Elemental Pilsener | Lightning Brewery

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Elemental PilsenerElemental Pilsener

Brewed by:
Lightning Brewery
California, United States

Style: German Pilsener

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by xlperro on 06-17-2006

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Reviews: 29 | Ratings: 58
Photo of Fatehunter
3.44/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours two fingers of head on a hazy straw body.
The aroma is lemon and honey.
The taste is moderate lemon bitterness. A bit chewy.
The texture is softer.

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Photo of Safa1
4.53/5  rDev +29.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Let's be honest. Idiots abound who don't know good beer from bad beer. They just go with the common ideas. This is a fucking Pilsner. Like Miller fucking light. As a Pilsner goes, this one is god damned great. Nice and bitter lager. When reading the reviews it becomes obvious that the low scores come from people who don't know what a North German Pils should taste like. It's good. Real good.

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Photo of brentk56
3.19/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: Pours a clear golden color with a decent head that leaves plenty of lacing behind

Smell: Wafts of corn sugar and butterscotch; slightly grassy

Taste: Surprisingly sweet, up front, with corn sugar and butterscotch joining the grainy taste; some grassy hops in the middle, but the finish is a return to the sweet flavors

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: A rather disappointing example of the style; doesn't have the hop character and clean finish I seek in the style

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Photo of johlac66
4.09/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Light gold with a frothy two finger head that left a curtain of lacing.
Spicy grass aroma and flavor.
Nicely carbonated with an almost creamy bit more than medium mouthfeel. Slight zesty finish.
A very tasty pils!

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Photo of HP1975
2.24/5  rDev -35.8%
look: 2 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

22 ounce bottle, purchased in NYC and drove back to good old MA. SHHH don't tell the staties.

Appearance - Neon yellow color; looks like an energy drink? or something unearthly. Perhaps that is what they are going for?

Aroma - Cooked corn and sweet. A very faint hoppyness makes it smell more like beer than plain cooked corn.

Taste - Thin body with a sharp carbonation, sickly sweet corn taste with a light bitterness.

This beer is better as cold as possible (I think I enjoyed it the most right out of the cooler packed with ice. I would not suggest this for serving to any guests but if you need a cold beverage go for it.

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Photo of rawfish
3.18/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours clear bright yellow forming a creamy white head, 2 fingers high with long lasting retention. Surprisingly doesn't leave a whole lot of lacing on the glass.

Sourdough, grainy with hay and lemon frosting and a twinge of powder. Oddly sweet, touch of banana, flashes of inviting noble hops.

Begins with white bread, a bit of doughy sweetness but just as the really grassy and floral hop flavors kick in the palate is met with some astringent and metallic flavors, lime peel and powdery drying bitterness. Interesting lime peel and grassy hop flavors hold on.

Medium heft for a lager, adequately carbonated, and dries the palate well, quite bitter.

Not a great pilsner, lots of hops, not terribly clean and the astringent off keys are a miss. The lime pith is something I haven't had in many other beers to date. I've had an old and improperly stored bottle or two of this in the past and they were terrible, drink this fresh and cold.

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Photo of metter98
3.49/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is hazy light pale yellow in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high bright white head that died down a bit but consistently left a short head covering the surface and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light aromas of grassy hops are present in the nose along with notes of sweet bready malts.
T: The taste starts out with faint bits of sweet bready malts, but these are quickly replaced with flavors of grassy malts that linger though the finish and also contribute a light amount of bitterness.
M: It feels light- to medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is easy to drink and has nice grassy aromas and flavors, but is a little lacking in the malt department.

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Photo of mactrail
3.68/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Handsome, creamy head on the dark golden beer. Poured into a Weston's Cider tall glass. Quite gorgeous, with the foam lasting longer than on most beers.

Substantial bitterness from the start. Resiny with some flowery hop aroma, and that fruity, tangy European hop flavor. More of a Pale Ale flavor with the browned biscuit taste. Rather sweet and spicy with a more substantial body than most Pilseners.

Really, this is a pretty decent brew. I keep sipping and it quite satisfying, though a little on the bitter side. They must have a fresh batch of this stuff in the stores, as the hop flavors are quite aromatic. I've avoided Lightning for a couple of years, since I never see any of their beers on tap locally, but apparently they're still kicking.

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Photo of ZionNation
3.71/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

this is quite simply an underrated beer as are the pilsners and lagers, too bad. this is a fantastic beer with great taste and body yet refreshing. goes great with food, seafood, tacos, anything really, nice hop presence. This is an awesome beer. Have had it ten plus times. I wish more craft brewers would brew a great plisner. definitely one worth checking out.

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Photo of Halcyondays
4.13/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

On-tap at Beachwood I,

A: Pours gold with a small white head, good retention, leaves some fair lace.

S: Nice notes of grass and upfront hops, some bready malt.

T: A particularly bitter pilsner which I like. Great floral hop flavours to go along with the excellent pils malt. Well made and tasty.

M: Medium-bodied, firm, crisp and very clean.

O: This is a terrific pilsner from a San Diego County brewer I haven't had much experience with. Always balked on it because of the price, now maybe I should pick up at bottle.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a slightly hazy golden-orange with a finger of frothy white head. The head fades down at a normal pace leaving behind some lacing.

S - Aroma is a mix of grainy pilsner malt, light DMS, citrus and lightly earthy noble hops, and a bit of lemon zest.

T - Starts off with a mix of grainy pilsner malts with some lemon zest and citrus hops. Through the middle, some more noble hop flavor comes through with some bitterness and some more grainy malts. The finish is a mix of pilsner malts, noble hops, mild bitterness, and a bit of lager esters.

M - Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Feels smooth with a sweet and grainy finish.

D - Very drinkable. Great overall balance with a good malt and hop balance.

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Photo of DoubleJ
3.38/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A big thirst needs a refreshing beer, and the pilsner style is often the go-to option. KK, on to the beer:

First category and we're on target. What greets the eye is a color of orangish yellow, small yet visible bubbles running through the body. The foam head slowly drops to a ½ inch of white stuff. The nose does smell like a German lager....though perhaps of one that's been on the shelves for a little time without becoming untouchable. A big hit of floral and really sweet grasses. Some sourdough too.

Be ready to fortify your palate, as this pilsner is really bitter. The first part of the sip is nice, some honey and floral notes. Then, the beer looses its sweetness, more hops knock down the door, and it creates a very hoppy beer that brings some very "green" plant-like flavors and a puddle of bitter extract that wipes all around the palate. More bitterness comes, hints of honeydew echo out, and then the beer leafves with a stinging bitterness is the aftertaste. It is light, and it is refreshing, so mission accomplished.

This is a solid lager. Exciting to see another micro-pilsner, and one that isn't a bust.

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Photo of VaTechHopHead
3.83/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - pours a slightly chill hazed golden yellow with tons of carbonation and a huge bone white head. Looks inviting

S - a nice light malt aroma with a hint of DMS but works well. Classic pilsener aroma, very light and crisp

T - light corn, DMS, and a very faint butterscotch taste. Nice and light malt a hint of lactic acid and hay. Again, very classic flavors

M/O - light body and perfect carbonation, leaves the palate slightly dry from the lactic acid but aftertaste leaves quickly. In a region gone mad with hoppy beers this is a classic style made well but nothing outside the box and revolutionary. Just a classic beer made very well

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
3.47/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

"Better Beer Through Science", says the bottle. Love the sentiment. Bottle was purchased from K & L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.

Pours a very hazy yellow colour, surprisingly hazy for a straight pils, especially one that notes "cold filtering" and a "clean look" on the bottle. Head is very fine and very white, and forms patchy lace and filmy slick. Overall, I don't mind the look, but it seems not to really live up to what it claims.

Nose is pretty standard German pilsener fare: mostly dominated by the grainy pils malt, which gives an organic richness to the aroma, flecked with nuances of green, herbal noble hop characters. There's a pleasant crispness to the hops that seems to get lost a little, tending towards an almost metallic twang.

Taste is also good, solid, dependable stylistic stuff. Metallic hops give a crisp zing to the palate, while the basis of grainy malt lends solidity and class. There's a faint touch of banana-like esters to it, which are a little odd, and even a hint of something slightly cherry-like and medicinal. They're not unpleasant, but they start to peel away the slight veneer of "tradition" plastered on this US-brewed German style.

It's hard to place. In some senses, it's solidly in style, but there are some weirdnesses that just make it feel slightly off-kilter. If it weren't for the fact that they stress the "tradition", the "purity" and the "integrity" of the beer on the bottle, I'd take it for an interesting twist on the style. But as it is, I can't help but feel that these are all flaws in an attempt to recreate the stalwarts of the German industry.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.13/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

On tap for the 2nd Anniversary event at Tony's Darts Away in Burbank, CA.

Pours a slightly murky light yellow with a foamy bone colored head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of grain, yeast, and some slight banana aromas. Taste is of grain, grape-like fruit, and tea leaf. There is a medium amount of medicinal bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp and prickly mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty average beer with no real standout characteristics.

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Photo of HalfFull
3.6/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Finally getting around to buying a bottle from this low key brewery here in San Diego County after a couple marginal draught experiences. Poured into a Pils glass from a 22 oz. bottle, The Elemental Pilsner pours a clear straw with perhaps a hint of haze and offers an inch of white foam. Laces well and stirs up a cap as needed.

Nose is grainy with a touch of lemony hops though rather subtle in that regard at first, expanding with some warming. Light bready malt backdrop lingers in shadows.

Hops are more evident from the get go on the taste, with a notable spice and an initial citric sweetness which ebbs with some exposure, giving the beer a somewhat dry flavor and finishing with a flash of light bitterness. Flavor is a bit nondescript however given the dryness of the beer. Feel isn't as full as expected at first yet matches the lack of malt depth and has a supportive carbonation level. In the end decent but not quite enough to grab a hold. Still unique for a local beer and yet quite rare to stumble upon.

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Photo of largadeer
4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to ArthurPendragon for including this as an extra in a recent trade.

Into a nonic, the beer appears pale and golden, bright and clear with a torrent of carbonation feeding a head of a finger's height. The aromatics are clean and grainy, faintly yeasty. Zesty, lemony hops contribute to the aroma, but take a backseat to the crackery malt. To the palate the hops are more aggressive, reminiscent of lime zest and fresh herbs, perhaps a bit grassy. Bitterness is moderate, higher than one would find in the average German or Czech pilsner, but expected for an American representation. The body is medium-light, crisp, the malt profile clean, lending only a hint of sweetness and a pleasant biscuit-like character. It finishes on a minty note, with that lingering note of lime zest that I find quite enjoyable. For a brewery that gets no love, this is pretty solid stuff. Clean and highly drinkable, it also has a unique character. Recommended for people that can actually appreciate a pilsner, which may exclude 99.7% of San Diego.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.11/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: The pour is a pale golden color with a very fluffy white head on the top.

S: Spicy noble hops and lager yeast dominate the nose with the rest of the aroma being taken care of by a malty sweetness.

T: The hops in the flavor are a mix of lightly spicy and grassy (especially on the finish), with a hint of bitterness. Again, the grain and malt sweetness make up the bulk of the sensations on the palate.

M: Fairly light on the tongue with a full carbonation.

D: A decent pilsner, but the hop flavors seemed a bit off to me and degrading the drinking experience.

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Photo of HopHead84
4.03/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


"I haven't had a lager from my local lager brewery since I've begun to enjoy lagers," I thought, as I stared at the selection of Lightning beers in the cooler before my eyes at Holiday Wine Cellar. Shortly thereafter, I was overheard saying something to the effect of "I'll have to remedy that this evening," or more precisely, "Perhaps I'll enjoy one of these fine beverages after my evening repast."

There's some discrepancy regarding what may or may not have been said when I picked out this beer, but I've put that behind me now, as Elemental Pilsner sits before me, unopened, next to my Pokal.

The beer appears straw golden in my tall glass, crowned with a three finger creamy white head. Clarity is perfect, and the glass showcases the rapid ascension of thousands of bubbles to dazzling effect. The head lasts for a long time, and when it recedes it leaves thick sheets of lacing all over the glass.

The nose is nice, exhibiting a slightly spicy noble hop bouquet, a subtle grassiness, and a whisper of DMS. The malt is grainy and I detect no fruity esters.

The flavor opens with a clean bitterness in the upper moderate range and a grainy malt profile. The noble hops are the main attraction, and they are well displayed. The dry finish is crisp and clean, and bitterness lingers on my palate for a long time. The mouthfeel is medium light bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

I've had a somewhat negative impression of Lightning for as long as I can remember, and I essentially never drink their beers, which is strange since the brewery is so damn close to me. Perhaps this is attributable to my love for Ales when I first got into craft beer a few years back. However this impression came about, a reacquaintance the brewery was long overdue, and I'm glad I decided to pick this beer up today. Despite the many bad reviews I see on here, I found this to be enjoyable, refreshing, and a good interpretation of a German Pilsner. I'll have to try it a few more times to see if the bottles are consistent.

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Photo of magictrokini
3/5  rDev -14%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Draft at SD Brewery. Pours clear gold with a bubbly white head. Grass, hay, spun sugar, and grain in the nose. More straw and Saaz in the taste, but mixed with lemon and honey, and something funky (the yeast they tout? never had brett in a Pilsner). Overall, an okay beer.

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Photo of beresnaub
1.57/5  rDev -55%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

Kevin drank from a wine glass.
Kevin says, "the beer had a nice appearance. The head was mediocre. Something was awry with the smell. I stomached a sip and once in my mouth, it tasted like a full-bodied lager. I could barely drink four ounces of the twenty-two ounce bottle. I wouldn't feed this to my plants." He later was seen pouring the beer on plants.

Brandon used a crystal brandy snifter that was expertly handcrafted in the Czech Republic.
Brandon says, "I was intrigued by the graphic design on the bottle. The color of the beer was not noteworthy. I later proclaimed, 'this beer smelled like port-a-potty, plastic, and powdered baby diapers.' After drinking but a sip, I poured the rest of the beer in Kevin's glass."

PS It smelled like someone farted in the bottle. It may have been improperly aged. We agree that the overwhelming majority of our intoxicated cohorts would consume, but not tolerate this beer.

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Photo of illidurit
2.79/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Stone Bistro during RBSG 08. Rather dark for a pilsener, clear orange-gold with a sticky white head. Some musty hops in the aroma, as well as a biscuity pils malt note. Flavor is pils malt with just a faint little zesty hoppiness. Pretty boring honestly. Easy to drink but I just don't want to.

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Photo of prefont75
3.75/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a case at Lightning to use as 1 of 5 tasters in a beer tasting I did recently. For most pilsner/lager lovers I think this is a great beer. Personally I lean more towards Ales but I could drink this beer all day, especially on a hot day!

In my opinion, choosing the right beer should match the mood your in and the current weather condition.

The Elemental Pilsner should be served ice cold in hot weather while doing something physical. Over the Line? Mowing the Lawn? Golf. Try it, you won't be dissapointed.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.08/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A fairly vigorous pour yields a three-finger thick, pale tan colored head in my 25cl tulip glass. As I pour this beer an interesting aroma of peaches wafts my way. The beer is a brilliantly clear, full gold color that is on the dark side for a Pilsner (think a fuller Bohemian Pils color). The head leaves some nice lacing patterns on the sides of my glass as it slowly subsides under the persistent level of carbonation. A deeper inspection of the aroma yields sweet, aromatic grain notes (touch of grape and some soft honey notes) as well as some dry, saltine-cracker like aromas, grassy grain and some light hop aromatics. The hop notes contribute aromas of herbal hay and some light lemon zest. The hop character is very soft here, though I suppose it matches fairly well with the soft malt character, it just is even more soft than the malt aromatics.

Wow, this is actually quite sweet, definitely not a typical German interpretation, but it is even sweet for a Bohemian interpretation. Though I think it really seems sweet because the hop character is so soft. This definitely needs more hops, nothing over the top, but enough to balance the sweet grain character that defines this brew right now. Flavors of chewy, fresh crushed pale malt, cracker like grain, and a touch of dusty biscuit flavors are joined by sweet malt notes that are a mix of honey-like grain, a touch of peach, . No surprisingly, with the sweetness, this beer has a fair amount of body to it; I wouldn't really describe this as being crisp or even refreshing as most examples of the style are; it is not heavy either, just not quite as light as one might expect. The muted hop character contributes soft notes of grassy herbs, a touch of bitterness and some sweet lemon-drop notes.

A very different interpretation of a Pilsner. I would recommend adding quite a bit more noble hops (nothing over the top, just enough to let one know this is a Pils) and allowing the yeast to attenuate this quite a bit further. What do I know though, this might be exactly what Lightning was trying to brew, it seems so far off from the standards of the style though; it could almost be a Helles with this hop character, but it is too sweet for that style as well. Fairly tasty, but really a bit too sweet to be fully enjoyable for me. If you are one to complain that Pilsners are too dry & too hoppy, then this beer might be for you, I am instead hoping that the brewers are still dialing this recipe in, because I think that it shows some great potential.

Purchased: South Bay Drugs Pharmacy, Imperial Beach CA

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.18/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

"Stupidity is an elemental force for which no earthquake is a match."

--Karl Kraus

Lemon yellow with pale banana borders. Small slow-moving bubbles and rapid large ones plink and plunk into the underside of a bleached white crown of sticky foam. The rocky surface of the head has loads of character, as do the tattered sheets of lace that are beginning to be laid down.

The nose is decent as well, especially if you like beer of this style to be balanced. Pilsner malt does not have an abundance of olfactory personality, but then the grassy German hops don't either (at least in this case). A hint of lemon peel citrusiness keeps the nose comfortably above average.

Elemental Pilsner is true to its name because it isn't very complex. Thankfully, complexity isn't a major gotta-have in a German pils. It's far from world-class and it isn't even nation-class. That said, I've had a lot of beer from previously unknown California craft breweries that was a helluva lot worse. No overt nastiness is a positive of sorts.

The beer's biggest problem is that it's equal to the sum of its parts, and not one iota more. There's no magic here, no spark. Untoasted malt glides along on the bottom end, while a modest hoppiness occupies the top end. Grass, lemon and a hint of pear comprise the flavor profile. A more vibrant, brighter hoppiness would make this a much better beer.

The mouthfeel is part of the problem. EP is a little light, even for the style, and is too softly carbonated. It needs to be either more full and supple or (preferably) more brisk and crisp. Expansiveness is sorely lacking.

If the label is any indication, Lightning Brewery loves slogans. One is 'Better Beer Through Science'. To state the obvious, brewing is both an art and a science. Maybe they need to pay more attention to the former rather than flattering themselves with the notion that they've figured out the latter.

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Elemental Pilsener from Lightning Brewery
3.49 out of 5 based on 58 ratings.
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