Until the 1840s, most Bohemian beers were top-fermented, dark and cloudy. The taste and standards of quality often varied to the worse, and in 1838, consumers even dumped whole barrels to show their dissatisfaction. The citizens of Pilsen decided in 1839 to found and build a brewery of their own, called Bürger Brauerei (Citizens' Brewery)   (now Plzeňský Prazdroj), which should brew beer according to the Bavarian style of brewing. Bavarian brewers had begun experiments with the storage (German: Lager) of beer in cool caves using bottom-fermenting yeasts, which improved the beer's clarity, flavor, and shelf-life. Most of this research benefited from the knowledge already expounded on in a German book (printed since 1794, in Czech since 1801), written by František Ondřej Poupě (1753–1805) from Brno.
The Bürger Brauerei recruited the Bavarian brewer Josef Groll (1813-1887) who, using new techniques and the newly available paler malts, presented his first batch of modern Pilsner on October 5, 1842. The combination of pale color from the new malts, Pilsen's remarkably soft water, noble hops from nearby Saaz and Bavarian-style lagering produced a clear, golden beer which was regarded as a sensation.
Improving transport and communications also meant that this new beer was soon available throughout Central Europe, and the Pilsner Brauart style of brewing was soon widely imitated. In 1859, "Pilsner Bier" was registered as a brand name at the Chamber of Commerce and Trade in Pilsen. In 1898, the Pilsner Urquell trade mark was created to put emphasis on being the original brewery.
Modern Pilsners Edit
The introduction to Germany of modern refrigeration by Carl von Linde in the late 19th century removed the need for caves in which to store the beer and thus allowed many places to brew bottom-fermenting beer which were unable to do so before; however, even until recently the Pilsner Urquell brewery still fermented its beer using open barrels in the cellars underneath their brewery. This technology was changed in 1993 with the use of large cylindrical tanks; however, small samples are still brewed in a traditional way for taste comparisons. Pilsner also has the unique claim to being "the world's first golden beer."
A modern Pilsner has a very light, clear color from pale, really pale up to a golden yellow, and a distinct hop aroma and flavor. Czech Pilsners tend toward a lighter flavor with good examples being Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen, while those in a German style can be more bitter (particularly in the north, e.g. Jever) or even "earthy" in flavor. Distinctive examples of German Pilsners are Flensburger Brauerei's Flensburger Pilsener, Beck's, Bitburger, Fürstenberg, Veltins, König Pilsner, Krombacher, Radeberger, Holsten, Warsteiner, Henninger's Kaiser Pilsner, Brauerei Schwelm's Schwelmer Pils, Augustiner Bräu's Augustiner Pils, Aktienbrauerei Kaufbeuren Jubiläums Pils and Wernesgrüner. On the other hand, Dutch (Heineken, Amstel, Alfa) and Belgian Pilsners (Jupiler, Stella Artois) have a slight sweet taste.
Pilsners as a marketing categoryEdit
While Pilsner is best defined in terms of its characteristics and heritage, the term is also used by some brewers (particularly in North America) to indicate their "premium" beer, whether or not it has a particular hop character. It is generally regarded as being different from other pale lagers by a more prominent hop character, particularly from the use of Saaz noble hops.
See also Edit
- Pilsner Urquell homepage
- Gesellschaft für Geschichte des Brauwesens e.V. (GGB)
- Die Kunst des Bierbrauens
- Pilsen on 1882 Map of Bohemia, from Edinburgh
- The Foaming Head's Pilsner Page
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