Pilsner - who does not know this beer style? The Pilsner is the most produced, bought and drunk beer style in the world. The epitome of beer, at least in many parts of Germany. During the 20th century, the beer industry was restructured and completely shaken up by large corporations. The drinkable, pleasing and tasty Pilsner helped the brewing corporations in this process. Unfortunately, Pilsner has fallen into disrepute as a result and today has the image of a cheap, simple and boring product. But a Pilsner is more sophisticated and diverse than you might think.
Beer style facts: Pilsner
- Appearance: Golden yellow, amber. Clear.
- Aroma: Hop accented. Slightly grassy, with more modern versions also citrus-fruity or floral. Light notes of lager yeasts. Partly malty and bready. The taste is often characterized by a mild to distinct bitterness. Slender body.
- Alcohol: 4-5%.
- Classic Beer: Pilsner Urquell
Pilsner - the beer! The history of the beer style
A Pilsner is a bottom-fermented beer style. These were unknown for a long time. Beers were primarily spontaneously fermented and/or fermented with top-fermenting yeast. It was not until the 15th century that bottom-fermenting yeasts emerged, as it was recognized that a cool environment was good for the product. But no brewer knew why the beer was of better quality this way. Over the decades, the yeast cultures that were present in beers which were stored cold mutated and became more and more bottom-fermenting yeast strains. This was especially the case in the south of Germany, where the beers were stored in cellars built into the hilly landscape. There, too, blocks of ice from the numerous nearby lakes were transported to those cellars in winter to cool the beer. With the development of the cooling machine and the somewhat later discovery and possibility of isolating bottom-fermenting yeast strains, the product bottom-fermenting beer became better and better in quality and thus more popular with consumers.
The Origin in the Czech Republic
As the name suggests, Pilsner comes from Pilsen in the Czech Republic. In the 19th century, a German brewmaster brought the bottom-fermented beer style to the brewery located there and brewed his beer there. It was an immediate success and the style's triumph was preprogrammed. Pilsner can be described as a German-Czech invention. However, it was brought into the world by the Heineken brewery from the Netherlands, which was on an extreme expansion course and already operated breweries in many countries of the world in the 19th century and was also the first to use the term "Pilsner Style".
How the Pilsner changed the beer world
Industrialization and globalization in the 19th and 20th centuries were ultimately responsible for large companies becoming corporations and taking over many small breweries and either closing them down or having them produce the relatively inexpensive Pilsner. Further savings in ingredients caused the price of Pilsner to fall and the image of cheap beer to rise. Until in the 1970s in the U.S. the Craft Beer movement emerged and in this country in the 2010s this movement also became more and more known.
Of course, Germany still has many small breweries, especially in Franconia, Bavaria and generally in the south, which are independent and brew very good bottom-fermented beers, sometimes Pilsner. But by and large, beer is still understood to be a "Pilsner."
Pilsner: Clear, bitter; and more complex than you think
For the past few years, even a Pilsner has been getting hipper, and craft breweries that previously brewed only hoppy IPAs or Stouts are realizing the benefits and complexity of a Pilsner. In addition to a pithy, clear malt body and a pithy bitterness, it's the grassy and herbal hop aromas from German or Czech noble hop varieties that are style defining for this beer style.
There are differences in North German and South German Pilsner. While the north likes it even more bitter and clearer from the malt aroma, in the south the Pilsner will turn out a little softer and less bitter. The reason for this is also the water, which strongly influences the beer and the taste.
Younger Pilsners, especially those from the USA or Scandinavia, sometimes also use US or New Zealand hop varieties for hopping, which gives the Pilsner more fruity notes.
Pilsner recommendations from Beyond Beer
As described above, there is room for interpretation even in a relatively well-defined beer style like Pilsner. That's why we recommend the following beers to help you get to know the varieties of this beer style:
Trumer Pils: What a beer! Thanks to a unique brewing process, Trumer Pils is very balanced, lean and shines with a soft texture. It has a floral hop character and a mild bitterness. The finish is dry.
Landgang Pils: A Pilsner brewed in the Nordic style. Meaning: lean, clean and crisp bitter. Subtle grassy hop notes. Easy drinking!
Buddelship Pilsner: The Hamburg brewery brews several brews of Pilsner a year, always with new modern hop combinations. Get to know the world of fruity Pilsners with these beers!
Food pairing with Pilsner - more than just currywurst!
More than just the typical German hearty food goes well with a Pilsner. But of course, this one goes great too. Also salads and more complex fish dishes are predestined to be enjoyed with a Pilsner.