Pilsner Beer Style Overview


The Pilsner beer brewing style originates from Plzen, a Bohemian town in the Czech Republic. Czechs have been brewing beer ever since the 13th century when most beers were made with a top fermenting process. The local Bohemian ingredients have also proven to be brilliantly suited to the beer making process. They have particularly high quality native barley strains as well as Saaz noble hops that are found right in the local region. However, even with ready access to these amazing beer brewing ingredients, the final quality of the brewed product generally varied by a large margin. At one point in 1838, this resulted in an entire season’s reserves of produced beer being poured out.


Pilsner Urquell & Modern Pilsners

In response to this unfortunately inconsistent production quality, the town officials established a fully city-owned and operated brewery which would be referred to as The Citizens’ Brewery. In Czech, it was known as Mestanksy pivovar Plzen, and its German name was Burger-Brauerei. The brewery building itself was designed and built by a local architect, and the brewing operations inside were overseen by a Bavarian brew master. Ultimately, this lead to a combination of Bavarian lager yeast strains, luxuriously soft Plzen water, local Czech Saaz hop strains, and pale malt that essentially became the original version of golden lager. The first batch of this alluring new product was produced in the fall of 1842.

Pilsner urquell

The Burger-Brauerei created the first production run of the promising new style of pilsner. Their use of bottom fermenting yeast needs a lower overall temperature than that of ale yeast. Until modern refrigeration technology was created, the Burger-Brauerei fermented the product in cellars under the brewery to adequately keep it cool. Open barrels were used all the way up until 1993 when larger closeable tanks were designed that could ferment the product consistently.

Today, pilsner has become completely synonymous with the likes of lager and  other related brewing styles. The most common products that exemplify this style are Czech pilsners like Gambrinus or Pilsner Urquell. These are colorful but lightly flavored beverage that are markedly more carbonated than the usual German style pilsners. German pilsners like Radeberger and Bitburger generally contain an overall more bitter, hop-filed taste, and they also tend to be a much lighter gold-like color.

The typical European style pilsner is also brewed internationally. Notable examples include San Miguel’s Pale Pilsen from the Philippines, the Dutch breweries Amstel and Grolsch, as well as the popular Stella Artois from Belgium.

Finally, pilsners generally range from about 4 and a half to 5 and a half percent ABV. They are usually between plain yellow and rich gold in color, and they have a mild hop-filled flavor that is counterbalanced by a stronger malt taste that is much stronger than usual commercial lagers.