The simple pleasures in life are often the best; and one of the simplest, most essential experiences of the Czech Republic is a good, cold mug of Pilsner Urquell. So a visit to the Pilsner Urquell brewery is a natural choice for anyone in search of good, fresh Pilsner Urquell. About an hour from Prague, visiting Pilsner Urquell brewery and the city of Pilsen is perfect for a day trip, or a weekend adventure.
No other beer is more synonymous with the Czech Republic than Pilsner Urquell. This beer has not only revolutionized how beer is brewed, but is also a testament to the cultural importance of brewing today here in the Czech Republic. Brewed using 4 simple ingredients; Saaz hops, malt, sugar, and high quality water, the first batch of this legendary beer started our modern lagering process, and became a style of beer itself.
Throughout the middle ages Europeans successfully brewed a variety of beers, but in the year 1842, the brewers of the Czech city of Pilsen changed brewing history. Up until then, most beers were of the top fermented ale sort, which could easily become spoiled and contaminated by bacteria. After witnessing the ruins of contamination, the Pilsen brewers invited Josef Groll, a famous Bavarian brewer, to help solve this problem. Groll was familiar with Saaz hops, already famous in the world of beer brewing. The city of Pilsen was blessed with incredibly soft water, another important ingredient. On October 5, 1842, the first batch of modern Pilsner was drunk.
Groll used the bavarian style of lagering for his famous first batch, which helped to solve the problem of storage and contamination which ales are prone to. With new transportation and communication developments across Europe, the popularity of Pilsner Urquell quickly spread, and the small city of Pilsen became well known for its’ golden lager and Czech Republic’s most famous product, Pilsner Urquell.
There is nothing more refreshing, more enjoyable than a perfectly poured, freshly brewed Pilsner Urquell. A good Pilsner Urquell, which actually isn’t the easiest thing to find in Czech pubs, is pure bliss.
To start, Pilsner Urquell (12°/4,4%) has a thick, frothy, milky white head, that sits atop a golden, deep yellow bitter pale lager. The characteristic taste is that of fresh Saaz hops, which give it a distinct bitterness unique only to Pilsner Urquell. The texture of this beer is where the magic is; as it rolls across your tongue, you’ll notice that it’s a smooth, weighty liquid that fluidly fills your mouth, without creating a heaviness. Having a refined texture, the strength is not in the body but in the complexity of flavor. The bitterness isn’t overwhelming, but only intensifies as you swallow, hitting the top of your mouth. From the beginning to the end your tongue experiences a variety of evolving flavors from a hint of sweetness at its tip, to a light warm flavor of nuts mixed with caramel, and lastly to the sharp crisp bitterness that bites at the back of your mouth.
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Since we just had a day trip to the city of Pilsen and didn’t spend the night, we can’t specifically recommend any hotels. However, there are plenty of options which you can find at booking.com.
While in the city of Pilsen, you’ll certainly want to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery for a tour. The tour is extremely informative, fun, and ends with a glass of unfiltered Pilsen…a rare treat. The tour is over 90 minutes long, and very comprehensive; it begins with the history of Pilsner Urquell, and continues to tell how Pilsner is brewed and about the traditional lagering process. You also visit the bottling factory, the brewery itself, and lagering cellars.
Since both Kozel and Gambrinus are part of the Pilsner brewery, it’s also possible to tour these breweries. There’s also a Pilsner Museum, which is located on Veleslavínova street, next to Na Parkanu, one of the Pilsner restaurants. Tours are regularly available in of course Czech, English, and German. Check their website for details and times.
Pilsen is a wonderful town for other activities too. If you like cycling, or are interested in history, Pilsen has a lot to offer. Check out www.plzen.eu for more information.
There are 3 Pilsner Urquell brewery restaurants: Na Spilce, U Salzmannu, and Na Parkanu. On our trip we visited 2- Na Spilce and Na Parkanu. All restaurants have roughly the same menu, and serve the same food. The atmosphere is a bit different in each, but all are traditional Czech brewery restaurants.
Na Spilce is located within the brewery walls, across from where you buy tour tickets. This is a large, traditional Czech beer hall, with Pilsner, Gambrinus, and Kozel light and dark on tap. The food is great- nice and heavy, like good Czech food should be. Traditional dishes like svickova (beef in a cream sauce), goulash, and roasted pork knee are all on the menu. They serve a really nice goulash soup in a bread bowl from typical Czech brown bread, and some really tasty ‘pivni syr’ (beer cheese) which goes perfectly with Pilsner.
Na Parkanu is located on Veleslavínova street, closer to the main square. This restaurant is charmingly decorated to be like a Czech beer hall in the 1930s. What makes Na Parkanu special is they are one of the only restaurants to serve unfiltered Pilsner Urquell, which is absolutely amazing. The menu here is similar to the other restaurants. They also have smažené olomoucké tvarůžky, a special cheese from the town of Oloumoc, which is fried and served with tartar sauce. A great snack to go with your beer. We noticed that the Pilsner tasted the best here, and also the prices were a bit less than at Na Spilce.
Pilsen is not only a city rich in beer history, but in culture too. Pilsen has been voted a European Capital of Culture for the year 2015. This is the fourth largest city in the Czech Republic, home to about 172,000 people. First mentioned as a castle in the year 976, Pilsen has played a significant role in Czech history. During the Austro-Hungarian years, Pilsen was built up as an industrial city. At the end of WW II, Pilsen was liberated by the Americans, a fact that was hidden by Communist until 1989, when it was officially acknowledged. Home to the Pilsner Urquell, the famous brewery gates are possibly the most recognizable symbol of Pilsen.
Getting to Pilsen from Prague is extremely easy. You can go by bus or train. Student Agency has a very convenient bus service that leaves from Zlicin every hour, every day.
Travel links (Czech Republic)