These days, you see lager everywhere. With brands like Budweiser and Molson Canadian on every shelf in every beer store in North America, we take the innovations these beers represent for granted. What I mean is simply this: before the invention of pilsner, all beer was dark and murky. Then the 1800s came along and a couple of things happened. First, the British refined the malting process, allowing them to produce paler malts than previously available.
It’s here that Josef Grolle came along. He learned the British way of producing paler malts and refined it, producing even paler malts. Around the same time, he acquired yeast from a monk. The beer he created was unlike anything anyone had seen at the time. It was pale, golden, delicious and miracle of miracles, crystal clear. Since then, Pilsner Urquell has become one of the most popular beers in Europe and one of the most imitated around the world.
In the glass, Pilsner Urquell is the color of honey. It’s crystal clear with a fluffy, snow white head. Carbonation is very light, as it should be for a pilsner of this type. Given the light carbonation, head retention is amazing. It lasts a good couple of minutes before beginning to dissipate. And when it does, the head leaves the requisite lacing as it follows my beer down the glass.
Taking a sniff, I get the sweet honey-ish aroma of malt, followed shortly by the grassy, hay-like, peppery aroma of hops. This is complimented by the aroma of biscuits or freshly baked bread. Each of these aromas are delicate, yet assertive. They conspire to create a luscious bouquet of aromas that serves only to entice you to take your first sip.
As I take that first sip, the first thing I pick up on is a soft, rounded palate that leads directly into the pilsner’s bone dry finish. I also notice a delicate malt flavor tying in to the aroma of biscuits I noticed before. That bone dry finish is supplemented nicely with the grassy, peppery, hop bitterness. Beneath that is a hint of flavor it took a while to identify. There’s a subtle hint of whole lemons buried beneath it all. You may think me mad for saying so, but look for it. I’m confident you’ll see it, too.
Overall, I can’t help but find Pilsner Urquell to be anything but complex, flavorful, full bodied, exquisitely balanced, and delicious. There are so many elements to this pilsner’s flavor and aroma, and they are somehow harmoniously balanced. Pilsner Urquell is not only a great beer to drink on a hot summer day, but any day when you want a beer to taste and savour as well as refresh. I can’t help but give Pilsner Urquell a 9.5 out of 10.
As I drink Pilsner Urquell, I think about what meals this pilsner would go well with. As a Czech pilsner, it goes particularly well with pasta and cream sauce, cream based soups and white fish. The pilsner’s flavors will marry nicely with the delicate flavor of the sauces, soups and fish. The bitter finish will cut through their fat content the same way you’d expect a tart wine to do. Roast chicken or chicken breasts can enjoy the same pairings. If you wanted to have Pilsner Urquell with cheese, I might recommend pairing it with Ardrahan.