As many of you have probably tasted, not every Pilsner Urquell has the same taste, and the difference between a truly good Pilsner Urquell and an awful one is quite huge, with many varying degrees along the way. In this article, we’ll point out a few characteristics to look for when judging your Pilsner, as well as what distinguishes between a good and a bad Pilsner. To begin with, here are just a few notes:
A Good Pilsner Urquell will not cost more than a poor one. In fact, bad Pilsner Urquell is usually the most expensive. At the time this article was written in April 2012, the best Pilsner pubs (have a look at our Top 10) have a standard price of 38 czk for a half liter. Anything above 50 czk is murderous, and probably piss poor too. The quality of a Pilsner Urquell does not always correspond to the price.
Don’t judge a pub by its patrons. Beer is consumed in such large quantities in Prague that it’s impossible to judge a pub by whom you see inside. Just because they look like a mug of beer, doesn’t mean they know a good Pilsner from a bad one.
Watch the tap: a good Pilsner tap is a much loved and well-worn device. Observe the guy or gal pouring your beer- there should be no disco dance action and elaborate movements of the wrist, just simple, clean, straight pouring.
Your glass: You can’t precisely judge the quality of beer based on the shape of the glass, but you will notice that almost all of the best Pilsner pubs serve their golden lager in a rounded, half liter glass mug with dimples on the side, or a traditional Pilsner Urquell mug with a handle.. The glass trend also shows that places serving poor Pilsner tend to use the taller glasses, without a handle.
The best Pilsners should have a thick, frothy foam that looks like something that could come from a gourmet kitchen. As you drink your beer, the foam recedes slowly, clinging more to the edges, leaving lacy waves along the interior of your glass. When you look down into your glass, you’ll notice thicker, smaller islands of foam clinging together, varying in density and bubble size, and the color is a creamy off-white. As for the beer itself, it should be a fresh rich golden yellow, which the low light of pubs easily penetrates.
An experienced Pilsner drinker will know that something could possibly be amiss with the first glance at their beer. Poor Pilsners look flat, and the small bubbles seem ‘tired’ and not full of life. If you smell your beer, there will be a more one dimensional smell of hops. As you drink, the receding beer won’t cling to the inside of your glass. When you look down into the top of your beer after you drink, you’ll notice that the little white bubbles dissipate or dissolve more quickly and become transparent instead of clumping together as little islands, keeping their creamy whiteness as a good Pilsner does. You’ll notice a drier feeling on your tongue, and an overwhelming stale bitterness that hides any of the sweeter, malty flavors that a fresh Pilsner has. This stale bitter taste continues well into the aftertaste. Overall, there is a complete lack of freshness.
In conclusion, developing your Pilsner taste buds is a fun experience to perfect in Prague. Try for yourself comparing the golden lager poured from one of the taps of our Top 10 Pilsner Urquell Pubs, and just any ordinary Pilsner Urquell, and see what you notice. Cheers!