Saturday, March 08, 2014

Coney Island Brewing's Mermaid Pilsner

A couple of weeks ago I tried Coney Island Brewing Company's "Seas the Day" India Pale Lager. Now I've also had their Mermaid Pilsner. It's good beer.

Pilsner (or Pilsener) is a style of lager--a lager being any beer made with bottom fermenting yeast--that originated in the city of Pilsen, or Plzeň, in what is now the Czech Republic. What distinguishes Pilsner from other lagers is that it is made with lighter colored malts, resulting in a golden, as opposed to a deep amber or brown, color. It usually also has a more pronounced hop flavor than other lagers. Most mass market American beers are made in the Pilsner style. Some, like Budweiser, have a forward hop flavor while others, like Coors, have a more subdued one.

For a food pairing I decided on something less spicy than the bánh mì I had with "Seas the Day." I chose a "Smokin' Henry" from our local deli, Lassen & Hennigs. It's made with smoked turkey, Black Forest ham, cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Russian dressing. For a bit of spice, I had some of Trader Joe's cheddar and horseradish flavored chips on the side.
While I was waiting for my sandwich to be made, I took a look at Lassen & Hennigs' beer selection, and saw Mermaid Pilsner among their offerings.

The beer has a rich golden color, a shade darker than most American Pilsners, but similar to that of Pilsner Urquell, the original Pilsner from Plzeň. The head was moderate, creamy, and fairly long-lasting. The aroma was hoppy, with slight malt undertones and jasmine-like overtones. The flavor was a well balanced blend of hop bitterness and malt warmth, with a suggestion of spice and a pleasant, melon like finish. The beer worked well with the flavorful food, but would also be enjoyable on its own.

Unlike Czech or German Pilsners, which adhere to a purity law that allows only the use of barley malt, Mermaid Pilsner, like "Seas the Day,"  is made with a combination of malts. There is regular two-row barley malt, the staple of most fine beers, along with Cargill's "EuroPils," also made from two-row barley, but with a distinctive "grassy" flavor. There are also two non-barley malts: rye and wheat. It's the rye that imparts the hint of spiciness.

Mermaid Pilsner takes its name from Mermaid Avenue, one of Coney Island's main thoroughfares, and from the Mermaid Parade, an annual Coney Island event.

This is a well made and thoroughly enjoyable beer, equal to most and better than many imports and American craft-brewed Pilsners.