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What is a pilsner?

WRITTEN ON 11 January, 2022

First brewed in and named after the city of Pilsen located in Bohemia (present-day Western Czech Republic), Pilsner is one of the most popular beer styles in the world.

Pilsner is a type of pale lager renowned for its light colour, soft body, short finish, and balanced malt and hop character.

A Brief History Of Pilsner

Pilsner, unlike other beer styles, had an interesting origin story. It was born out of an official protest by the citizens of Pilsen who were dissatisfied with the poor quality of their local beer. In an act of protest, they drained about 36 barrels of beer onto the streets, expressing their disappointment.

In 1842, the town officials hired Josef Groll, a master brewer from Bavaria (now Germany). Groll used local artesian water, Saaz noble hops, pale malts, and bottom-fermenting lager yeast to create the original pilsner. The first batch, called Pilsner Urquell, quickly gained popularity and its fame spread throughout Europe and the world.

Types Of Pilsner

Due to the popularity of Czech Pilsner, many countries have imitated this beer style, resulting in various styles of pilsners. Here are three prominent types of pilsner:

1. Czech pilsner

Czech Pilsner, also known as Bohemian Pilsener, was the first pilsner brewed in the Czech Republic. It boasts a perfect balance between malt sweetness and hoppy bitterness. This beer style has a clear and pale golden appearance, and it is exclusively brewed using malted barley. The inclusion of Saaz hops imparts a delightful spicy and floral aroma to the brew.

2. German pilsner

German Pilsner, or simply Pils, is characterised by its crisp and bitter taste with a delicate balance of maltiness and hop flavours. Compared to other pilsners, the German-style Pilsner has a more pronounced bitterness, thanks to the addition of noble hops. The malt flavour is more subdued, allowing the hop bitterness to take the forefront.

3. American pilsner

American Pilsner has its roots dating back to the mid-19th century when German immigrants brought traditional brewing styles to America. Known for its extremely light taste, American Pilsner is less hoppy and tends to be sweet, malty, and bready. This style is mostly brewed using domestic variants of the European noble hops instead of American hops.