Beer Review: Holsten Pils

THESE days, there needs to be something special about a lager for me to spend any time on it. It would need to come from an unusual place. Or be brewed in an unusual way. Or, be a pilsner lager. That’s why I’ve chosen a can of the big-name Holsten Pils as today’s beer.

Holsten Pils front of can

I like the look of the can. It looks German. Which is handy, because that’s where it’s from. And the combination of green and yellow makes sure that you won’t confuse it with much else on the shop shelves.

Around the roundel logo is the name of, what I think is the brewery. Holsten-Brauerei AG is the name. And on the bottom of the roundel is the name of the place where it comes from. Hamburg in Germany in this case.

The logo features a silhouette of a knight on a horse, wielding a sward. And very large shield, bearing a large “H”. Whether the “H” refers to Hamburg or to Holsten is anyone’s guess. There’s a date on there too. 1879 means that it isn’t one of Europe’s oldest breweries, but old enough to have proved itself. Hopefully enough to justify the writing at the bottom of the can, which reads “Pure Brewing Excellence”.

The small-print is spread between two slim columns on different ‘sides’ of the can.

Holsten Pils join side of can

This one straddles what looks like the join between the start and end of the can printing. The bigger of the two blocks of text is one of the better descriptions I’ve seen on any can. They tell us about this lagers “unique and distinctive taste” from using more natural sugars in an “enhanced fermentation process”. How much to read into that, I’m not sure. But it apparently leads to “lower” “carbohydrates” than other lagers. Useful to know if you’re keeping an eye on your calories. I’ve got a feeling this means more to my female readers. So, girls, is that something you look for in a beer?

The other, little line of text simply confirms what we already knew. That this came from the Holsten brewery in Hamburg, Germany.

Over on the other side of the can, and all the usual small-print details are present.

Holsten Pils barcode side of can

This is the common 500 millilitre size of can. The alcoholic volume is the common 5%. It is best served chilled, as is common practice. It has the frequently seen 2.5 UK units of alcohol. And it contains the usual water, malted barley, yeast and hops. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

With that out of the way, it’s time to crack open this can and answer some questions. Questions like is my taste for continental Pilsner lager really justified? And will some otherwise good flavour be ruined by the aluminium taste of the can?

Holsten Pils poured into a glass

The head can best be described as healthy. Nearly overflowing my pint glass, it died down over the next couple of minutes. But it did remain as a thick layer, so be ready for a froth moustache.

The colour is a light yellow colour. And there are fewer bubbles in there than with some lagers out there.

The smell isn’t bad at all. It has a much richer blend of ingredients in the smell. Hugely better than the generic and cheap smell from most lagers. I like it.

The taste is much the same as the smell. The taste has that ‘sharpness’ that reminds you that this is a lager. And that brings with it an overall bitterness that lingers on the back of your tongue.

But this being Holsten Pils, it’s more balanced and better blended than ordinary lagers. It isn’t dominated by the horrible bitterness that consumes its cheaper competitors. Instead, it’s balanced by the malted barley. Which, you can taste a hint of in this blend. For a lager, that’s excellent news.

Other things I liked where how crisp and refreshing it was. It wasn’t very gassy. And overall, it’s very drinkable. The pilsner reputation remains intact then?

Or does it? It may be better than most lagers on the market, but it’s still a lager. And that means it never will have the taste and flavour I want. Being less bad, doesn’t make something good.

The lagery taste and bitterness will still put people off. The taste and flavour will leave people me bored after a while because there simply isn’t enough of it. And what little there is, isn’t particularly interesting.

To sum up, Holsten Pils is above average in the way that peas can be above average. They might be peas with a good reputation and live up to that reputation. But they’re still peas. Holsten Pils is the same. It’s one of the better Pilsner style lagers I’ve tried. I don’t hate it in the way I hate most lagers, and there’s a lot to enjoy here. But it’s still a lager, so if you want complex, unusual flavours, you’re in the wrong place. This is one that most people will happily drink, in quantity, but not love.

Rating: 3.1

Holsten Pils is sold everywhere for next to nothing, so you’ve probably tried it. In which case, what did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, corrections, thoughts, ideas and suggestions here.

UPDATE: Holsten Pils in a bottle

Sold in a can almost everywhere, this bottle was hard to find. But, after quite liking the can, this long-necked bottle seemed worth a try. It has no back label and no more information on the wrap-around neck label. But any chance to avoid the aluminium taste of a can is welcomed.

Holsten Pils bottleHolsten Pils front labelHolsten Pils front neck labelHolsten Pils join on back of neck label

UPDATE May 2010:
Out of the blue, Holsten Pils has become one of my favourite curry beers. On its own there’s little reason to love it, but add it to your spicy curry and it is outstanding. That light drinkability and taste just works when it comes to explosive food. The £1 price and availability in nearly every off-license in town helps a lot too. This dependable lager is growing on me.

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44 Responses to “Beer Review: Holsten Pils”

  1. JJ Says:

    Thanks for the review.

    Where are you from? Because I am from the US and I have yet to find this beer, Holsten Pils. I was in Hamburg a couple years ago and I really liked this beer. I just cant find it here in the States.

    Thanks !

  2. Does anyone know where I can find the Holsten Pils advert which parodied the Great Escape? | Blogs Says:

    […] Beer Review: Holsten Pils (updated) « Hywel’s Big Log […]

  3. Debi Says:


  4. Elizabeth Walters Says:

    My husband for the first time, tried your bottled lager whilst at a function. He is restricted to alcohol consumption due to diebetes and other matters. What he would like to know is …. is there sugar in the product. We note it is 5% alcohol. Thank you in anticipation.

    • Stuart Johnson Says:

      Stuart Johnson
      As a type 1 diabetic for 50 years I was recommended by a medical friend of mine to drink this as it has little or no sugar in it. At lest that was what I was told !

      • Alex Says:

        The problem with alcohol and diabetes is that even if the drink contains no sugar, your body turns the alcohol itself into glucose in the hours after drinking it. If you drink in the evening you may go to bed with a normal sugar level but you are likely to wake up with high sugar. One beer will do nothing drastic, but a diabetic having more than a couple beers regularly is really asking for trouble.

  5. Chad Says:

    does anyone know the nutritional information regarding holsten pils???

  6. das Says:

    bitte informieren sie price fur holsten döse 500 carton fur export. export price
    um tel 0171-9318-928

  7. das Says:

    pls infm holsten price danke 0176-9100-63200

  8. das Says:

    pls infm price for holsten beer cans of 500ml for export for 1000ctns.

  9. Derrick Says:

    This is by far my beer of choice. reasonably priced and great taste. If you like the euro taste of beers than you will enjoy this alot. I recommend that you try it and see for yourself!

  10. rosesam-uk81122 Says:

    i am saying at the moment very nice beer in the world

  11. Ruth Fisher Says:

    I’m one of the growing number who react badly to synthetic additives, such as sulphur dioxide (E220 preservative) and tartrazine (E102 yellow colouring) both of which are linked to hyperactivity in children and flu-like symptoms in adults and which are widely used in UK food & drink.
    I can’t drink wine due to the preservatives used to inhibit moulds and found that many British beers, in addition to preservatives, also used unnecessary colourings.
    A helpful man at Schweppes (whose tonic water does not contain additives) told me to try German lagers as their purity laws made them less likely to cause a problem. That good advice changed my life, since when HP (as it’s known in the family) has been my staple tipple. Occasionally I’m persuaded to have a G & T, provided the tonic water definitely is Schweppes. If Holsten and Schweppes can do it why can’t the rest of the drinks industry?

    • andrea Says:

      hi ruth iv had to stop wine as i turn bright red just wondering if you did as im wondering if iv got same problem


  12. John from England Says:

    You lot really need to get a life, I prefer to just drink it, than discuss it at these lengths!

    • Rachel Says:

      Why are you here then!? Some people have health issues and weight concerns. Ignorant comment. Byeee

      • Anonymous Says:


  13. RobBeer Says:

    Hywel, you misread the information on the can, check the photo again and you will see it was brewed and canned in the UK. The newer cans don’t even hide the fact that it is brewed in Northampton by Holsten’s parent company, Carlsberg.

    Another beer that has had its alcohol reduced over the years, down from 6% to 5%.

  14. kibrom tekeste Says:

    I am looking beer for export in 0.50 in cans alcol content is 9.5% for africa , could you pls write me price FOB port of Hamburg quantity in nedd 2 x20 ft container ,

  15. philip carlini Says:

    I agree Holsten Pils is an excellent brew. I am particularly interested in the fact that it is lower in carbohydrates than some other beers and contains less sugar as I am a diabetic. I would be interested to know if this beer is recommended for diabetics. Again…. a cracking brew.

  16. german beer guide – holsten | from the outside looking in Says:

    […] beer has a very light colour and aroma, from which I can barely pick out any discerning qualities. Other reviewers refer to a blend of natural ingredients in the aroma, which you cannot argue with, but that is par […]

  17. Says:

    I wonder if you have a slightly different version in the UK than we do in Germany. You mention 5% but here it is 4.8%. Anyway, I dropped a link to your review in my own review of the German version ( and I think you nailed it for British purposes, a perfect curry beer! It’s nice and mild to balance out the spicy flavours. Nice review.

  18. Karl Says:

    I hope nobody believes Holsten Pils sold in the UK is actually brewed in Germany. The cans say ‘brewed and canned in the EU’. That means it could be any one of the Carlsberg (Holstens owners now) group breweries anywhere but Germany and certainly not under the German purity laws. Dont be conned. Check all bottles and cans carefully if you care where your lager comes from!

  19. Anonymous Says:

    carlsberg sucks as they dont import HOLSTEN in the u.s

  20. Roland Sprague Says:

    Is holston pills sugar free, i have just been told i am diabetic, thankyou

  21. Roland Sprague Says:

    please let me know if holston pills is sugar free, Thankyou

  22. Kerr Christie Says:

    Very very interesting blog.

    I am currently sitting at home (Glasgow, Scotland) watching the football (soccer) on tv.

    I am sipping on a bottle of Holsten Pils which is very common in our stores in the UK (can & bottle).

    I wouldn’t call myself a connasour of lager but being Scottish, I’ve had my fair share and love trying new lagers & beers.

    I used to be a professional soccer player (actually played in the US for 4 years in Savannah, GA) but since I stopped playing ‘full-time’ I have gradually been putting on the lbs. My appreciation for beer & lager does not help!!

    I was looking for a beverage that didn’t have as many calories and that’s what brought Holsten Pils to my attention. So here I am sipping on my first Pils…

    Very enjoyable!

  23. Tom Says:

    This beer maybe tasty in Germany, but it is cheapo nasty tasting, as its a fake brew in UK. So disappointing. And misleading advertising. Awful.

  24. kez Says:

    its all nasty ere n i liked holsten u sjud try the super holsten i think its called its 7.5% n NICEEEEEEEE

  25. rex Says:

    I have been drinking this beer for years and lately I noticed something slightly amiss. I recently bought some cans of it and noticed they tasted “funny”. After a while my guts actually hurt a bit with indigestion. But it was after I turned on a particular lamp in the room, with a weird tube bulb in it, that I noticed the cans were not exactly the same colour as other Holsten ones in the room. The yellow showed up a different shade. Closer inspection also revealed that that the tiny picture on the side of the can of the pregnant woman with the crossed out thing was printed in green ONLY as opposed to the usual black with red crossing out bit. This has me suspecting that either these are fake Holstens or they are brewed in a sub standard way to the usual stuff. I swear if you try a drink from either can you can taste the difference.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    please can you tell me is holsten pils non alcoholic , sugar free as i am a diabetic

  27. Anonymous Says:

    h/pills is 5 percent proof, not a bad drink i am diabetic and drink it my sugar levels never rise like it did with outher beers.

    • KEZ Says:


  28. Marc Botters Bottomley Says:

    the ones with the pregnant lady in green are brewed by holsten in germany the ones with pregnant lady in black with red circle are brewed by carlsberg in northampton england, it actually says so on the can. the german ones are far better tasting

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Was sooo much better in the 80’s when it was 6% and brewed in Germany.

  30. sue Says:

    i am on my 7th can of holston pills;and the can is lighter shade of yellow,i think this is fake beer.normally the can is proper yellow have i been conned, dont feel like i have had a proper drink,may aswell have had pop,cost me £7.38 and is weak.

  31. james walker Says:

    im about to start a diet i need to cut many things out including alcohol will pils lager be ok as dieting is very boring i need a bit of social life

    • Raj Sudera Says:

      My name is Raj . I live in Leicester UK
      I have been diabetic since 1996. This is when I started drinking PILS – supposedly its very low on sugar.It suits me, I still drink on regular bases.

  32. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve enjoyed the smooth taste and flavour of HP since the eighties. I gave up drinking for a while and only recently started enjoying a few beers after a hard day at work..But i am disappointed to read that since being bought by Carlsberg Breweries it is now brewed in Northampton in the UK!! It’s official (wikipedia) and somehow i noticed the taste is different from when i remember it! Not sure i really enjoy it as much as i did back then when it was imported! The same thing happened with Becks!!

  33. Raj Sudera Says:

    I also noticed HP is now being brewed in Northampton UK .
    I still enjoy the taste.

  34. Carts Says:

    This week…
    I will be mostly drinking Holstein pils


  35. Richard. Says:

    I have been a regular drinker of Holsten Pils for many years, mainly due to the fact that it is pure and contains hardly any additives and I never get a hangover. It also has a great taste which can be enhanced with a small sprite/7up top. I found out that Holsten Pils used to be Holsten Diat Pils, as it was originally brewed for diabetics in Germany, with a longer fermentation that reduces the amount of sugar.(ref Camra good beer guide to Germany). I always find that it is very cheap to buy which makes people think it is rubbish when in reality, it is quite the opposite.HP is much less gassy and is a proper yellow colour than other largers and well worth a try.

  36. Nicola Davies Says:

    I love it! has less calories than other largers too

  37. Jonny Says:

    This beer bears no resemblance to the Original Holsten Pils which was imported from Hamburg and was 6%. Gone is the green foil around the long neck of the perfectly shaped bottle. Gone is the amazing aroma and gone is the strong bitter refreshing taste. What remains is an English brewed 5% run-of-the-mill beer which tastes like all the rest. Mundane. Why didn’t they keep it as it was?!!! Real shame.

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