12.178 Taste Test: World Series of Pilsner Finale

Cycle 12 – Item 178

2 (Fri) July 2021

World Series of Pilsner Finale

by me

at the cabin

-Changchon, Seowon, Hoengseong, Gangwon, Republic of Korea-

with PJS

GMTD World Series of Pilsner (7 of 7) (see also WSP)

This project conducted a series of taste-tests on pilsner-style lagers from around the world.

The contenders comprised 16 mass-market brands widely available in Korea, each selected with personal preference or general popularity in mind: 4 from Korea, 4 from Europe, 5 from Asia, 3 from the Americas.

Curiously, the design of global beer brands tend to be limited to just 5 colorways: silver, gold, green, blue, and red – no purple, orange, black, or pastels.

The tests were conducted piecemeal over a period of roughly 2 months, whenever I had some free time and the accompanying meal seemed appropriate.

Following the quarterfinal round of 16, the 4 finalists: Heineken, Pilsner Urquell, Estrella Damm, and Tiger.

Following an intermediary retesting, 2 additional wild cards: San Miguel and Beck’s.

This evening, the semifinals and finals were conducted back-to-back.  Let’s finish it already!

I was happy to be joined by my cousin PJS.  As the earlier rounds clearly indicated, my tastes run towards the richer, deeper, hoppier European styles, so perhaps PJS – who is as Korean as they come – would provide a counterbalance.  I even added a wilder wild card Cass, long ago eliminated in the quarterfinals, just to see how far it would get with a Korean judge on the panel.

SEMIFINALS

SET UP

The semifinalists were divided into 2 groups:

Group 1: Beck’s vs Estrella Damm vs Tiger

Group 1: Heineken vs Pilsner Urquell vs San Miguel (vs Cass)

In the groupings, each beer was tasted blind and scored once on an overall 4.0-scale.  The beer with the highest score, combined from both judges, moved on to the final round.

After the conclusion of Group 1, we took a 1-hour break and conducted Group 2.

RESULTS

Group 1 (me + PJS)

  1. Beck’s (3.0 + 3.0 = 6.0)
  2. Tiger (3.5 + 2.0 = 5.5)
  3. Estrella Damm (2.5 + 2.5 = 5.0)

Group 2 (me + PJS)

  1. Pilsner Urquell (3.5 + 2.0 = 5.5)
  2. Heineken (3.0 + 2.5 = 5.5)
  3. San Miguel (2.5 + 2.0 = 4.5)
  4. Cass (2.0 + 2.0 = 4.0)

Whereas Pilsner Urquell and Heineken tied in combined points, and I didn’t have enough beer for a tie-breaker (I had only brought 1 can of each contender), I called for both to advance to the finals.

FINALS

SET UP

Individually, we blind-tasted the final three beers and ranked them first, second, and third.   The top choice was allocated 3 points, the middle choice 1 point, and the last choice 0 points, then the points from both judges were combined.

Odd coincidence that the Top 3 are green and red in design.

RESULTS

  1. Pilsner Urquell (3 + 3 = 6)
  2. Beck’s (1 + 0 = 1)
  3. Heineken (0 + 1 = 1)
After the tasting was complete, I crushed the cans and tossed them into the recycle bin, then realized that I had forgotten to take photographs, so I retrieved them and tried to get them back into shape, including by blowing into them – has anyone in history ever done that? – but I was largely unsuccessful.

CONCLUSIONS

How perfectly poetic that the inventor of pilsner should win the World Series of Pilsner, 180 years later.  It has long been one of my favorites, so I was glad to secure affirmation.  The outcome would’ve turned out the same had I done the tasting alone, so the win is even more convincing with my cousin’s vote.

My cousin, uninformed of the beer tasting until he arrived, had brought his own: Pilsner Urquell, which was already his favorite, even before his participation in WSP.

Throughout the competition, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see Heineken consistently win high points.  The brand is sometimes dismissed by cynics, just because of its global ubiquity.  As WSP suggests, perhaps the popularity is well-deserved.

The Top 3 finish of Beck’s shows that I had good taste in beers even as a college student.

Overall, I was comforted to confirm that most of the beers were just fine to drink.  I won’t complain to find them on a menu.

Generally, I was disappointed but not surprised to see the Korean contenders do so poorly.  This was largely a reflection of my own dislike of thin, bland beers, and my cousin seemed to agree.  I was pleased to discover that newcomer Terra is quite good: rich, balanced, unlike any Korean beer in history.  I realized that most Korean beers have silly names that sound vaguely like words, but aren’t: e.g., Cass, Terra, Kloud, Hite, Fitz, Filite, Filgood.   (Same with Korean cars names: e.g., Ioniq, Sorento, Avante, Elantra, Veracruz, Atoz, Starex, Starius, Korando, Equus, Actyon, Rexton, Kyron.)

We ate quite a lot through the rest of the evening, starting with buffalo wings, an ideal dish with which to wrap WSP.

(See also BOOZE)

(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)

(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)

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