Review Date 10/24/2004 Last Updated 10/16/2018 By John Staradumsky
I have always had
an affinity for all things German, and I suppose that that is a result of my
German heritage and the inculcation of a strong identity with that heritage
instilled by my father (who is not German) and my grandfather (who is). Thus
it’s no surprise that from the beginning I enjoyed beer, and German beer
especially. In my earliest beer drinking days I started out with, believe it
or not, Busch and I enjoyed it. Soon, however, I was drinking vast
quantities of Beck’s and then St. Pauli Girl, which eventually became my
staple until the mid eighties.
At that time a new beer arrived upon the scene from Duisberg, Germany. This was no ordinary beer. At the time it was the largest selling beer in Germany, a title now held by Warsteiner. It was malty, hoppy, refreshing, and drinkable. It wasn’t skunked (it came in brown glass) and almost everyone I offered it to enjoyed it. It came bearing beautiful silver-foil embossed labels and was a pleasure to behold. The beer I’m talking about is called König Pilsener (König means King in German), a true king of beers.
The brewery was established in Duisberg in 1858 and their slogan is Heute Ein König (A König Today). Though today I buy my beer mostly by the six-pack, this one I bought by the case every time. Good as it was, though, things got even better. I soon learned of a restaurant in Providence called König City that was part of a chain established here in the United States by the German Brewery. This was a very special place, and I was hooked from the first time I set foot in the place.
König City had König Pilsener on draft, and they flew the kegs in on Lufthansa to make sure they were getting the freshest possible beer. I used to love watching them fill your glass, they’d pour a little and it would foam uncontrollably, then they would allow it to settle and pour some more. You could get a one liter Mass of the stuff that they called the Kaiser König, or Emperor King. That was a great way to wash down all the wonderful German food the place offered, especially during Oktoberfest when the oom-pah-pah bands were playing.
Of course, after drinking all that delicious König Pilsener and a few local Hope beers which were also always on draft, I had to get home. Luckily, good friends and good beer always go hand in hand, and I had a non-drinking buddy who loved Konig-City almost as much as I do. Even more, he loved driving my ’73 Plymouth Satellite, so I would drive it into the city and he would drive me home. What a deal.
Speaking of friends, I had another one who I always will associate with this beer. His name was Jim, and I met him in the factory I worked in back at the time, around 1988. Jim was a Bud drinker, until he met me anyway. I turned him on to König-Pilsener and soon it was all he was drinking. We would sit in the parking lot at work on our lunch break and drink ice cold Konigs (a no-no I know, but hey, we were young and impetuous.). Jim and I hit König-City together more than a few times, most notably on the night before my wedding.
Eventually, König-City closed, a fact that depressed me immensely. König Pilsener disappeared from the area a short while later, adding to my sorrows. But the worst was yet to come. I left the factory and a few years later found out that Jim had died of cancer. He was younger than I was, a fact that made his death all the more tragic. I still look back on those afternoons we spent sipping beers together with the utmost fondness and melancholy.
I suppose one way we deal with grief is through humor. Recently, the brewing world suffered a great loss with the death of Bert Grant, one of the founding brewers of the American craft beer movement. When I tell beer drinkers of this I am invariably asked by the listener, who will have a grave look of concern upon his visage, what he died of. When I reply “old age” there is a universal response of “Phew!” and a look of relief. Be that as it may, I have never been able to associate humor with Jim’s death.
Tonight, once again, I’m hoisting a glass of König-Pilsener, and it’s as good as it ever was. The beer pours to a deep golden color with a spritzy, short-lived head formation and a hoppy nose. The palate is smooth, malty, delicious, and extremely drinkable and satisfying. The finish is hoppy, slightly bitter but not extremely so, balancing to perfection. Perhaps its nostalgia but I truly do love this beer.
I hope I haven’t bored you with my reminiscences on this beer. Perhaps they have shed a little light about me for the reader. This is a very special beer to me, one to be reserved for a very special review.
And so it is I dedicate my 500th review to a dear departed friend who no doubt looks down from heaven with a glass of König, that heavenly brew, in his hand. Here’s to you Jim. Heute Ein König. Today, this König is for you.
Update 6/23/2014: Here we are, almost 13 years later and König-Pilsener is still a favorite. It's fortunately available here in Georgia and reasonably priced at just $8.99 a six-pack. König-Pilsener is also available in 16-ounce cans these days. My latest six-pack was very fresh indeed with a best by date of February 2015.
König Pilsener is a refreshing breath of simplicity in these days of ever more complicated craft beers. Not that this reviewer does not love those beers: I do. But a crisp, biscuity, hoppy König Pilsener is also a treat, so fresh and refreshing that it's hard to stop drinking it. And every sip takes me back to those draft Königs back at König City.......
Glad I tried it? T
Would I rebuy it??
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.