Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Whole Hog Imperial Pilsner

Stevens Point Brewery
Stevens Point, WI

Style: Pilsener
ABV: 8.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
• Bass
• Brats
• Cod
• Crab
• Lobster
• Oysters
• Salami
• Salmon
• Salsa
• Shrimp
Yeah, I’m going there again …

Some of you may recall a review I did a couple of months ago for Whole Hog Six Hop IPA, a special edition brew from Stevens Point Brewery, one of Wisconsin’s last old-school brewers. I didn’t care for Six Hop IPA, and I made it known that I wasn’t impressed. No big deal … not everything is a winner, and the occasional one or two mugger comes across the ol’ palate.

Apparently it was a bigger deal than I had imagined, as not long after that review was published, Nigel, Eddie, and Franz received an e-mail expressing displeasure with our reviews for Point brews. (We’re the only Dorks that have touched on Point brews, thus making us targets … although if Franz’s review was actually read by said e-mailer, they may have realized that he recommended the brew. Oops.). While I won’t divulge too much here, let’s just say said e-mailer, who has ties to the brewery, believed we were “beer snobs” without valid opinions. While I appreciate debate and opposing opinions, to call me the dreaded four-letter word without having any basis for argument other than you don’t like the fact that my opinion differed from yours is ridiculous. Fortunately, Webmaster Glick took care of the rebuttal in his ever-so-charming way, and Nigel refrained from giving a reply that wouldn’t have been nearly as pleasant.

This brief incident left me with a couple of impressions. The initial one was frustration that someone could read an opinion piece (yes, reviews are our opinions of each beer experience) and call us out as “shock jocks” because we didn’t say what they wanted us to say. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Part of the reason craft beer has become what it has in recent years is the fact that there are millions of people out there with a variety of tastes, people who prefer different flavors, styles, etc. Disagree with me, and I respect that. Call me a snob because I published a negative review of a beer that I found to be significantly lacking in a number of areas simply because it’s not good PR for you, then, in true “shock jock” form, you can kiss my ass.

However, after my initial anger wore off, I came to appreciate what the e-mailer said. And no, it wasn’t because I had gone soft and just hoped we could all get along. It was the fact that I realized not only were people paying attention to the opinions given here at, which is a good thing unto itself, but that there are brewers out there who are in tune with what the beer drinking public has to say about their product. While the phrasing of the correspondence still leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, I appreciate the fact that the e-mailer was standing behind a product they believed in and didn’t like the fact that someone had some not-so-nice things to say about it (although I really didn’t think I was overly harsh). I refuse to pander to anyone, and if I don’t like a brew from a brewery, it doesn’t matter if you’re Larry Bell or August Busch. If it sucks, it sucks, but I do respect anyone who comes to the defense of something they helped create, even if I totally disagree with the reasoning behind it.

While I could go on and on about that, I need to get to my latest review, which is for the other Whole Hog release, Imperial Pilsner. Let it be known, right here, right now, that when I review a beer, all other aspects are brushed aside. Previous experiences with the brew or brewery, while often mentioned in the body of the review, are set aside when it comes to the pour, appearance, aroma, taste, and other facets of reviewing a specific beer. It’s time to put the blinders on when drinking in order to give as non-biased a viewpoint as possible, and I’m looking forward to this one, especially given the fact it’s a unique style that I’ve enjoyed in the past. People may think that the hubbub surrounding the last review makes it all but a given that I will be equally harsh in this one, but all I can say is trust me … it matters not. I just want to drink some good beer!

Imperial pilsners aren’t terribly common as of yet, and are one of those “faux” styles that has the world “imperial” in front of it simply because it’s an amped-up version of a standard style, in this case the old-school pilsner. Imperial pilsners are basically hoppier, higher alcohol versions of the original, which I find pleasing since I love hops and enjoy the crisp, refreshing qualities of a craft pilsner on occasion.

Whole Hog pours well, with a foamy white head of just under an inch that slowly dissipates, leaving a slight lace on the side of the glass throughout. A perfect golden brown hue that’s clear of any sedimentation, it looks like a good pilsner in the glass.

The aroma is pleasant, as hops inundate the nostrils. This is why “imperial” pilsners are better than the original … you rarely get any pronounced hop profile in a standard pils, but here they’re quite prevalent. It appears to be a mix of old and new world hop varieties, as I sense some Cascade-like Northwest American hops, as well as the typical European Hallertau hops found in pilsners. Like any pilsner, the hops are quickly muted by the aroma of Pilsen and Vienna malts, with a touch of wheat … again, the standard players for the style. All in all a very pleasant aroma, though I was surprised how quickly the initial hop jolt faded into the background.

The flavor is again very good, but it falls short of five mug territory. Much like the aroma, the initial hop bite eases as the session progresses, leaving a bit too much in the way of an earthy, somewhat stale malitiness at the end for my taste. Again, the hop profile is a nice mix of Northwest American and Northern European, which gives the brew a much-needed kick. The pale malts then take over, giving it a feel similar to many of its standard craft pilsner brethren, albeit noticeably stronger. It remains light, crisp, and refreshing despite the high ABV, which is a definite bonus. There is a touch of sugary sweetness in the very background that also aids the overall flavor, making this a great summer brew. Medium bodied and relatively smooth on the palate (I did find it to be a bit too fizzy … it bit at the tongue with each sip), Whole Hog Imperial Pilsner is a refreshing brew, but at 8.5 percent ABV, it’s not a session brew … be careful if you plan on downing six of these while watching the ballgame.

There you have it … Nigel holds no grudges. I call ‘em as I see ‘em, and this is the first time I’ve truly been impressed with a brew from Stevens Point. Imperial Pilsner blows Six Hop IPA out of the water, as it was well crafted and can compete with many of its imperial pilsner competitors. By no means is it the best I’ve ever had, but it’s a solid four mugger that can be enjoyed during the summer months. There’s only one way to find out if you agree with my assessment or not, but if you don’t agree, be sure to bring an intelligent argument. I have very little patience for ignorant rebuttals.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 27, 2009.
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