Wild Provisions Beer Project | 12°P Premium Pale Czech-Style Lager
Innovation in our modern craft beer world typically means more. More hops! More fruit! More marshmallow! More, more, more! That’s why it’s refreshing to see what brewers like Wild Provisions Beer Project out of Boulder, CO are doing to push the envelope on beer without jamming it full of fruit purée and Lucky Charms. What makes a beer like Wild Provisions 12°P Premium Pale Lager, or PPL, one of the best beers in the world is the fact that their beer is so… simple. No adjuncts, additives or flavoring agents. A real Reinheitsgebot poster child.
What separates Wild Provisions from other brewers is their commitment to upholding tradition. The sacred rituals, if you will, that play a critical role in what makes a beer memorable. After all, PPL was modeled after a cave-lagered version of the O.G. light lager, Pilsner Urquell. They’re not simply making beer – “We’re celebrating culture,” says head brewer Brandon Boldt. Wild Provisions specifically make Czech-style lagers, which is by no means practical. It’s a long, meticulous and expensive process. Most brewers simply don’t have the time, patience or resources for it. However, according to Boldt, “In a perfect world, this is just the way beer should be. Time is money, but it’s also quality.”
“The recipe is stupidly simple,” says Boldt, which may be true. However, the process from mash to glass is anything but that. Like their other lagers, PPL goes from coolship, to open foeder, to horizontal lagering tank. All for the sake of a cleaner brighter beer. Coolships are typically used for inoculating sours and wilds ales. But here it’s employed for cold break separation and wort aeration, which ultimately results in a cleaner fermentation and brighter beer. Fermenting in open wood foeders and lagering in horizontal tanks are not only authentic Czech methods, but they provide a healthy environment for yeast to thrive – albeit not as quickly as a closed stainless tank.
By taking the time to dive into the details, you wind up with the purest form of the flavor from the ingredients. Everything feels raw, primitive and pure. In Boldt’s eyes the goal is to “harness the same aroma you have on brew day.” It shows. You can taste the old world, with earth and spice notes from the Saaz hops. Decidedly more bitter than a German Pils. Bread dough aroma so intense that if you closed your eyes you might actually imagine standing in a bakery waiting for a fresh baguette. The mouthfeel here is on point; thanks to a triple decoction mash with floor malted Czech barley and a soft water profile. It strikes the balance between plush up front with a dry finish. PPL follows the BJCP style guidelines for Pilsner to a T. While none of these characteristics are out of the ordinary, they are all very intentional and profound.
Pilsner is all the rage these days. Lagers are in vogue. When asked if PPL is technically a pilsner, Boldt was reluctant to use the vernacular simply out of respect. “Pilsner is native to Pilsen. Similar to Lambic in Belgium. What we do is similar but it would be disrespectful to call this Pilsner officially.” But for a style that seems so simplistic, how is it that brewers still miss the mark? Boldt thinks it’s a matter of pandering and commitment. “People pump out lager too quickly or they’re afraid to take the time to get it right before it’s released. Pilsners are popular now, so they brew one to appeal to that crowd. Just because you put all of the ingredients for a Pilsner together, doesn’t mean it turns out the way it’s meant to unless you brew and ferment it properly.”
Premium Pale Lager is like an episode of the HBO series Westworld. The show is set in the future where characters can vacation to simulated versions of older time periods like the American West in order to escape what the world has become. Wild Provisions is using modern technology and knowledge to embrace an old way of doing things. It’s all quite charming, rustic but equally impressive. The result is world-class. Hopefully, consumers and brewers take note of what’s happening in Boulder. You can make amazing beer with the most basic ingredients. Less is more. Simple is sexy. Beer in its purest form. This is the way.