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Beer Reviews Pilsener Urquell

Urquell means ‘original source’ and Pilsner Urquell IS indeed the original pilsner beer. Of course it has been much copied – usually by lesser, blander beers – throughout the world.

In 1838, the burghers of Plzen (Pilsen in German), in the Czech Republic, decided to brew the new bottom fermented beer. Joseph Grolle, a young Bavarian brewmaster was hired for the purpose and in 1842, the first pilsen lager was produced.

Bavarian lagers were usually dark or amber, but the pilsen version was deep golden and crystal clear. This was due to the pale Bohemian malt used combined with the high limestone content of the local water. Effectively, this was the world’s first light-coloured beer. It was a novelty when it first appeared but the it’s the quality which has made it a lasting success.

Saaz hops give the beer it’s flowery, spicy aroma and gently bitter finish while the Moravian barley gently balances it. Add to this the local, soft, mineral-rich water, and we have one of the world’s great beers.

PILSNER URQUELL pours to a clear rich, golden colour with only the merest trace of amber. The head is white, thick, creamy and long lasting with excellent lacing. On the nose, there’s a mild sulphurous aroma with a little toasted malt and some grassy tones. There’s a woody, smoky quality to it as well, an almost hickory, barbecue-type aroma. However, the overwhelming sensation is of fresh Saaz hops. Floral, spicy and earthy, this beer has a real harvest-time aroma.

Medium bodied, it’s immediately crisp, sharp and refreshing, with a good hop taste upfront. There’s a spicy, lemon tea-like flavour with a slightly sweet malt, burnt toast taste in the background. The malt also imparts a buttery, caramel flavour before the beer finishes somewhat bitter and decidedly dry.

At 4.4% ABV, it’s not the strongest of the style – most pilsners being around the 5% mark – but this only means you can drink more of this before you start talking rubbish. Of course some people may already have a head start on that one!

Pilsner is not my favourite style of beer but this is certainly one of the best pilsners on the market. Served suitably chilled, this is a great thirst quencher and a very satisfying beer. It complements all types of food so it makes a good choice for a BBQ, but it’s also a nice enough beer for just plain drinking.

Would I drink it again? You bet! Especially if someone would fund a fact-finding mission to Plzen to do so!