Pilsner Urquell invented the Czech style within its name in 1842, and it’s still one of the best examples of the pilsner category more than 175 years later. It’s crisp and clean but also complex, thanks to a malty sweetness and herbaceous hops, making it a good option for just about anyone looking to crack a cold one.
Style Czech pilsner
Company Pilsner Urquell
Brewery Location Plzeň, Czech Republic
MSRP $10 per 6-pack
A complex yet straightforward beer from the brewery that created the historic style
Clean, crisp, and refreshing
Affordable and well-distributed, it’s easy to find on draft or in stores.
A broadly popular “crowd-pleaser” flavor profile that even aficionados can appreciate
Poorly shipped or stored bottles can affect product quality and flavor.
May be too bitter for some accustomed to American lagers
Color: This beer is astonishingly clear, amplifying its golden yellow hue when poured into a glass. It forms a full, bubbly, snow-white head that dissipates within two minutes.
Nose: True to the style, the nose is relatively subtle with low-lying malt characteristics that mingle with minty, grassy Czech hop aromas. Hints of creamed corn from lager yeast may be picked up by those sensitive to it.
Palate: The beer washes across the palate with a light-medium body that maintains a roundness, soothing the tongue with soft carbonation. It achieves complexity without sacrificing refreshment: Flavors are incredibly well-integrated and mellow, and the malt sweetness is balanced by lightly minty and herbaceous noble hop contributions.
Finish: A touch of low-to-moderate noble hop bitterness develops on the end of each sip and lingers after swallowing, helping to maintain a balance in flavors. The beer finishes with a clean, crisp snap that refreshes the tongue and senses.
It might just be an understatement that the modern beer market owes almost everything to Pilsner Urquell. Despite the brewery’s relatively recent start in 1842, its contributions to the brewing world forever altered the course of how we make, transport, and enjoy beer.
Famously, the story begins in the Bohemian town of Plzeň (Pilsen) in present-day Czech Republic. When citizens became fed up with the sorry state of their own locally brewed beers, a Bavarian brewer named Josef Groll was hired to come in and turn the town’s fortunes around. After tinkering with new recipes that worked with the area’s soft water and herbal Saaz hops, Groll developed the world’s very first pale lager, and the resulting brewery forever linked the style with its birthplace by naming it “pilsner” (“Urquell” means “original source” in German).
The reasons for the now-legendary beer’s popularity all seem to stem from being developed at the right place at the perfect time. The stunning crystal-clear quality of the beer could be advertised and admired thanks to the advent of affordable clear drinking glasses. The birth of refrigerated train cars near the time of its invention allowed for easy shipment of the product around the continent without risk of spoilage. But at the core of the beer’s success is its flavor, which manages to be both inspired and broadly appealing.
Because of this unmatched success story, nine out of ten beers brewed today are based on Pilsner Urquell in some way. And while imitation is often a form of flattery, many breweries and brands that lean heavily into marketing themselves as pilsners don’t measure up to their predecessor. For this reason, the original is still a gold standard for Czech-style pilsners around the world. Though it’s more complex than the vast majority of light lagers on the market, thanks to lightly minty and herbaceous hops, its clean and crisp flavor profile still makes it incredibly drinkable and refreshing.
The product has also benefited from advances in transportation that surpass refrigerated railroad cars: Today, Pilsner Urquell is widely available across the U.S. (and many corners of the globe, for that matter) at a relatively low price point compared to other imports. However, though it’s no fault of the brewery, the somewhat delicate beer can fall victim to spoilage due to improper storage or transportation, so be sure to check your pack for any signs of wear and tear before buying.
Overall, Pilsner Urquell is one of the most flexible options on the market. It’s easy-drinking enough to enjoy with friends during a happy hour on a patio and complex enough to work alongside dishes ranging from roasted meats to aromatic Thai food. In fact, it’s designed to be enjoyed by pretty much anyone willing to drink a beer.
If you ever order a glass of Pilsner Urquell in a traditional bar setting, don’t be surprised if it has a shockingly large, foamy head. It’s customary in the Czech Republic to fill a glass half full or more with dense bubbles to keep the liquid below from oxidizing, which protects the flavor.