Emerging Italian-style Pilsner makes Portland debut in Cans

Inspired by some of the beers he tried at Firestone Walker’s Pils + Love Festival last July, Wayfinder Beer head brewer Kevin Davey created a new lager called Terrifico Horror Pils. That beer will now become the Portland breweries first beer in cans (not counting crowlers and their Modern Times collab Abaddon) which were packaged just yesterday and are already available for sale. This turn of events is special not just for being Wayfinder’s first in-house packaged beer but it shines a light on another emerging sub-style of beer — Italian-style Pilsner.

In July of 2017 Maine’s Portland was home to the Pils & Love festival founded by the acclaimed Oxbow Brewing who was inspired by Italian brewery Birrifico Italiano’s own Pils Pride festival. The Pils & Love festival was held in a park overlooking the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland and brought Italian brewed Pilsners to the United States for the first time. In 2018, California’s Firestone Walker hosted the Pils & Love festival and brought it to a national stage where many of the west coasts best lager brewers were invited to attend including a few from Oregon, namely Lisa Allen of Mcminnville’s Heater Allen Brewing, Andrew and Tim from Modern Times Beer and Kevin Davey of Wayfinder Beer. Inspired by the extra dry and crisp Italian Pilsners that were hopped in American-like boatloads of hops with a signature dry-hopping but with non-U.S. varieties, the three breweries set out to make their own take on the style.

“I think really hoppy, dry hopped lagers that showcase non-American hops are totally emerging as a style and we should tip our hats to some great brewers in Italy for starting the trend,” says Kevin Davey of Wayfinder Beer.

Agostino Arioli, the founder of Birrifico Italiano is said to have created the Italian-style Pilsner with his Tipopils about 20 years ago, incredible that it’s only beginning to catch on now. Much of the credit to making the Italian-style Pilsner an emerging trend goes to Oxbow Brewing who was probably the first to actually call it an Italian-style Pilsner and not simply Pilsner.

With more craft beer fans discovering or re-discovering the beauty of a simple lager, the time seems ripe for the Italian-style Pilsner to catch on in America. Like the Brut IPA, the Italian-style Pils is likely to be embraced by brewers for it’s clean dryness yet huge hop bursting aroma. Wayfinder used 2lbs of hops per barrel on Terrifico, a blend of spice heavy German varieties: Spalt Select and Tettnanger and like a traditional German beer it was spunded and krausened with fresh wort. The new world element comes into play with the dry-hopping of Polaris hops, a new hop variety from Hüll in Germany with massive alpha acids sometimes exceeding 20% and a super high oil content and a strong pungency sometimes described as a spicy mint.  Wayfinder describes Terrifico as aggressively spicy, citrusy, floral and yeasty with a dry, crisp, lightly golden malt backbone. It’s also highly sessionable at just 4.7% ABV with a very un-pilsner like 42 IBU’s.

“Why I like it so much is it’s a backlash to the current IPA trends,” says Davey on why the style deserves to be an emerging one. “sweeter, fuller-bodied, less bitter, less sessionable.  It seems built for the maturing craft beer palate; lots of complexity and flavor but also dry, drinkable and easy to drink.”

Italian-style Pilsner is still a sub-style without much recognition, a cursory search on google will only unearth a few mentions of it. But, like the Brut IPA, brewers are buzzing about it and that’s enough to make a beer catch on if the public embraces their experiments. The chances of Italian-style Pilsner becoming an officially recognized style are still slim but maybe if you buy enough of Wayfinder Terrifico Horror Pils than will change.

“There aren’t enough people making them.  I hope that changes” says Davey.

Terrifico Horror Pils is $14/four-pack of 16oz cans, on sale now at the brewery and soon at New Seasons, Market of Choice, Zupans, and numerous quality bottleshops like Belmont Station and John’s Marketplace. This is a limited release though and may move through quickly.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com


  • GoldenG8boi
    Thu Oct 18, 2018 4:29 PM

    OH man, I’m goin to guzzle those down so hardddd.