This blog will shine a spotlight on one of the world's most beloved beer styles and introduce you to our very own award-winning, gluten-free Pillars Pilsner. Whether you're a seasoned connoisseur or new to the world of craft lager, a well-brewed Pilsner is a popular, respected and crowd-pleasing beer. 

What Is Pilsner?

Pilsner, or pils, is a type of lager that hails from the Czech Republic. It's famed for its golden colour, crystal-clear appearance, and a balance of smooth maltiness with a crisp hop finish. Unlike some of its heavier, more robust cousins in the lager family, pilsner offers a refreshing and light drinking experience, making it a favourite for any occasion. 

Alongside its clear, golden colour, Pilsner’s defining feature is a distinctive hop character. The hop character comes from the use of Saaz hops, a noble hop variety grown in the Czech Republic. These hops are prized for their mild bitterness and aromatic qualities, contributing to the pilsner's unique flavour profile.

The Birth of Pilsner

The story of Pilsner begins in the mid-19th century, in the town of Pilsen, located in what is now the Czech Republic. At this point in time, most beers were top-fermented and varied greatly in quality and clarity. The people of Pilsen craved something different, and in 1842, their calls were answered by a Bavarian brewer named Josef Groll. Groll introduced the world to the first batch of Pilsner: a bottom-fermented lager, yielding a clearer, more stable, and palatable drink. Its brilliant golden colour, refreshing clarity, and balanced hop flavour were unlike anything else at the time. The birth of Pilsner set a new standard for beers worldwide.

The Brewing Process of Pilsner

It is no exaggeration to say that a pilsner is a delicate art that requires precision and patience, a testament to the brewer's skill. Here's a quick overview of how a pilsner lager comes to life:

  • Malt Selection: The journey begins with the selection of high-quality malt. Pilsners traditionally use pale malt, which contributes to their light colour and crisp flavour.
  • Mashing: The malt is then mashed, mixing with water to extract its sugars. This sweet liquid, known as wort, is the foundation of our beer.
  • Boiling and Hopping: Next, the wort is boiled and hops are added. The type and timing of hop additions are crucial for achieving the characteristic bitterness and floral aroma of a pilsner.
  • Fermentation: The cooled wort is transferred to a fermentation vessel, where yeast is added. Pilsners use a special lager yeast, which ferments at cooler temperatures and gives the beer its clean, smooth profile.
  • Lagering: The term "lager" comes from the German "lagern," meaning "to store." After fermentation, pilsner is stored at near-freezing temperatures for several more weeks or even months. This lagering phase allows the beer to mature, mellow, and clear, enhancing its smoothness and drinkability.
  • Packaging: Finally, the beer is filtered, carbonated, and packaged. It's now ready to be enjoyed!


Challenges in Brewing Lager

Brewing a high-quality Pilsner is not for the faint-hearted. There are many challenges within the complex process of lager brewing:

  • Water profile: Replicating the soft water profile of Pilsen, which requires careful adjustment of the brewing water's mineral content.

  • Malt: Precise handling is required during the malting and mashing processes. Any mistakes in temperature control during mashing can lead to off-flavours that are particularly noticeable in such a subtly flavoured beer. 
  • Hops: Achieving the perfect balance of bitterness and hop aroma is crucial in pilsner brewing. Brewers must meticulously calculate hop additions to ensure the beer achieves the desired bitterness level without overpowering the malt backbone or becoming too aromatic.
  • Clarity: Achieving the required, brilliant level of clarity naturally through the lagering process or with the help of fining agents requires careful handling. 
  • Fermenting: Pilsners are fermented with lager yeast at lower temperatures than ales, typically between 9°C and 12°C (48°F and 54°F). This cold fermentation process requires precise temperature control to prevent off-flavours produced by yeast stress. The lower temperature also slows down the fermentation, extending the production time.
  • Lagering: The extended lagering period of multiple weeks or even months, requires significant cold storage capacity, which can be a logistical and financial challenge for breweries.

Pairing and Enjoyment 

Pilsner can be enjoyed with many varieties of food due to its crisp, refreshing taste and balanced hop character. This light to medium-bodied beer is versatile, complementing a wide range of dishes and occasions. Its crisp, clean profile cuts through the richness of meats and fried foods, whilst counterbalancing the heat of intense spices. Pilsner’s carbonation refreshes the palate between bites, enhancing the flavours of both the beer and the food. The subtle bitterness can enhance the more delicate flavours of seafood and balance the sweetness of cheese. 

To fully enjoy a Pilsner’s qualities, we recommend a serving temperature of 4-7°C. Ideally you should serve it chilled, but not too cold. For glassware, using a tall, slender glass promotes its carbonation and helps to maintain the head. Don’t forget to pour your bottled beer at a tilted angle, straightening up towards the end to create a generous, foamy head. Keep the pouring speed steady! 

The Legacy of Pilsner

Pilsner is considered the template for many of the world's lager beers. Its brewing process and use of bottom-fermenting lager yeast set a standard for clean, crisp beer flavours. While the original Czech pilsner remains a gold standard, the style has inspired variations, including German Pilsners and American Pilsners, which often experiment with different hop varieties and brewing techniques.

Pilsner has influenced countless brewers and beer styles around the globe. Its introduction marked the beginning of a new era in brewing, emphasising clarity, purity, and flavour. Today, Pilsner remains one of the world's most popular beer styles, and continues to stand the test of time. 

Award-Winning Pilsner

Pilsners frequently win top honours at beer competitions worldwide. Their balance of malt sweetness with hop bitterness makes them a favourite among both judges and casual drinkers. Our very own Pillars Pilsner has received a number of awards, including the UK's Best Lager in the World Beer Awards 2021. As a gluten-free and vegan beer, Pillars Pilsner is brewed to appeal to any and all lager drinkers. You can try our award-winning, refreshing Pilsner by ordering online today.