Trumer Pils, the traditional German pilsner that is brewed in Berkeley California, and the craft brewery is dedicated to the tradition of their brand – to a fault. Their stubborn adherence to an antiquated technology for the sake of marketing runs counter to craft beer’s biggest tenet: the beer should be the focus.
I recently wrote a story for the Daily Dish about the launch of the respected brand in Southern California, and I was compelled to mention Trumer’s dark side – its use of green bottle to package their beer.
Brown glass bottles are an acceptable solution for packing beer (and just barely acceptable if you ask Beachwood Brewing’s owner Gabe Gordon) since the glass blocks most UV light – a vile enemy of beer.
Exposure to UV light is the only cause of “skunky” beer. Temperature fluctuations or any other reasons you’ve heard for the assy-aroma of a skunked brew is just a myth. It’s a chemical reaction in the hop acids caused by UV light and resulting in the formation of MBT – nearly the same chemical that a skunk sprays.
Our sun is, of course, the largest producer of UV light that we have to worry about, but flourescent light fixtures – like those found in warehouses, retail shops, and even inside the coolers and refrigerators at your favorite bottle shop or bar – are also sources of UV radiation. And your beer spends a lot of time in environments saturated by fluorescent lighting.
The Big Beer companies often use green or – gasp – clear glass bottles as a branding and marketing strategy. The want customers to see the pale yellow hue of their lagers in clear bottles, or – like Heineken – they’ve pinned their whole brand identity on the green glass container. Their beer will be light-struck, turn skunky, and be nearly undrinkable (unless you decide to adulterate that Corona with a lime wedge). They don’t care; it isn’t about the beer for them – it’s about the brand.
The whole craft beer movement was launched as a response to this attitude. It should always be about the beer.
So why the hell would Trumer choose to use green bottles and risk the integrity of the beer housed inside them? Serious Eats asked Trumer Brewmaster Lars Larson this very question:
We asked Larson about the brewery’s choice to package their beer in green bottles, and he said they went with tradition. “There was a culture of the international pilsner being in the green bottle,” he answered. To avoid skunking, he recommended purchasing pilsner in cardboard 12-packs or cases, which are protected from the light until you open them.
Well, that’s a unideal solution, and frankly it is pretty disappointing that this is the company line on the issue.
A better option is to only drink Trumer – which is a delicious example of a well-balanced German Pilsner – when you can find it on-draught.
An even better option is to let Trumer know (via their Contact page or Social Media) that you don’t give a damn about what the beer’s “traditional” packaging is. A craft brewery should be 100% committed to getting the best quality beer into the hands of their customers, and nearly guaranteeing that the majority of your bottle-buying customers will be drinking flawed beer is unacceptable for a modern brewery.
Personally, I find Trumer’s actions and reasoning for them disrespectful to craft beer lovers and on-par with actions taken by the loathed Big Brewers who care more about brand and profit than supplying customers with what they want. Not that Trumer calls its self a craft brewery or its beer craft beer; the German-owned company (Trumer is actually an Austrian company as pointed out in the comments) goes out of their way to avoid using the term. Yet, they then spend a lot of effort to market their beer to craft drinkers.
The line between craft beer and Big Beer is blurring every day, and you have to stay vigilant if you care about that distinction.
There are an increasing number of craft pilsners being brewing by LA-area brewers, and you’re certainly better off with one of these brews than a (questionable) bottle of Trumer. Noble Ale Work’s new Pistola Pils is a great Czech-style pils that you can find in bombers, Angel City Brewing is developing a German Pilsner that they are pouring at their taproom, and Beachwood Brewing’s Loma Prieta Pils is the choice for hop-heads looking for a crisp pils.