Brewer’s Perspective: Brewing a Great “American-Style” Pilsner with Green Bench

Green Bench’s Postcard Pils takes a unique approach, atypical of any singular pilsner tradition. We asked cofounder and head brewer Khris Johnson to explain the thought and schematics behind one of our Best 20 Beers in 2021.

Khris Johnson Feb 12, 2022 - 7 min read

Brewer’s Perspective: Brewing a Great “American-Style” Pilsner with Green Bench Primary Image

Photo: Courtesy Green Bench Brewing

The Origin Story

We knew we wanted a pilsner. Everyone was leaning German-style—there weren’t as many examples of Czech-style pilsner around. There weren’t a ton of examples of American pils, for that matter. Part of the reason we decided to go that route was, frankly, how American craft brewers do things when we’re adventuring into something new: We wanted boundaries, but we didn’t want as many. We didn’t want the constraints that we would place on ourselves to match style guidelines.

So we wanted some way to make it our own. Sure, we also wanted to tackle more traditional styles and make them as accurately as we could. But with Postcard being a core brand, this approach seemed to fit. And it allowed us to make a beer that we thought would fit Florida—and specifically St. Petersburg—perfectly.

A Beer for Its Place

We wanted a nice brightness. We wanted a bit of hop character—which isn’t uncommon in pilsners. As I was trying different pilsners, there was this European character not just to the fermentation but also to the hop profile. This is one of the only lagers we make that we ferment as high as 55°F (13°C). We get a bit of fruitiness in the fermentation characteristics when we go to that temperature. We thought that profile paired well with Mt. Hood—not a continental European hop, but it has similarities to those.

In my head, I envisioned Postcard being this beer where if you’re familiar with continental European pilsners, you would drink Postcard and be satisfied—because the quality of production is there; it’s clean and well-made. The actual profile matches European pilsner, as far as ABV, IBUs, bitterness-gravity ratio, mouthfeel, carbonation—all those things line up. But there is a certain fermentation freedom and ester profile that we have in Postcard Pils that really isn’t in any of our other lagers. I thought that that kind of freedom would work really well in St. Petersburg.


We wanted something that was super bright. We wanted something that was snappy and dry, and we wanted something that was—for lack of a better term—“crispy.” The fruitiness really works for this tropical Floridian kind of feel—it works well for our climate.

This Is American

We wanted to put the grist where our mouth was, when we say this is an American-style pilsner. We wanted to use some domestic grain, and not just European grain. With that said, the base of it is still nearly 90 percent German malt, because we wanted this beer to be as familiar as possible to those who enjoy the Continental classics because we love them, too. That’s the inspiration.

But when I think about Postcard, sometimes I envision … What if you immigrated to the United States, and you were brewing, and you could still make pilsner malt as it was in Europe—but you still had to supplement it with some U.S. ingredients? While it’s not a whole lot, we do add some six-row just for the conversion of corn. From that perspective, we feel confident and comfortable saying, “Yes, this is an American pilsner.”

The corn adds to the aroma—especially with decocting it, we definitely get more expression from it. We make other beers that have higher corn percentages because we like that quality. In Postcard, it expresses itself almost perfectly to me. The decoction really cooks down that corn and brings those aromatics forward, and it adds a little touch of extra grain sweetness. To me, that enhances the pilsner malt—it gives us this depth of grain, that bit of sweet character in the nose that plays well with the spiciness of the hops and the fruitiness of the fermentation.


More on Embracing Decoction

Postcard was single-infusion for a long time. I’m a pretty big believer in making changes incrementally—I think a lot of brewers are—instead of all at once. We spent a lot of time dialing in Postcard with a single-infusion mash. We had gotten it to a point where it was as good as it could really be made consistently—and we loved it; it was fantastic.

The decision to implement decoction was part of a continued fascination: Is it possible to improve some of the elements of this beer, which we feel like we’re not capable of improving with our current process? Going into it, we by no means assumed that decoction was going to do that. We were open and honest with each other in discussions about how we might try this, and then let’s give it several months to dial it in until we’re comfortable with it, we’re familiar with it, and we understand it really well. Then, frankly, if we thought the single-infusion one was better for whatever reason, we would be perfectly fine just switching back and doing that.

What we found is that the first few batches we decocted—as we were learning the system and the process—weren’t as good as a single-infusion ones. But then once we started dialing it in and getting consistency on our numbers, consistency on our lauters and fermentations, then the expression of the malt opened up in a way that we weren’t able to capture before. At some point I was like, “Is this super-malt?” Obviously, it’s the same grain, but its presence was so much more obvious. Again, it took time for it to get at least as good as the single-infusion Postcard was for us. Then, very soon after that, we all were saying, “This is actually better.”

I think it goes back to the original concept of Postcard being a beer for someone familiar with traditional Continental pilsner. But it’s also this interesting, climate-based conceptual beer that lives in a bunch of different places. At the very least, it’s rooted in drinkability, in complexity, in quality process, and in quality packaging. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re trying to do.