This past weekend, Bare Bones Pawsome Pilsner emerged as the winner of the Brew Battles Craft Beer Bracket Challenge. It was an upset win for a pale lager in a bracket heavy with strong stouts and modern IPAs.
Pawsome Pilsner starts with a light, bready aroma. If you really dig in you can pick up the faint scent of earthy hops. It’s a medium bodied beer with a palate that leans towards clean malt flavors – think fresh bread with a dab of honey. The beer finishes clean and dry. By the time the glass is back on the table, you’re ready for and wanting another pull.
Pawsome has been around for a while. It was first brewed at Bare Bones back in January of 2016. But the beer underwent a major overhaul last year after Jody Cleveland took over as head brewer at Bare Bones. Cleveland introduced Vienna malt into the mix giving Pawsome a touch of sweetness and more malt complexity. He also changed the hops going from MIchigan-grown Nugget and Chinook to Wisconsin-grown Ultra, a hop similar in flavor to German-grown Hallertau. The arrangement works beautifully. This sort of beer may appear simple, but it’s a difficult one to brew. The flavors are so straightforward and uncluttered that any misstep comes immediately to the fore.
What’s surprising to me is that an unassuming, lager somehow managed to win convincingly in a field of 24 beers that included just one other pale lager – Ahnapee Brewery’s Helles.
The single elimination, bracket tourney was put together by Justin Mitchell of the Oshkosh Independent. Beginning at the end of February, beers from six different Northeast Wisconsin breweries were judged over the ensuing weekends by tasters at local bars and taprooms until just two remained. Pawsome Pilsner faced Knuth Brewing’s Coffee Stout in the final round to take the title.
In a beer world increasingly flooded with adjunct-laden stouts and over-the-top hop bombs, it’s heartening to see that a flavorful, well-made, lager can still hold its own.