A success story: 175 years of pilsner beer


A momentous beer revolt

At the beginning of the 19th century, the citizens of the city of Pilsen (Plzen) — today in the Czech Republic — were fed up with the dark and dull beer of the municipal brewery and emptied the barrels in front of the town hall. Josef Groll, a master brewer from Bavaria, was brought to the Bohemian city and created the first golden "Pilsener" beer.


On the trail of the source

The now-famous "Pilsener Urquell" is clearer and a tad more bitter than its predecessor. What most people do not know is that Josef Groll brought the brewing methods he used from his Bavarian home. For this reason, bottles of pilsner were originally labeled "brewed in the Bavarian tradition." Some beer bottles still say it today.


Typically bitter

The city of Pilsen offered the ideal conditions for this new beer. The special mineral qualities of the local water influenced the taste during the brewing process and was ideally suited for the slightly bitter taste of the "Urquell." The high hops content also adds to the beers' bitterness. Here the hops are being added to the brewing pan.


20 meters below Pilsen

But it is not only the hops that make pilsner stand out — the gently roasted, light malt gives it its golden color. Furthermore, pilsner is a bottom-fermented beer, which means that a type of yeast is added which sinks to the bottom during the fermentation process. The traditional beer is then fermented in cold tunnels 20 meters below ground.


A trademarked original

When yeast is subsequently added and the beer is fermented, it can finally be bottled. Voila! An original pilsner. In 1976, the then Czechoslovakia even signed an agreement with Switzerland, which said that only original Czech beer could be labeled "Pilsner." In return the Czechs renounced "Emmentaler" for all cheese which was not produced in Switzerland.


The most popular beer in the world

Pilsner beers have been a great success: worldwide around two thirds of all beers brewed are now made in the "Pilsner" tradition. In Germany, pilsners have a market share of 37 percent, far ahead of mixed beer drinks and wheat beers — each with a market share of around 10 percent.


Czech brewery in Japanese hands

The brewery in Pilsen is a popular tourist attraction. Here master brewer Vaclav Berka explains the origin of the earliest beer to interested beer enthusiasts. From 1999 to 2016 the brewery belonged to South African Breweries (SAB). In December last year it was taken over by the giant Japanese beverage company Asahi.

Pilsner is the most popular beer in the world and was brewed for the first time on October 5, 1842. Today, two thirds of all beers bear the "Pilsner" label. It was originally created by a Bavarian in Bohemia.

More in the Media Center