Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pilsner History- The most widely produced style in the world is also one of the youngest. First brewed in 1842, in Pilsen Bohemia (now Czech Republic). The brewery is still around and is known as (yeah you guessed it) Pilsner Urquell. Urquell meaning, "original source". It was the first clear golden lager which was quite the novelty back then. Also around this time more beer was being consumed in glass, as opposed to the traditional ceramic steins which added to the appeal of this golden brew. Bohemia was part of the Austrian empire which was German speaking, and many German breweries were getting their hops and malts from Bohemia, so it was only natural for the style to spread to Germany and Austria, where it was all the rage (I guess we're not the only generation susceptible to novelty marketing). Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch were among the many German immigrants to bring this beer to America. Many of these immigrants settled in the Mid-West where variations flourished. The popularity of this style coincided with The Industrial Revolution, so this style could be made in large quantities at new giant production breweries. With mass production came shortcuts. Big American breweries began to add corn and rice to their beers to save money, and this style de-evolved into the watered down version American Lager that monopolized the beer market until the Micro/Craft Beer revolution in the 1980's.

In Washington State, the Friesian Pilsner from Leavenworth, and the LaConner Pilsner (when Arlen Harris was the head brewer) were the first Old World true Pilsners that I remember. If anyone can think of a great Washington Pilsner before those, I would love to hear about it. There are alot of outstanding Pilsners being made in Washington today, notably by Alpine, Elysian, Baron, and Chuckanut. Pilsners should contain either, or both, Saaz hops, originally from Bohemia, or hops from the German Hallertau region. As for flavor, they should taste just like the Victory Prima Pils reviewed below. One thing Budweiser is correct about in their ads is that this style is very difficult to brew, as flaws and impurities are easily detectable. I tip my glass to every American brewery brewing this style in the way it was meant to be. I shudder to think about the days when you went to buy beer your choices were Bud, Michelob, Miller, Coors, and if you really wanted to splurge, Heineken. Thank you small American Brewer!

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