The 10 Best Pilsner Beers in 2024: Top Drops Taste Tested

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Pilsner. No beer style is as synonymous with the modern version of the beverage as the pale lager, which has taken over the world. While relatively new in the history of brewing, pilsner’s rise is a story of technological and scientific innovation – not to mention a masterclass in marketing.

Today, pilsner-type beers dominate the beer market. They represent some of the most valuable brands from the most extensive beer makers in the history of our planet. And yet, pilsner remains a mystery to many who drink it, and its composition is a challenge to those who brew it.

Brewed correctly, pilsner is the mark of brewing greatness and the ultimate beer experience. Don’t be fooled by any ol’ beer claiming to be a pilsner, there are many variations, but this list is the definitely offering of classic pilsner.

1. Pilsner Urquell

State/ Country: Czech Republic | Type: Czech Style Pilsner | ABV: 4.4% | Calories: 132

Brewed only in Pilsen, the birthplace of Pilsener, Pilsner Urquell reigns as the original classic pilsner. Before this beer, most beers in Bohemia and, frankly, the rest of the world were dark beers. The creation of this pale lager has changed that forever. Brewed with floral Saaz hops, the beer is characteristically golden and clear with a lovely crispness all pilsner beers should have. The Czech style for which this beer is the muse has a more soft mouthfeel than German or American variations due to the lack of minerals in the local water. If you can enjoy this, be unfiltered – take it!

2. Slow Pour Pils | Bierstadt Lagerhaus

State/ Country: Colorado | Type: German Style Pilsner | ABV: 5.1% | Calories: 153

How long would you wait for a beer? If you’ve ordered the exceptional German-style pilsner from Denver, Colorado’s Bierstadt, you’ll be glad to wait the 5 minutes just to pour the glass. Bartenders know to build the head of this pilsner beer into the ornately decorated footed glass designed for the beer. By pouring down the middle of the glass and giving the beer time to settle, the foam on the beer is strengthened, providing a lovely cap of foam that protects the beer and adds to the amazingly unique beer experience.

3. Pivo Pils | Firestone Walker

State/ Country: California | Type: Hoppy Pilsner | ABV: 5.3% | Calories: 159

Firestone Walker is no stranger to brewing excellence, and the brewers there never shy away from a challenge, especially one as important as brewing pilsner. When they released Pivo on the craft beer scene, it represented a shift in how craft beer fans saw lager. Pivo pils is a dry hopped pilsner, a technique more akin to IPA than classic pilsner, and yet the additional burst of floral hops from Pivo was as timeless to pilsner as the process of decoction mashed grains.

4. Prima Pils | Victory Brewing

State/ Country: Pennsylvania | Type: German Pilsner | ABV: 5.3 | Calories: 159

While Prima Pils claims to be a German pilsner, I will always think of this beer as an original craft pilsner. The beer has a special place in my memory of formative beer education. I have less access to it than I did before. However, Prima Pils and Victory Brewing are still worthy of a beer lesson whenever you’re in the mood for the crisp flavor of a hoppy pilsner

5. Pfriem Pilsner | Pfriem Family Brewers

State/ Country: Oregon | Type: Czech Style Pilsner | ABV: 4.9% | Calories: 147

Pfriem is one of the most respected craft brewers in the country, known for brewing greatness and placing a deep emphasis on adherence to old-world lagers, particularly classic pilsner. Hopped with various German varietals, Pfriem aims to express their prized lager’s beautiful grassy aromas and flavors. Pour this beer into a clean glass to fully appreciate the striking golden color and fluffy foam top.

6. Tipopils | Birrificio Italiano

State/ Country: Italy | Type: Italian Pilsner | ABV: 5.2% | Calories: 156

Though Firestone Walker may have popularized dry hopped pilsner in the US. They weren’t the first. The origin of the dry hopped pilsners comes not from a craft beer stronghold – but rather from the wine-rich country of Italy.

“Born in 1996, the first-ever dry-hopped Pilsener, Tipopils is a milestone on the international craft beer scene and the one beer that started our long history. It may seem the most “normal” among our beers, but it is exactly the one to leave the most decisive and long-lasting marks.”

Tipopils remains an elusive find in the US but occasionally make their way stateside for special events. If you happen to find a tasting, make an effort to give this revolutionary pilsner beer variation a try.

7. STS Pils | Russian River Brewing

State/ Country: California | Type: Keller Pils | ABV: 5.35% | Calories: 160

Named after the local airport code, STS Pils had me flying high when I came across a six-pack of it in cans. Traditionally, the beer makes it my way in single-pint glass bottles like the other legendary beers from the Russian River, like Blind Pig and Pliny, the Elder. STS is a crisp, masterful lager with a slight hazed when poured into a glass. This haze is due to the natural carbonation of the bottles and cans. The flavor is of crisp crackers and floral hops. The bitterness of STS is medium but evident, as a beer like this can hide nothing.

8. Nooner Pilsner | Sierra Nevada Brewing

State/ Country: California | Type: German Style Pilsner | ABV: 5.2% | Calories: 156

Sierra Nevada is an incredibly significant brewery in the history of craft beer, but they are still aware of the history of brewing that preceded it. The brewery often shows incredible reverence for breweries, beers, and beer legends who have inspired them. “Nooner is our take on the classic German-style pilsner,” writes the brewery, “filled with bright and zesty whole-cone hop flavor with a crisp, dry finish — the perfect pick for wherever the day may take you.”

9. Rick’s Original Pils | Rick’s Near Beer

State/ Country: Texas | Type: Non-Alcoholic | ABV: 0.5% | Calories: 55

Pilsners are all about that crisp finish. Austin’s Rick’s Near Beer knows that and delivers without the addition of alcohol. The growth in sober-curious drinking has spurred a non-alcoholic beer renaissance. Rick’s leads the way with a refreshing pilsner offering sans the booze.

Despite being listed as non-alcohol, Rick’s Original does list one-half of a percent of alcohol. This is a negligible amount that many N/A beers have. If you’re looking to enjoy the great taste of pilsner but limit your consumption of alcohol, give Rick’s Original a try. You won’t regret it!

10. Scrimshaw Pilsner | North Coast Brewing

State/ Country: California | Type: German Style Pilsner | ABV: 4.5% | Calories: 135

North Coast has given birth to countless craft beers that consistently appear in “best of” lists. Unsurprisingly, we end our list of best pilsener beers with a banger from their portfolio. The California brewer proves time and again that they know what they’re doing in the brewhouse.

Scrimshaw is a German style pilsner brewed “in the finest European tradition using Munich malt, and Tettnang and Hallertau hops. Scrimshaw has a subtle hop character, a crisp, clean palate, and a dry finish.”

Pilsner FAQs

Italian craft beer
Photo by monica di loxley on Unsplash

What Defines a Pilsner Beer?

While pilsner may seem like an extensive family of pale lager that includes some of the largest beer brands in the world, the Pilsner style is a bit more focused. Just because the lager is straw-colored or is brewed with pilsner malt does not automatically mean the beer is a pilsner.

Is a German Pilsner Different?

There are three primary styles within the pilsner family. First, the Bohemian or Czech style pilsner was the original pilsner style developed by Josef Groll in the 19th century. Groll was a German brewer contracted by the Bohemian city of Pilsen to improve the local beer quality. The result was the legendary Pilsner Urquell, which is still enjoyed today. The Czech pils is brewed with pilsner malt, Saaz hops, and Bohemian water, which is very low in minerals. This is notable as, despite the Czech pils possessing more bitterness units than the German style pilsner, the beer is perceived to be less bitter but with a spicy hops character.

The German pilsner is a lighter, dryer version of Groll’s Pilsner Urquell. This is primarily due to a much harder water makeup. German pilsners are brewed with German Noble hops and are more sharply bitter than their Bohemian counterparts.

Both American pilsner and Italian pilsner are more closely compared to the German Pilsner, though the latter styles utilize dry-hopping while the former, classic pilsner options do not.

Is Pilsner Beer Also Spelled Pilsener?

Pilsner, Pilsener, and pils all are used interchangeably; however, Czech styles are more appropriately spelled with the extra ‘e’ as a nod to the Bohemian city of Pilsen for which it was developed. German styles are likelier to drop the ‘e’ and spell it as pilsner.

What is Pilsner Malt?

Pilsner malt is a two-row barley malt used to brew all types of beers. It is the primary malt variety in pilsner-style beers. The Oxford Dictionary of Beer describes the flavor of pilsner malt in finished beer” as soft, round, direct, and sweetly malty, where pale ale malts will give more color along with toasty, biscuity notes.”

Oxford goes on to say of pilsner malted barley, “during malting and is kilned to an exceptionally blonde color value of no more than 2.5 to 4 European Brewery Convention. Pale ale malts, by comparison, tend to have a color rating of about 5 to 7 EBC (approximately 2° to 3° Lovibond). Pilsner malt is named after the world’s first blonde lager, the pilsner, developed in the Bohemian city of Pilsen in 1842.”

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Andy Sparhawk is an avid beer lover and the former editor-in-chief for CraftBeer.com. Andy is the lead writer for The Beer Babe and lives in Westminster, Colorado, with his family. As beer enthusiast and experienced beer judge, he loves sharing his experiences with The Beer Babe's dedicated audience of beer enthusiasts.