When interviewing candidates at The Birch, one of the questions we ask is, “What is your least favorite style of beer?”
Nine times out of 10 the answer is lagers and pilsners.
It’s understandable. New beer drinkers often explore radically different styles from the normal macro lager offerings. However, most of my hires would now say they have developed an appreciation for craft-brewed lagers and pilsners.
The main difference between ales and lagers is the yeast used to ferment and the temperatures needed to make magic. Lagers use bottom fermenting yeast that requires cooler temperatures. This slows the yeast’s activity, resulting in a longer maturation time.
In other words, a brewery has to be willing to take up precious fermentation tanks for longer periods to brew a lager. This is one reason why a brewery’s initial offerings almost never include this style. But fortunately, the market has seen a rise in craft lager choices, giving us the opportunity to experience what a well-brewed pilsner should taste like.
The style originates from a town called Pilsen, in the Czech Republic. In the mid-1800s, the Czechs experienced a decline in beer quality. So they built a brand new facility and hired a Bavarian, Josef Groll, as the brewmaster.
Groll was tasked to recreate a brown Bavarian-style lager. Little did the Czechs know, Groll had smuggled some lager yeast from Germany with him, and in October 1842, the first golden pilsner was poured.
The Czechs didn’t trademark this new style and brewmasters all over Europe started making their own interpretations. The two best known versions are the original, Czech pilsners, which are golden and have more sweetness, and German pilsners, which tend to have a straw-like color with more of a hop aroma and bitterness.
So why are craft beer lovers reaching for pilsners more and more often? If you make enough rounds through the IPAs, stouts, and sours, you’re probably ready to experience the nuanced flavors of a pilsner with a new appreciation.
So, if you haven’t had a craft pilsner before, I challenge you to try a few this summer and enjoy its refreshing golden goodness. Cheers!