Beer Review 0471: Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner
Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Smuttynose Brewing Company is named for Smuttynose Island, the third largest of nine islands that comprise the Isles of Shoals, located seven miles off the New Hampshire and Maine coasts. The island is best known for a brutal double axe murder that took place in 1873.
The brewery began production in 1994 and are currently expanding, with a new facility being built — there’s even a website where you can watch a live camera of the building process. Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of the page which shows a time lapse from the beginning of construction until now; the facility is very close to completion.
Vunderbar Pilsner was first brewed in 2010 as part of the Smuttynose Short Batch series, a group of beers produced in very limited amounts that are only distributed in kegs. The inspiration came from drinking a “snot load” of Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams Noble Pils, and a visit by Cornelius Faust, from the Faust Brewery in Germany. Perhaps the most unique thing about this beer is that it was brewed in a limited edition series but was actually created to be a very normal, traditional Pilsner. Smuttynose boil the brewing water before working with it to soften it, an idea coined from Mr. Faust.
As I said, Vunderbar Pilsner is pretty plain — for a Short Batch, it’s not barrel aged, doesn’t use wild yeast, or isn’t high in alcohol. Using just Weyermann Pilsner and Acidulated malts, Vunderbar is hopped solely with Sazz, and dry-hopped at a rate of one-half pound per barrel. The beer is 5.11% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 15 IBUs (International Bitterness Units.) Vunderbar has made seasonal status at Smuttynose, on offer in six-packs from June to September.
Vunderbar pours an average size, soapy and frothy head that lingers around. Even after it stops dissipating, a small layer of foam remains atop the pale straw yellow beer. The body is quite hazy but the liquid is translucent, free of particles and sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving solid, thin (but creamy) sheets of lacing. It’s a very nice looking Pilsner that’s true to the style.
The nose features perhaps just a touch more hops (maybe thanks to the dry-hopping) than a normal Pilsner, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The hop profile is all citrus; mostly orange and orange peel, with just a smidgen of lightly bitter grapefruit. The malts are light and cracker-like; there’s some grainy notes and a bit of biscuit. This aroma is fairly clean and seems to get more subdued as it warms.
On the palate, this beer drinks like effervescent citrus, at first: those hops burst out immediately, with notes of orange, orange peel, and fleshy grapefruit. The grains quickly catch up in the middle of the taste, parting with some saltine crackers, straw, and a touch of biscuit. And just as fast as all of those flavors came out, they disappear, leaving a very clean and dry finish. Vunderbar is certainly light-bodied, with a thin, gritty mouthfeel when swirled.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this beer — in fact, this might be a perfect beer to try out on your Bud/Miller/Coors drinking friends. It has a ton more flavor but still gives that refreshing experience so many people seem to be after when having beer (whilst sacrificing nearly every bit of flavor). North Carolina didn’t see many 90 degree days this summer, but I enjoyed this at the end of one and found it to be a nice seasonal treat. Vunderbar! (Wonderful!)
Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner, 90 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.