X5. New Zealand Pilsner

Suggested style placement: Category 12 (Pale Commonwealth Beer)

Overall Impression

A pale, dry, golden-colored, cleanly-fermented beer showcasing the characteristic tropical, citrusy, fruity, grassy New Zealand-type hops. Medium body, soft mouthfeel, and smooth palate and finish, with a neutral to bready malt base provide the support for this very drinkable, refreshing, hop-forward beer.


Medium to high hop aroma reflective of modern New World hop varieties, often showcasing tropical fruit, citrus (lime, white grapefruit), gooseberry, honeydew melon, with a light green bell pepper or grassy aspect. Medium-low to medium malt in support, with a neutral to bready-crackery quality. Very low DMS acceptable but not required. Neutral, clean yeast character, optionally with a very light sulfury quality. The hop character should be most prominent in the balance, but some malt character must be evident.


Straw to deep gold in color, but most examples are yellow-gold. Generally quite clear to brilliant clarity; haziness is a fault. Creamy, long-lasting white head.


Medium to high hop bitterness, cleanly bitter not harsh, most prominent in the balance and lasting into the aftertaste. Medium to high hop flavor with similar characteristics as the aroma (tropical, citrus, gooseberry, melon, grass). Medium to medium-low malt flavor, grainy-sweet, bready, or crackery. Clean fermentation profile (fermentation esters are a fault). Dry to off-dry with a clean, smooth finish and bitter but not harsh aftertaste. The malt may suggest an impression of sweetness but the beer should not be literally sweet. The finish may be dry but not seem crisp or biting. The balance should always be bitter, but the malt flavor must be noticeable.


Medium to medium-light body. Medium to medium-high carbonation. Smoothness is the most prominent impression. Never harsh nor astringent.


 The hop aromatics often have a similar quality as many New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines, with tropical fruit, grassy, melon, and lime aromatics. Often brewed as a hybrid style in New Zealand using a neutral ale yeast at cool temperatures. Limiting the sulfur content of the finished product is important since it can clash with the hop character.


Largely defined by the original created at Emerson’s Brewery in the mid-1990s, New Zealand Pilsner has expanded in character as the varieties of New Zealand hops have expanded in number and popularity.

Characteristic Ingredients

New Zealand hop varieties, such as Motueka, Riwaka, Nelson Sauvin, often with Pacific Jade for bittering. Other new world varieties from Australia or the US may be used, if they have similar characteristics. Pale base malts, Pilsner or pale types, perhaps with a small percentage of wheat malt. Fairly low-mineral water, typically with more chloride than sulfate. Clean lager yeast or very neutral ale yeast.

Style Comparison

Compared to a German Pils, not as crisp and dry in the finish with a softer, maltier presentation and a fuller body. Compared to a Czech Premium Pale Lager, less malt complexity, a cleaner fermentation. Similar in balance to a Kolsch or British Golden Ale, but with a hoppier aroma. Compared to any of these German styles, showcasing New Zealand hop varieties with tropical, citrusy, fruity, grassy characteristics, often with a white wine-like character. Should not be as hoppy or bitter in balance as an IPA.

Vital Statistics


25 – 45


2 – 6


1.044 – 1.056


1.009 – 1.014


4.5% – 5.8%

Commercial Examples

Croucher New Zealand Pilsner, Emerson’s Pilsner, Liberty Halo Pilsner, Panhead Port Road Pilsner, Sawmill Pilsner, Tuatara Mot Eureka