A few weeks back now I was invited over to Prague by Pilsner Urquell, as part of the Original Collective, to delve into their history and discover how they are keeping the craft of beer-making alive using traditional methods as well as a little bit of modern technology.
I started my trip off in Pilzen, the home of Pilsner Urquell since 1842 which about an hours drive from Prague. After a wander round the city and a stop off for lunch (and beer) at a local bar I headed down to the sprawling brewery which sits right in the heart of the city. In fact it is the heart of the city, as a major employer and site of cultural significance this city would not be the same without it.
Amazingly the brewing process at Pilsner Urquell and recipe has remained the same as was when the original batch was brewed all those 175 years ago, they continue to use locally grown hops and barley to create the distinctive flavour and golden coloured lager. Much like Scotch whisky the local water plays a major role and is the one of the main factors in the quality of the product.
As I made my way around the facility and took in the stages of the production process one of the things that really stick’s out about the Pilsner Urquell brand is their strong commitment to the beer-making craft, and it is testament to the quality of beer that they make. It really makes a difference. And that commitment to craft and quality doesn’t stop at the brewery though as they are just as thorough when it comes to pouring pints thanks to their ‘Tapster’ programme.
Pilsner Urquell Tapsters have to travel to the brewery to undertake an intensive training programme where they master the art of storing the tanks, maintaining and cleaning lines and maybe most importantly how to perfect the perfect pour. And they have 3 different pours to learn. The 3 pours all start with a nice clean glass, which is chilled to the same temperature of the beer. In a change from the UK standard though big heads are considered a good thing, they protect the beer underneath from oxidisation – which makes a lot of sense when you think of it.
The Hladinka (Smooth) – A thick layer of foam is created first at a 45-degree angle then the beer is poured underneath; this keeps all that flavour in. Its not as carbonated so is easy to drink if you are planning on having a few in the pub for example. The Na Dvakrat (Crisp) – This style of pouring is ideal for accompanying a meal as the beer stays crisper and more refreshing for longer, this was my favourite. The Mliko Pour (Milky) – A bit like a dessert this is basically a foam made of beer, and is often served after a meal in the Czech Republic. No bubbles, just a sweet nice beer.
After taking in all of the history at the brewery I headed off to Prague to take in some of the sights and to sample some of the beer in the cities bars. It was my first time in the city and its beauty blew me away, wandering around the narrow streets and lanes is reminiscent of wandering around a fairytale village.
I quickly realised that beer is a huge part of the culture in the Czech Republic and it is enjoyed in a very different way to the UK, that’s of course changing here too but it’s evident that it has been this way in the Czech Republic for decades as it is widely drank in relaxed social situations by people from all backgrounds, ages and genders – I like that.
If you have worked up a thirst for a pint (who can blame you) and you fancy sampling any of the 3 pours here in the UK, the best places to go are bars that have Pilsner Urquell Tanks installed. This will ensure that you are drinking the freshest possible lager that’s been delivered unpasteurised directly from the brewery in Pilzen and cared for by someone who really knows what he or she are doing. Albert Schloss in Manchester or The Duck & Rice in London are two great places to get started but there are plenty of places up and down the country.
If you are thinking of enjoying the various Pilsner Urquell pours yourself then please do remember to drink responsibly.
Disclaimer: I was invited on this trip as a guest of Pilsner Urquell however all words and opinions are my own honest views