Preserving the traditional taste of Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell, hailing from the city of Plzen in the Czech Republic, is the world’s first pilsner and has been brewed continuously there for some 173 years.

Its heritage and unique flavour are respected by beer drinkers all over the world, who enjoy the consistent quality that is achieved by our dedicated brewers in Plzen. But few people know that this consistency is achieved thanks to a carefully controlled parallel brewing method.

Until relatively recently, Pilsner Urquell was fermented and lagered in large wooden barrels in the cellars beneath Plzen brewery. The cellars offered a way to keep the beer chilled and ice was brought in every winter, which had been carved from nearby lakes. 

As time and technology progressed, brewing processes became more efficient and beer could be brewed in a more consistent way. For our Plzen brewery this meant moving the majority of the beer out of the underground cellars and into modern cylindrical-conical tanks, but without affecting the traditional quality and taste of Pilsner Urquell.

Pilsner Urquell’s Head Brewmaster Vaclav Berka explains “We needed to make the most of new technology while ensuring Pilsner Urquell tasted exactly the same as ever. So we asked all our retired brewmasters to find a way to compare batches using traditional and modern methods.”

So beer was brewed in the cellars and in the new tanks, and then compared. The proof was in the tasting. The key was to ensure that the batches brewed in the tanks tasted exactly the same as the batches brewed in the wooden barrels in the cellars, and that no-one could tell the difference.

Batch after batch was brewed, tasted and tested, with the brewmasters sharing their thoughts and suggestions. With so many great brewing minds working together, the team was soon unable to tell whether the beer they were drinking came from the new tanks or the traditional wooden barrels.

Parallel brewing has continued ever since in Plzen, with beer from both brewing methods being tasted and tested every day. Our tasting experts assess Pilsner Urquell’s flavour and compare the qualities of bitterness, fullness and sweetness in each batch.

What began as a method for ensuring the taste of Pilsner Urquell didn’t change while we transitioned some of our brewing from wooden barrels to modern tanks is now an integral part of the brewing process.

And the taste of Pilsner Urquell remains as distinctive as it always has. No wonder it is proving so popular in more and more countries across the world.

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