Beer Sherpa Recommends: Block 15 Gloria Unfiltered Pilsner
If you're a certain kind of drinker, the name Block 15 evokes one of the state's buzziest of hoppy buzz beers, Sticky Hands (currently scoring a titanic 4.43 on BeerAdvocate). If you're a different kind of drinker, it might call to mind Super Nebula, a stout (4.18). Or maybe you like yourself some balanced, sophisticated wild ales, in which case Block 15 makes you think of Turbulent Consequences Peche (4.39) or Golden Canary (4.26). To me, Block 15 has always said saison, which is why I included Ferme De La' Ville Provision (4.14) in The Beer Bible. In other words, Nick Arzner's little Corvallis joint does a lot of different things very well.
Add pilsner to the list.
Gloria, or as the brewery styles it, Gloria!, is named for Arzner's mother-in-law but, curiously, began life as Glo. The earlier incarnation was an unassuming and uncelebrated golden ale (3.49). Arzner himself must have felt some ambivalence, because it didn't merit her full name. So, over time, he slowly transformed the beer in increments from that timid golden ale to a distinctive, full-flavored pilsner. "No one complained, either!" he proclaimed triumphantly as he relayed the story. That's hard to believe, because Gloria joins a growing list of truly stellar Oregon pilsners that is absolutely glowing with flavor (sort of like my tricked out photo above). I can't imagine anyone confusing it with a golden.
Gloria! is made with Czech floor-malted barley and is hopped with Saaz and Mt. Hood (a descendant of Hallertauer bred for "noble" characteristics). Despite all the Czech cues in its DNA, though, it's not like any Czech lager I tried. The malts add only a very subtle sweetness and almost no density (they're often thick, rounded, or even cakey in the Czech Republic)--more like you'd find in a German pilsner. The hops lack that distinctive tang of Saaz (you might describe that characteristic Saaziness as something other than tang, but you get my point) but are nevertheless assertive and delish. Instead of tang, they have a nice snap up front and an herbal, lemony flavor. What I liked most was the character of the yeast, which was so crisp and clean I thought I felt it scrubbing the grime right off my teeth. I believe it is this quality that earned Gloria its exclamation point.
I was heartened to learn that this beer is headed for the canning line, so there's even a chance you might encounter it down the road. (Oh, you non-Oregonians? No, you're probably screwed. But at least Portlanders can hope!)