5 June 2014 - Best Beer HQ
Best beer spotlight: Pilsner Urquell
If you haven’t heard of Pilsner Urquell, shame on you – Pilsner Urquell was the world’s first pilsner and it’s a damn fine beer to boot (or to drink).
First produced in 1842 in the Czech town of Pilsen (hence the name), Pilsner Urquell, or Plzeňský Prazdroj as its known locally, is a bottom-fermented beer that is hoppier than most pilsner beers. It pours clean and golden, with an almost-floral aroma and a small white head.
Pilsner Urquell tastes great, too – it’s refreshing with a well-rounded bitterness that’ll tantalise the taste buds and leave you wanting more.
Is Pilsner Urquell the best pilsner in the world?
As the template for all pilsners and golden beers that followed, Pilsner Urquell has a lot to live up to. But it’s certainly up there with the best beers in the world.
The beer is brewed with saaz hops, named after the Czech city they originally came from. These flavoursome hops plus the use of soft water and fire brewing is allegedly where Pilsner Urquell gets its flavour from.
You can get it in cans and bottles throughout the world. It’s also often served via keg in Europe. In its homeland of the Czech Republic you’ll not only pay a lot less for it but, if you’re lucky, it’ll be poured from a wooden cask ,unpasteurised and naturally conditioned with no added carbon dioxide.
Apparently this makes it far closer in taste and character to the way the beer would have been way back in the 19th century. Top marks for authenticity.
The history of Pilsner Urquell
The Czech city of Pilsen began brewing beer way back in 1295, but right up until the mid-1840s most Bohemian beers were top-fermented. The quality varied wildly and, in 1838, whole barrels of local beer were dumped because they were not up to scratch. This sparked a quest to brew a better, more consistent beer.
The Pilsner Urquell brewery was founded by the city in 1839 and three years later pioneering Bavarian brewer Josef Groll presented his first batch of an entirely new type of beer. Thus the pilsner was born.
As transport and communications improved around Europe, the beer gradually grew to prominence in places like France, Austria and Germany. Wanting to protect its product, the brewers adopted the “Pilsner Urquell” trade mark in 1898. By this time the pilsner-style of beer had become widely imitated.
Pilsner Urquell was fermented in open beer barrels and stored in cellars beneath the brewery in Pilsen until 1993, when the company started using large cylindrical tanks. However, to ensure the taste is authentic, small samples of Pilsner Urquell are still brewed in the traditional way for taste comparisons.
Today, Pilsner Urquell is owned by multinational brewing company SAB Miller – who also own Fosters, Grolsch and Miller. No points for guessing which is the best beer of that lot.