on top of that more grass. Maybe there’s fruit in the scent – I detected something like plum – but it’s really a lot of grass. This is an earthy, farm-fresh pilsner.
And the taste is like something out of the ground. There’s grass, a dirty malt character, and then a wash of dryness that completely thins out the experience. The dry aftertaste stayed with me for more than 10 minutes. Water is good with The Hollow.
As Kent Falls is a farm brewery, it utilizes local ingredients, including its own, in many of the 120 beers it’s produced over the last two years. When I was there, inside the brewery’s taproom – which is a rehabbed old barn off a country road in the bucolic hills of Connecticut – Dellinger told me he aims to make beers that are “sessionable and approachable,” so don’t expect heavy imperials or bourbon-barrel-aged treats. Instead you’ll get a variety of farmhouse ales, sours laced with brett and local sweeteners like wild honey and maple syrup, and clean, easy-to-handle lagers.
Thus, a pilsner makes sense for these guys. Moreover, The Hollow brings just enough of the Kent Falls character (that dirty, grassy texture), allowing it to separate from the usual fare while remaining pretty true to the style. The Hollow tastes exactly like the pilsner your favorite picnic-table farm brewery is trying to master. It’s the perfect happy medium between cold dad beer and adding ramps for fermentation.
Hopefully other breweries don’t try to do the same thing. They may draw Dellinger’s ire.