This is probably one of the most famous and influential beers in the world.
It can be fairly argued that the style of Plzeň, Bohemia (modern Czech
Republic), influenced the rest of the beer drinking world to go pale, dry…and
eventually, yellow and fizzy as 95+% of the world’s beer consumption is nowadays. All
because of some pissed off locals, the isolation of lager yeast and the development of pale malt married with Saaz hops.
The brewery itself is a great visit. Plzeňský Prazdroj was founded in 1842 as locals revolted against the substandard ales of the time and built a new brewery led by Bavarian brewmaster Joseph Groll. Today, it’s better known by its German name, Pilsner Urquell, meaning the “Well (or Fountain) of Pilsen.” Until the 1980’s, they were actually still fermenting in wood – which makes the mass quality all the more remarkable over the years, even during Communist rule. Although it’s now part of the SABMiller empire, they are still brewing at the source and maintaining their flavorful standards.
Back in the days after the Berlin Wall fell, we used to enjoy fresh Urquell,
Budwar or Staropraman on the streets of Prague, with hundreds our closest
Bohemian friends, for pennies on the dollar. Today, the price is a little
higher, but the brand is pretty much everywhere in the world.
Of course, I’m sampling from an import bottle, so it isn’t the same as it was
in those days. It pours a deep yellow color with large bubbles that drop to a
thin head – a noticeable difference from a local pour. The Saaz hops presents a
nice spicy floral aroma on the nose. Opening with a light malt palate, it
follows with a sharp noble hop bite and a long dry finish.
This is much better than most green bottle import beers, however, that’s not
saying much. That said, when it’s fresh, it’s truly magical.