We’re Big On Small Brewpub’s Black Pepper Pils.

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

This week, we sipped on Small Brewpub’s Black Pepper Pils.

Fast Facts on Small Brewpub Black Pepper Pils.img_0162Style: Pilsner (with spice additions).
ABV: 5.5 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): Not available.
Color: Straw.
Availability: Kegs — limited.

A long while back, I listed Black Pepper Pils as one of DFW’s top 100 beers. At that moment, it was tough to score a pint of this beer without getting it directly from Small Brewpub. But times have changed. Now you can score a pour at several bars in the Dallas area. What changed? Well, from what I know, Small Brewpub started brewing more beer. Hence the availability of BPP outside Small’s walls! According to the Dallas Observer, Small Brewpub closed its doors to its regular customers a couple days a week so it could ramp up production on beers. In case you haven’t been to Small Brewpub before, it isn’t a huge operation. Last time I was there, there was a small closet sort of situation that Small uses for its brew house, and then some other equipment on casters — so that it can be wheeled around more easily. I have to be honest, I haven’t been to Small in a couple years, so things could have changed for all I know. However, its Black Pepper Pils recipe seems to have kept it soul, even outside of the walls of Small Brewpub.

Background on Pilsner.
According to BJCP’s 2015 guidelines, this beer lives somewhere between a Spice, Herb, Vegetable (SHV) beer and a German Pilsner. The German Pilsner style is an easy-drinking, bright, bottom-fermented ale that can be enjoyed in multiples. For the most part, the hops showcased in a German (or Bohemian) pilsner are from an old-school hop family called Noble Hops. The hops should be clearly evident, but the bitterness should be balanced; it shouldn’t clobber you over the head.

The SHV style builds upon an already-successful base beer. In this case, Black Pepper Pils is brewed on top of a solid pilsner base beer. The flavor additions should compliment the base style and not overpower the beer.img_0150Appearance.
BPP pours bright and pale in to the glass. As expected, the beer pours heady, crisp and super-clear. The foam hangs around for a minute and then settles on to the sides of the glass. Rings are present and paint layers down the glass.

Two aromas hit me right from the start. The first aroma I sense is faint peppercorn. It’s a clean sort of smell, seemingly more berry-like than spicy. The second aroma that I sense is the pilsner malt. If you have brewed this style before, you can identify the pilsner malt here in the aroma pretty easily; pilsner malts are one of those types that stick out when used as the majority portion of a grist bill. Overall, this is a clean-smelling beer.

The flavor is sort of a flip-flop for me. I get that classic pilsner malt flavor first. It’s clean and clear, with a faint grainy and husky situation. According to its website, Small says that it uses six spice additions during the boil. I get the pepper most, with a faint coriander note on the aftertaste. The rest of the botanical additions are just kinda muddled there in the background. One other interesting thing to note is that there’s a small amount of rye malt in the grist bill. Normally, I shy away from rye malt. But the amount here in this pilsner is enjoyable.img_0159Mouthfeel.
BPP is a crisp, refreshing and bright beer. The spice additions are there, but they don’t get in the way, and this isn’t what I would consider a pepper beer. There’s no heartburn in the aftertaste; the botanical additions in play here provide a tiny bit of bite on the tongue, but they slowly fade as I reach for another sip. The finish is dry and crisp. Small notes that it uses an English yeast strain in this beer, which is weird for the style, but it totally works here.

Overall Impression.
While I won’t say that BPP is a classic representation of the pilsner style, it is a refreshing beer that will always be on my radar screen. And as I see it a little bit more on beer menus around town, it’s creeping higher on my go-to list. If you like the pilsner style and you want to try a slight twist on it, seek this beer out. The pepper and other boil additions are definitely present, and BPP takes on an herbal slant, but they don’t get too much in the way. Because the pilsner style is a lighter, lower-ABV, thinner style, there’s not a whole ton of places to hide off flavors. Furthermore, any flavor additions must be intentional and restrained. And I believe that BPP accomplishes this task while at the same time providing a novel and new flavor profile.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Small Brewpub’s Black Pepper Pilsner a 8.5.img_0163 img_0175What’s happening in the area brew scene?
• Friday, October 28.  Brew-Haha Comedy Series at Franconia Brewing Co.
• Friday, October 28. Costume Contest and Untapped: Dallas Ticket Giveaway at BrainDead Brewing.
• Saturday, October 29. Let’s Get Weird: The Fifth Annual Halloween Party at Lakewood Brewing.
• Saturday, October 29. Halloween Candy and Beer Pairing Flight at LUCK.
• Saturday, November 5. Festicle at BrainDead Brewing.
• Saturday, November 5. Five Years of Beers at Deep Ellum Brewing Co.
• Saturday, November 5. Twelfth Anniversary Tour & Tasting at Rahr & Sons.
• Friday, November 11 through Sunday, November 20. North Texas Beer Week.
• Saturday, November 12. Untapped: Dallas at Fair Park.
• Friday, November 18. NTX Beer Week Brewer’s Ball at Omni Dallas.

Previous On Tap Reviews:
Revolver’s Sangre y Miel: 10.
Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
Peticolas’ Velvet Hammer: 10.
Community’s Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
Community’s Legion: 10.
BrainDead’s Fill in the Blancs: 9.5.
Oak Highlands’ Freaky Deaky: 9.5.
Deep Ellum’s Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
Peticolas’ Lost Epic: 9.5.
Community’s Ascension Porter: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
Community’s Public Ale: 9.5.
Peticolas’ Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
On Rotation’s Jalapeno Saison: 9.
Woodcreek’s Bourbon Barrel Bock: 9.
Lakewood’s Wild Manimal: 9.
Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
Martin House’s Imperial Texan: 9.
Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
Peticolas’ Irish Goodbye: 9.
Four Corners’ Block Party Porter: 9.
Cedar Creek’s Belgian Dubbel: 9.
Peticolas’ Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
Deep Ellum’s Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
Lakewood’s Rock Ryder: 8.5.
Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
Lakewood’s Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Prime Minister: 8.25.
Texas Ale Project 50 Ft. Jackrabbit: 8.
Texas Ale Project’s Payne Pils: 8.
Noble Rey’s Bridesmaid’s Tears: 8.
Collective Brewing’s Urban Funk House: 8.
Lakewood’s On Call: 8.
Oak Highlands’ Golden Mustache: 8.
903 Brewers’ Crackin’ Up: 8.
Deep Ellum’s Play Date: 8.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
Bitter Sisters’ Belgian Tripel: 8.
Noble Rey’s SteamPunk: 8.
903 Brewers’ Citra On Top: 8.
Bitter Sisters’ Hissy Fit: 8.
BrainDead’s Gritz: 8.
Community’s Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
Cedar Creek’s Fisticuffs: 8.
Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
Martin House’s Day Break: 8.
Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
Peticolas’ The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
Deep Ellum’s Pale Ale: 8.
Revolver’s Bock: 8.
903 Brewers’ Sasquatch: 8.
Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
Armadillo Ale Works’ Brunch Money: 8.
Martin House’s Salsa Verde: 8.
Cedar Creek’s Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
Lakewood’s Holiday Bonus: 8.
Lakewood’s Hop Trapp: 8.
Legal Draft’s Accused Amber Lager: 7.5.
Grapevine’s Reserve Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse: 7.5.
Martin House’s Stars Above: 7.5.
Grapevine’s Prickly Pear Wheat Ale: 7.5.
Bitter Sisters’ Knock Out: 7.5.
Four Corners’ Notorious O.A.T.: 7.5.
Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
True Vine’s Unicorn’s Revenge: 7.5.
Deep Ellum’s Hop Seeker: 7.5.
Four Corners’ El Super Bee: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Hopochondria: 7.5.
Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
Martin House’s Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Antigoon’s Revenge: 7.5.
Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
Cedar Creek’s Dankosaurus: 7.5.
Oak Highlands Brewery’s Oktoberfest.: 7.25.
Backcountry’s Double IPA: 7.
Rahr’s Visionary: 7.
Shannon Brewing’s Irish Cream Ale: 7.
Oak Highlands’ Guava Good: 7.
TUPPS Brewery’ Northbound 75: 7.
Rahr & Sons’ Iron Joe: 7.
BrainDead’s I Like Harvey IPA: 7.
Martin House’s Turtle Power: 7.
Collective’s Petite Golden Sour: 7.
Shannon’s Chocolate Stout: 7.
BrainDead’s Red Ale: 7.
Community’s Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
Martin House’s Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
Bearded Eel’s Purple Unicorn: 7.
Noble Rey’s Off The Leash: 7.
Shannon Brewing Company’s Irish Red: 7.
Texas Ale Project’s Somethin’ Shady: 7.
Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
Cedar Creek’s The Lawn Ranger: 7.
Martin House Brewing Company’s Cellarman’s Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
Lakewood’s Till & Toil: 7.
903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
903 Brewers’ Sugar On Top: 7.
Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
Revolver’s High Brass: 7.
Community’s Pale Ale: 7.
Oak Highlands’ Chump Change: 7.
Martin House’s River House: 7.
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Sir William’s Brown Ale: 7.
Community’s Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
Audacity’s Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
Martin House’s Queen of the Mist (Prickly Pear): 6.75.
Martin House’s The Juice: 6.5.
Collective Brewing Project’s Mom Azacca: 6.5.
Four Corners’ La Lechuza: 6.5.
Revolver’s Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
903 Brewers’ Trot Line: 6.5.
Peticolas’ Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Nightwatch: 6.5.
Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
Wild Acre’s Tarantula Hawk: 6.
Martin House’s Kafkaesque: 6.
TUPPS’ Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
Rabbit Hole’s Tweedleyum: 6.
Rabbit Hole’s Off With Your Red: 6.
Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
Armadillo Ale Works’ WunderMelon: 6
Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
Lakewood’s Troll Toll: 5.5.
Martin House’s Hell Below: 5.5.
Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
Martin House Cuvee Pumpkin Latte: 5.
Intrinsic’s Crunktoberfest: 5.
Martin House’s Mind On My Money: 5.
903 Brewers’ The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
Deep Ellum’s Numb Comfort: 5.
Four Bullets’ Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
Audacity’s Checkered Past: 4.
Four Corners Heart O’ Texas: 4.
Audacity’s Sunset Boulevard: 4.
Shannon Brewing Company’s IPA: 4.
Grapevine’s Monarch: 4.
Twin Peaks’ Dirty Blonde: 3.
Franconia Wheat: 3.
Miller Lite: 1.

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