What is a Pilsner?

PilsnerDo you like dark and cloudy beer which is said to taste awful? Well, that was the concept of a Pilsner before the 1940’s. Pilsner is a Bohemian style beer, an area of the world which has changed over time and taken on new names, currently it’s known as the Czech Republic.

The ancient city of Plzen has a rich history of beer brewing, so much so the Pilsner was named after it. This region has been brewing beers for as long as history remembers but the history of brewing dates back far enough that much has been lost to any culture. It is said the Slavs, once occupying one-third of the European population, served beer to Byzantine envoys as early as A.D. 448! They’ve had a long time to practice before working up to the almighty Pilsner style beer dating to the 1800’s.

Throughout history man has learned a lot about brewing and best practices to fermentation. In 1837, German scientist Theodor Schwann’s started experimenting on yeasts and how they react in the environment and found that fermentation was a living process, a chemical reaction and theorized it was a process that could be controlled.

Before Theodor’s experimentation’s beer was a difficult beverage to control and thus many barrels of beer would go bad for no reason and wasn’t exactly the most flavorful thing you could put in your stomach, but it got the job done. Bohemian brewers armed themselves with the new knowledge of brewing to design variations of beer; they would build breweries with a goal of making money and better beer.

New techniques to fermentation combined with the drive of Bavarian style beer makers and you begin to write the history of beer. Bavarian brewers were experimenting with storage techniques, known in German as lager which involved cooling the beer to gain clarity, extended shelf life and additional flavor. By the late 1880’s brewers were now capable of making a clear flavorful beer which would sustain longer travels around Europe allowing it to flourish and gain popularity.

In 1898, Pilsner Urquell would become a registered trademark and continued to show off its history as a Pilsner of Bohemian roots dating back to 1842 when beer started tasting better. Throughout the 19th century, these beers were fermented in cool caves under the lager style of creating beer, however, this meant beer could only travel so far before it would go bad or lose its taste; the IPA method has always been the solution to allowing beer to survive longer travels!

Many breweries would ferment their beers in cool cellars under the brewery, but this meant you could only ship the beer a specific distance based at the origin of the Brewery. Today, we’re able to store beer in large cylindrical tanks, which you’ll see prominent in a brewery which allows visitors or older Brewery Inns. Considering history, this is a fairly new technique utilized in the early 90’s to store beer.

This deep history explains much of why the Pilsner is a lighter beer with golden clear color with distinct flavors. Like all beers, Pilsner has undergone changes through history, but some breweries still boast their traditional practices of making Pilsners which date back to Pilzen and the Bohemian ways of life.

Some popular brands of Pilsners include, Budweiser the “Great American Lager,” Samuel Adams Pilsner, Becks, Spaten Pils, St. Paulie Girl and others. Obviously Budweiser is considered a Lager, but this is a general term which can be of many variations including Pilsner, Vienna and Märzen. Looking at a Bud you can clearly see how it’s deemed a Pilsner with its light taste, light coloring and cold refreshing taste; Budweiser is also founded by a German immigrant based on a Czech/German style beer.

Regardless to your tastes in beer, it’s hard to hate a good Pilsner regardless to its mass market popularity or traditional microbrewery origins. Thank goodness for great brewing techniques, Bohemian desire to brew beers and the Germans desire to perfect everything.


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