California’s North Coast brewery has been producing an astonishing array of excellent beers since its start in 1988, including Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Old No. 38 Stout, Red Seal Ale and Pranqster Belgian-Style Golden Ale.
Scrimshaw can also be added to that list — a beer that not only tastes delicious, but looks delicious.
Pilsner, like most light lagers, are difficult beers to make correctly, as their light bodies and lower alcohol content make imperfections stand out more. The style is a true test of the brewer’s art and North Coast has mastered it.
Poured into a tall V-shaped pilsner glass, Scrimshaw has a stream of fine bubbles that continuously cascade from the bottom to the top through the crystal-clear straw liquid, ending with a snow-white head. I held it up to the light for several minutes, admiring its looks and contemplating the craft involved in achieving such perfection.
Subtle hops and strong grain aromas wafted from the glass, hinting at what was to come. Light malt and fresh grain flavors came through in a clean, crisp body. Hop flavor was more noticeable in the aftertaste, along with a slight bitterness and dry finish, which is appropriate for the style.
The main difference author could tell between Scrimshaw and the best European pilsners, such as Pilsner Urquell or Veltins, was a fresher grain presence and less pronounced bitterness. It’s a highly drinkable beer for the hot summer months.
Most of the people really enjoy light lagers, but rarely have them because it is notoriously hard to find good ones in a bottle. A couple of factors are to blame: the lower alcohol content is not conducive to longevity and the beer can start chemically breaking down in a short time due to temperature variations and light. Another is that hops don’t do well after bottling — their aroma and flavor tend to dissipate.
But Scrimshaw’s quality comes through in the bottle and is as good as it gets.
North Coast beers are available in Wisconsin, distributed through Specialty of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.