Perhaps no other beer is as iconically linked to its region of origin as the original pilsner beer, born in 1842 in Plzen, part of the current Czech Republic. The story goes that the locals were so excited by this tasty new golden beer that they forgot to trademark the name. Besides the slew of oh-so-insipid light lagers technically called pilsners, many examples are brewed throughout Germany and Austria.
Czech-style pilsners are noticeably distinct from German pilsners. The Czech versions are somewhat darker in color and fuller bodied. They are less bitter and typically more complex, with layers of spicy, floral, and grassy notes.
Czech and German pilsners appeared around the same time and both benefited from advanced kilning techniques pioneered in England. But Czech pilsners grew out of what was a regional emergency. Beer quality and consistency were notoriously unreliable, and the citizens of Plzen finally said, enough is enough. They created a state-of-the-art new brewery, including the new “English” kilns. From the brewery came a luscious golden beer with a beautiful white head. The locals quaffed it down and pronounced it most excellent.
Until then, most Czech beers were darker ales brewed with top-fermenting yeast strains. The new Pilsners were brewed with clean Bavarian-style lager yeast strains and lightly kilned Bohemian barley malt. They were roasted a bit more than German pilsner malts and so were darker and richer, with a hint of caramelization, and produced beers with greater body.
Besides the distinct malt used, Czech Pilsners are marked by two other important factors. Unilke their German counterparts, which are made from rather hard water, they are brewed using very soft sandstone filtered water. And they are hopped with Saaz, a delightful Czech variety with spicy, floral, and herbaceous characteristics.
At the Civil Life, we started by boiling the water for some time, driving off excessive minerality and softening it. The base malt is Bohemian Pilsner malt. Saaz hops are used for each addition. The resulting beer is a beautiful deep golden color with a round, bready malt character and good body. At a mere 35 IBUs, the beer is not especially bitter, though it is pleasantly crisp. Distinctive floral, spicy, and herbal hop notes come through. Some taste peppercorn, some hints of rosemary or lavender, or even an earthy tarragon-like note.
Drinking our delicious Czech Pilsner is like taking a trip to nineteenth century Bohemia. Come down and get a pint while it’s on tap. And as always, ask for it or any other Civil Life beer wherever fine ales and lagers are served.
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.