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KelSo Pilsner is a Complicated Beer

May 10, 2017

By Timothy Malcolm, May 10, 2017

Last summer, while the world jammed to Drake’s “One Dance,” I drank sour after sour. Yes, in the same way radio stations, pop music tastemakers, and listicle creators christen the song of the summer (however wrong they are), I christen the beer style of the summer.

Sure it’s to myself, and maybe to my wife, who has to put up with me deciding things all the time, but I enjoy this habit. It allows me to dive headfirst into a style, explore its nuances, gain a greater appreciation for the process gifting its presence.

With that out of the way, I christen summer 2017 the summer of the pilsner.

It’s a hot style, the result of a generation of beer drinkers pumping brakes on intense West Coast IPAs and sugary barleywines. We’re maturing, spitting out babies, and can’t necessarily spend our Saturday afternoons halfway in a daze. We need something lighter, more refreshing, more stock photo of well-dressed friends in boat shoes around a picnic table holding a pitcher of beer.

KelSo Pilsner wants to converse a little too much.”

I imagine some drinkers would rather celebrate Citra and dive into some East Coast IPAs this summer. That’s fine. You do you. But I’m a new dad, so hell, why not go full dad for a few months? I start the summer (my summers begin in May) with KelSo Pilsner, the long-time stalwart from the KelSo Brewing Company.

KelSo Pilsner dates to 2007, brewed with pilsner and light Munich malts and sterling hops. At 5.5% alcohol by volume, it’s definitely on the higher side of alcohol content, which is an initial detraction. Pilsners are classic session beers and more often hover in the 4.5% range. So it’s not the best first impression.

Here’s what I want out of a pilsner: something clean, crisp, bright and clean. I say clean twice because that’s the important trait: I don’t want a beer that lingers for seconds, one that twists into three or four flavor profiles before burning out. And I do not want a beer that burns. Pilsners should come in, show themselves, and get out, like a doting dad at a preteen daughter’s slumber party.

KelSo Pilsner wants to converse a little too much.

Initially it’s sweet like toffee, then lemon squirts in along with a decent herbal burn, like parsley or even coriander. The burn lingers well after the sip, which is disconcerting. Without that burn it’s a well-above-average pilsner, but instead it’s less than clean, more of a negotiation. It doesn’t taste perfectly true to the style, which to me is a necessity for pilsners.

It does look beautiful, pouring pure gold with a two-inch head that froths and slowly dies. And it smells great too – toffee and cracker combine for the right balance of sweet and dry.

But the taste is just too convoluted for a pilsner. While it’s fine for a couple outdoor beverages, and while I’d still certainly crush it over a ballgame, it’s probably not the first pilsner I’d grab off the shelf.

Maybe that’s unfair, but I’d rather my IPAs and barleywines hit me with rolling punches of flavors. For summer I want the clean, the simple and the cold.

And please, pop music tastemakers, give me a better summer song than “One Dance.”

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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