By Brad Smith – Originally posted on our BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog – Subscribe here
Pilsner beer is remarkable not only for its modern dominance, but also its relatively recentorigins. The popularity of Pilsner is truly worldwide, so much so that Pilsner recipes stilldominates the US and many other beer markets. It is simply the most popular beer style in theworld.Pilsner's origins can be traced to a single date and location. On November 11
, 1842, in the townof Pilsen the first keg of Pilsner Urquell was tapped. (Ref:Daniels) This makes Pilsner one of the youngest beer styles, even among lager beer styles which were brewed in nearby Bavaria atleast back to the 1500's.Pilsen in Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) had a unique combination of ingredients andcircumstance to create the Pilsner style. First, the surrounding country produced light 2-rowMonrovian barley, considered the finest light malt for brewing beer. Second, the country produced a hops originally known as Zatac red, now called Saaz. Saaz hops is a noble hop prized for its aroma.Third, Pilsen had extremely soft water that is desirable for making very pale beers, and alsoenhances the bitterness from the hops. Finally, Bohemian Pilsen shared many brewingtechniques with nearby Bavaria. The first Pilsner was created with a combination of these four elements and the important fifth element of Bavarian lager yeast. The result was the palest of lagers with a refreshing aromatic hop finish that we now know as Pilsner.
The Pilsner Style
The defining example of Pilsner is the original Pilsner Urquell from the Pilsner Urquell breweryin Pilsen, Czech republic. In fact the word Pilsner is reserved in Bohemia exclusively for brewers in Pilsen.Pilsners have an original gravity between 1.044 and 1.056, very light color of 4-6 SRM and hoprate of 35-45 IBUs. They have light to medium body, a clean flavor and finish with lowdiaceytls. They are hoppy and slightly malty with no aftertaste. They are typically wellcarbonated, and often served in a tall Pilsner glass to enhance the perception of carbonation.
Brewing Pilsner Beer
The unusually pale color of Pilsner derives from the use of Monrovian Pilsner malt that is maltedat the brewery at the low temperature of 100-122F versus 170-180F for an average lager malt.The lower temperature develops less melodin and a far lighter color than conventional lager malt. It also leaves some residual moisture that will spoil Pilsner malt if not used quickly.Monrovian Pilsner malt is most desirable for brewing Pilsners, though it can be difficult to findhere in the US. Pilsner malt from other sources is an acceptable alternative, and lager malt can be used in a pinch, though it will result in a darker beer than true Pilsner malt.Brewing light colored Pilsner from extract can be a challenge as extracts are inherently darker than corresponding grain malts due to theextraction process.The best course of action is to
choose the lightest possible pilsner or lager malt extract if you want an authentic light pilsner color.