Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Original Pilsner

When most people think of the pilsner style of beer (if they even know what that means) they think of wimpy, flacid American mass-produced brews. What a shame. Those of you who don't know about the original example of this style of beer, which is widely available, let me tell you about it.

I've posted before on the distinction between lagers and ales. And I'm an ale man myself. Almost all of the styles I like to drink and pretty much 100% of what I brew are ales. But there is one lager that really stands out for me and it happens to be the original pilsner-style beer: Pilsner Urquell, first brewed in 1842. The difference between this pilsner and a BudCoorsMiller is like the difference between a fine artisanal loaf baked in a wood-fired oven and Wonder Bread, between morels delicately sauteed in butter and canned button 'shrooms, between fine prime rib and Salisbury "steak".

Pilsner Urquell pours a rich straw color and is dominated by an impressive hop character, derived from 100% Saaz hops. The bittering is solid, the hop flavor decidedly spicy, the aroma prickly and enticing. The beer is highly carbonated, which brings a sharpness to both nose and palate that is rousing and engaging. While most ales are better served at just below room temperature, in my opinion this beer does better started out quite a bit colder. It goes beautifully with many foods, but I consider it best paired with spicy Thai stir fry, a hearty steak, or barbecued ribs.

Even though it comes in those evil green bottles, I have had pretty good success getting it fresh. Its price has come down recently too, so it competes nicely even with good domestic beer. And hey, the Czech Republic is (or at least was, when this beer was first created) a Catholic country. So there's your Catholic angle!

Highly recommended.