If you like beer, you may have seen a few bottles labeled ‘pilsners’ from time to time. Pilsners are essentially pale lagers. They have a fresh, light taste with a gentle hop flavor.
Pilsners were first created in Pilsen, a town that is now located in the Czech Republic. In 1842, the brewery Pilsner Urquell made the beer, which saw huge success after it was produced.
Many breweries started to create the same style of beer, and to this day, pilsners are enjoyed widely all over the world.
You’ll learn more about pilsners from reading this article, including how they are made, what they look like, and some of the most popular types of pilsners known today.
Are Pilsner and Lager the Same Thing?
Many people confuse lagers and pilsners for each other, but there is a key difference. All pilsners are types of lagers, but the lager family contains many different types of beers as well as pilsners, like dark or amber-colored beers.
Pilsners are some of the most well-known lagers, as their flavor and light appearance are what many drinkers expect lagers to be like.
A good pilsner is simple in its structure. They are made by brewing lager yeast and pilsner malt. Lager yeast is bottom-fermenting, which sets lagers apart from ales.
Malted barley and hops are gently kilned to give pilsners their light flavor and smell. All that’s needed afterward is soft water, which creates an uncomplicated, yet delicious brew.
A good pilsner should have a husk-like color, while its head should be white and thick. You should smell and taste some hops and grain, with pure, fresh notes on the finish.
How Pilsners Are Brewed
We’ve touched on how pilsners are brewed above, but here are the exact steps that are needed to produce pilsners:
- You’ll first need to obtain clean, soft water that doesn’t contain any minerals.
- Malt is then added and mashed to remove all of its sugars. This will produce a substance known as wort, which is like unfermented beer.
- This wort will then boil for a particular amount of time. As it boils, the brewer will add hops to the mix.
- The wort will be left to cool, then bottom-fermenting lager yeast will be added to it.
- The brew will be left to ferment for over a week, though this will depend on the style of pilsner that’s being brewed. It’s then poured into a different container, then left in a cool setting for several months.
- After these months have finished, it can be bottled or transferred into cans or kegs. The pilsners can now be chilled in a refrigerator and drunk when ready.
Different Pilsner Styles
Pilsners are created all over the globe in several different styles. These range from its original Czech roots to breweries in Germany and America. Here are some of the most popular styles of pilsners.
Bohemian pilsners are part of the original recipe created by the Pilsner Urquell brewery. These are also known as Czech pilsners, or světlé ležák in the Czech Republic.
German-style pilsners are more well known, but bohemian Czech pilsners have a richer color, similar to a pale amber shade.
This is created by brewing lightly caramelized barley and Saaz hops. The result is a strong pilsner that’s full of malty undertones and pungent hops.
Pilsners from Germany are what most pilsner fans think of when they drink this lager. The recipe uses German Noble hops, like Hersbruck and Hallertau. This produces a fine, lighter lager compared to the Czech recipe.
German pilsners are straw-colored, lucid, and have a thick, white head to top it off. They usually taste pure and ‘cleaner’ compared to Bohemian ones that have more flavorful notes.
American pilsners were originally made by German migrants. The recipe was altered slightly to involve ingredients more readily available in America, for instance, North American hops and corn.
The different recipes gave the pilsner a new, distinct, flavor and smell.
Traditional American pilsners became less popular after Prohibition, but craft breweries have since begun to produce more pilsners in this style.
These American pilsners taste like German ones, in that they are fresh, light, and have a gentle hoppy flavor.
American pilsners are also available as part of commercially made light beers. These have a lighter flavor and may use rice in their recipes. They also have more hoppy notes compared to your usual light lagers.
Sometimes referred to as American double pilsners, these lagers were created as part of the craft brewing industry in the United States.
Their flavor is very different from your usual kinds of pilsners. Imperial style pilsners are often higher in alcohol content, ranging from 6-9% ABV.
They contain a lot of hops and can be quite bitter, ranging between 30 and 85 on the IBU scale.
Best Way To Enjoy Pilsners
Pilsners are best enjoyed when cold and poured into a pilsner glass, with a temperature from 38-45°F. Pilsner glasses have a thinner base and a broader rim, which will show off its white and thick head nicely.
German pilsners are best poured in several stages. The classic way involves directing the liquid into the middle of the glass. Aim to pour beer in a third of the glass, then leave the rest of it with foam.
The foam should be left to break down a little, then pour the beer again, waiting for the head to touch the rim. Break off again slightly, then top the glass off.
This multi-step process needs patience, as it can take anywhere from 3-5 minutes. It’s worth it though – you’ll notice better carbonation and many more notes within the beer.
The Bottom Line
Pilsners are types of pale lagers, though the lager family can contain many different types of beers, including pilsners. They have a light, fresh flavor and scent, though some styles can differ.
Pilsners are best enjoyed in a pilsner glass, but whether you drink yours from a can or a bottle, you’ll love all of the gentle flavors and aromas that make up this classic brew.
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