Your momma always told you not to cuss. Some of you listened, some of you didn’t, some of you ended up getting your mouth washed out with soap. Too bad momma didn’t wash your mouth out with our Mooncusser Pils, but, let’s face it, momma was a responsible woman and CMBC didn’t exist then.
It’s an intriguing name, no? A mooncusser was, essentially, a pirate. These guys would ransack a nearby lighthouse — like that big, glorious one at Cape May Point — and disable it. Then, they’d set a fire inland, confusing the sailors into believing that the shoreline was much farther than it was. Once the ships ran aground, the mooncussers would pillage the disabled vessel, plundering its wares and triumphantly scurrying off into the night. However, a full moon would render their plans useless, leaving them to shake their fists at the heavens and curse the moon.
“Good pilsners are in short supply, but when done well they are excellent beers,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “Brewing a Pilsner is a bit like playing bass: anyone with even the most modest skills can pick up an electric bass and get something out of it, but becoming an expert on the bass — to the level of Flea or Les Claypool — is extremely difficult and requires an insane amount of skill.”
Luckily, the guys in the brewhouse were completely undeterred by the challenge.
Since this is our first true pilsner, so you’re about to get a history lesson. (Okay. Another history lesson.)
Czechs, like the Germans, tend to like naming things after where they came from — as JFK learned the hard way when he didn’t really call himself a jelly doughnut in 1963* — and pilsners are no exception. These golden brews originated in the Czech city of Pilsen in the mid 1800s. A long history as a brewing town, Pilsen began brewing in 1295, but, like most Bohemian brewers — and most craft brewers today — they more or less stuck to the top-fermented ales. The Pilsners founded a city-owned brewery in 1839 and began experimenting with brews in the Bavarian style, including bottom-fermenting lagers.
The Pilsen brewery recruited the Bavarian brewer Josef Groll to bring his inherent Bavarianness to Bohemia. Using a combination of brighter malts prepared in an English style, Pilsen’s soft water, local Noble Saaz hops, and Bavarian-style lagering, Groll tapped his first batch of pilsner on October 5, 1842, a clear, golden brew that had the Czechs dancing in the streets.
(No, not really. They’re Czech. They just legalized dancing in 1989. Before the fall of Communism, Czechoslovakia was like that town in Footloose before Kevin Bacon showed up.)
So, if it’s so great, why don’t more craft breweries brew pilsners? Well, for one, they take two to three times as long to ferment, which means tying up a precious fermenter for up to six weeks.
“The pilsner market is still dominated by the macrobreweries,” Jimmy says, “and even I occasionally like a nice, clean pilsner at the end of a long day. We thought it was time to take a short jaunt down more simpler roads and brew these great, crisp lagers as they were meant to be, taking on the macrobreweries at their own game.”
Mooncusser Pilsner is a traditional Czech-style pilsner in the vein of Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, and Paulaner. While most American pilsners still lean toward the hoppy side of things, Mooncusser is more balanced between the hops and the malt. You immediately sense the crisp, clean maltiness combined with a hint of sweetness, then a bite of Noble hop bitterness comes to meet it. The malt and the hops dance along your taste buds well after you’re done, leaving a lovely, dry finish that lasts and lasts.
We’re tapping Mooncusser Pils on Thursday, June 2. Come check it out in the Tasting Room during our summer hours, 11am – 9pm.