Dogfish Head Brewery’s “Piercing Pils”

December 24, 2013

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.” Merry Christmas, everyone. While I don’t have any spare partridges to deal with, I do have the pear. That’s right, pear and beer together.

Traditionally, perry has been made in England and northern France for centuries. Essentially it’s a cider utilizing pears in place of apples. The fundamental difference is that pears have higher concentrations of unfermentable sugar. This condition results in a naturally sweeter beverage. What we have here today, however, is something completely different.

Long-known for their experimental and lost-to-history recipes, Dogfish Head Brewing out of Delaware is the standard bearer for crafting beverages outside of the box. They even go so far as to run spectral analysis on petrified residue in ancient drinking vessels to decode ingredients used hundreds – sometimes thousands – of years ago. Just look at their Ta Henket. This is a recipe based off of ancient Egyptian brewing methods and ingredients. Birra Etrusca’s recipe goes back 2,800 some-odd years!

Now Dogfish Head brings us their Piercing Pils. Czechoslovakian pilsner has always been a bright, spicy, grassy, floral beer. The noble hop varietals used for this style are peppery and herbal while bready malt rounds it out. Dogfish owner and brewmaster Sam Calagione and his crew decided to throw a little sweetness in there for an interesting display of flavor balance.

Inspired by traditional perry, they use pear juice instead of leaving crushed pear in the wort to macerate. My guess for this is to eliminate the risk of the pear pulp imparting any astringency due to its tannin content. Tannins are bio-molecular compounds that produce dry sensations in the mouth. Think of unsweetened tea or red wine.

Speaking of tea, Dogfish also throws some white pear tea into the mix for Piercing Pils. Well, wouldn’t the tea just give back the tannins that eliminating the raw pulp takes out? Not so. White tea is picked while very young and allowed to naturally wither in the sun. Without the additional growth time and the quick drying, white tea leaves oxidize less meaning minimal loss of chlorophyll. The darker the leaf, the higher the tannin count.

Time to open my gift. Piercing Pils is shimmering gold with a thick head of tiny bubbles. Soft scents of pear jump out in front of Saaz hop spiciness, faint honeysuckle and apple. Flavor-wise there is a lot happening in this beer. The bread/cereal/cracker malt starts off first but is quickly taken over by the amazing combination of pear sweetness, earthy hop bite and fine notes of pine, grass, apple and herbs. Crisp carbonation and a medium-texture body deliver a perfect tactile sensation.

Merry Christmas to you and also to Dogfish for this amazing beverage!