I go to University City Beverage about once a week, and my routine is about the same every time. I look around for five minutes for a new craft beer to try, realize the selection is identical to what it was last week, then buy what I was going there for all along anyway — 24 cans of Yuengling Lager.
This time, it was different. The owner came out to ask me how I was doing and if I needed any help finding anything. I thought, “Maybe today I might buy something other than Yuengling Lager,” and that was my fatal mistake. Feeling a need to follow through, I panicked and bought a case of Sly Fox Pikeland Pils.
Sly Fox Brewing Co. is based in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and as such draws its water from the same source as Yuengling Brewing, Manayunk Brewing and most of West Philadelphia — the Schuylkill River. Its “unique mineral profile” (read between the lines any way you please here) imparts flavors into all the beers it is made with, and also into your tap water.
Sly Fox Brewing has been making inroads in Philadelphia since their new brewery opened in 2012. You’ve probably seen its beers on tap at the Winterfest at Penn’s Landing. They have three or four undrinkable winter spiced ales, plus the Pikeland Pils, so people with taste buds can actually enjoy their evening. I first had the beer at Winterfest, but due to intoxication and ice-skating related injuries possibly brought on by intoxication, felt unable to properly review it from that particular experience.
So let’s talk about the beer. Poured from a can into a shaker pint glass — there will always be a place for the shaker pint glass in beer; I don’t care what the glassware nerds say — it was bright gold in color, initially forming a robust white head which quickly dissipated to a thin layer of foam. It was malty to start, with a very noticeable noble hop character towards the finish. Clean, crisp, dry mouthfeel, typical of a pilsner. At 4.9 percent ABV, this is in the middle of the session beer range.
What can be said about this pilsner, then? It is a pilsner. Pilsners, unlike many beers, have a Platonic ideal, which has been achieved through the use of intensely pure water from the Bohemian Alps. Nine out of 10 beers sold in the world are derived from the pilsner. The style is done to death, and most of the beers are, let’s face it, exactly the same. Yet, there’s something more going on here.
Sly Fox Brewing cannot draw from pristine Czech snowmelt creeks. Sly Fox draws water from the Schuylkill River. The mineral profile definitely rears its head, and it’s not unpleasant. It’s crisp and clean, sure, but not as clean as the typical Czech Pilsner. It’s a little rough around the edges, and that’s not a bad thing.
Finally, it comes in cans, a welcome relief from all those skunked Pilsner Urquells and Prima Pilses — Pilss? Pils’s? Pilsi? I don’t know — that you as the refined beer connoisseur undoubtedly have lying around.
Sly Fox Pikeland Pils is a good easy-drinking everyday kind of pilsner. Pick up a case at University City Beverage for $32, or pick up some single cans at a bottle shop near you.