what: Steel Hands Brewing’s Punch Clock Pilsner

where: Steel Hands Brewing, 2350 Foreman St.

ABV: 4.5 percent

price: $6 for a pint (also available in six packs of cans at the brewery and elsewhere)

contact: 803-708-9864, steelhandsbrewing.com

Heat is hard-wired into Columbia’s identity. It is, with few exceptions, the first thing people not from here comment on to people from here. It’s the basis of the city’s last two tourism slogans, ”Famously Hot” and “The Real Southern Hot Spot.” And it is, we must admit, a defining physical attribute for close to half of the year, as the air around us defies reason by somehow being hotter and wetter than neighboring cities that are already hot and wet.

But one happy result of the heat is the wealth of crisp and crushable lighter beers produced by our local breweries. River Rat’s Bohemian Pilsner and Luminescent Lager, Cottontown Brew Lab’s Rose Lager, Columbia Craft’s eponymous flagship lager and the traditional german lagers produced by Bierkeller are all exceedingly unpretentious and well-crafted. Prime examples of styles that leave little room for error, they’re also perfectly suited for the Midlands’ oppressive summer months.

Enter Steel Hands’ new Punch Clock Pilsner, the latest light, heat-beating entrant into this already crowded field. But despite the competition, this finely honed quencher still manages to stand out.

The nose is classic pilsner, all bread and biscuit and pepper. Upon sipping the perfectly golden liquid, one notices a surprisngly strong swell of hop bitterness, but one that layers seamlessly with the pepperiness of the pilsner’s malt profile — it’s a duality that’s heightened in the delightful black pepper-bolstered variant that was also pouring when Free Times stopped by Steel Hands’ taproom. The bitterness ramps up subtly and pleasantly with each sip, resulting in a beer that finishes clean but leaves a lingering impression on the palate, begging you to grab a second and a third and so on.

It’s the kind of brew that tastes just right with the sun glaring into your sunglasses, a slam-dunk grab-a-six-pack-and-head-for-the-lake beer. Get you one and get your summer on.


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