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Style Guide Series: Pilsner

Pilsner is one of those classic beer styles that has roots so far back in brewing history that many people actually aren’t 100 percent certain exactly where it came from or who brewed it first. Its storied past will best be explored with a fine cold lagered Pilsner in hand (we recommend Pilsner-Urquell, and you’ll see why in just a minute).

If you’re in need of a cold one before you get started, take a quick trip down to Northstar Liquor Superstore in Johnstown, Northern Colorado’s favorite beer store. Our friendly and brew-savvy staff will be more than happy to help you discover the perfect pilsner for you.

Origin Story

The brewery that Pilsner beer came from has been around for over 800 years, it’s creator may have been a mistake-prone thief, and it eventually became the basis for many of the domestic American lager beers like Coors and Miller that are so popular today.

Our story begins in Plzen, a Bohemian city located in modern day Czech Republic. The brewery in question was founded in the early 14th century and would eventually become the famed Pilsner-UIrquell brewery known worldwide for having crafted the world’s first delicious, crackery pilsner beer. During that time, the city of Pilzn was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

During this time, brewing was fiercely competitive and localized. Yeast strains, spice blends, and spice charges were all closely guarded, and many small communities were well known for the quality of their highly prized beer. The Citizen’s Brewery, as it was known at the time, hired Josef Groll, a well known and reputable German brewer to come and work at their brewery.

There is a fair amount of controversy over how the German yeast strain found its way to Pilzn (many people believe that Groll stole it), but what we do know is that in October of 1842, the Groll produced his first batch of bottom-fermented pale lager, and the world would never be the same.

All across Europe, darker, fuller-bodied beers made from roasted or baked grains and with strong alcohol content were all the rage. Groll’s new style of lighter, crisper beer took Europe by storm within just a decade or so and was available in Paris by 1862 (things used to move more slowly).

Affordable glassware was also just coming into style and people everywhere marveled at the clean, golden color and natural carbonation of this pale lager. Years later, it would jump the Atlantic ocean and become a popular style of beer for Americans. Eventually, the Saaz hops and pale malts would be changed out for domestic variants and rice malt to create the American lager we know today in the form of Coors and Miller beers.

Czech Pilsner

Czech pilsner is yellow to light gold in color and usually checks in at about 4.5 to 5.5 percent alcohol by volume. It is known for being a crisp, clean style brewed with flavorful, but not aggressive, Saaz hops. It is still referred to as Bohemian Pilsner in many circles.

  • Pilsner Urquell – Plzensky Prazdroj; Plzen, Czech Republic
  • Mama’s Little Yella Pils – Oskar Blues Brewing; Longmont, CO
  • Lagunitas Pils – Lagunitas Brewing Co.; Petaluma, CA

German Pilsner

After the success of the Pilsner, German brewers were keen to try their hand at a style that was clearly a hybrid of two worlds. Known as Pils more commonly than Pilsner, the German varieties are hard to distinguish from their Bohemian cousins in both color and alcohol content, however, they tend to be a bit more hop forward, often using German Noble hops over Saaz hops.

  • Bitburger – Bitburger Brauerei; Bitburger, Germany
  • Organic German Pils – Mikeller/De Proefbrouwerij; Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium
  • German Pils – 4 Pines Brewing Company; Sydney Australia

American Imperial Pilsner

Americans eventually decided to take the beer to a new level in a way that only America can — by making it bigger! Imperial Pilsners tend to be slightly richer in color and significantly stronger, ranging anywhere from 6-9% ABV. Most brewers of Imperial American Pilsners still favor old world hop variants.

  • Hallertau Imperial Pilsner – Boston Beer Co; Boston, MA
  • My Antonia – Dogfish Head; Milton, DE
  • Small Craft Warning Uber Pils – Heavy Seas Brewing Co.; Baltimore, MD

Get Your Favorite Pilsner And More At Northstar Liquor Superstore

To find the ideal Pilsner or any other style of beer that you’re craving or just want to learn more about, stop by and visit us at Northstar Liquor Superstore in Johnstown. We look forward to helping you find a new favorite.