Pre-Pilsner Pilsen

This morning Pilsner Urquell tweeted the quetion “What happened in Plzen in the 1830s to make the citizens decide to build their own brewery?”


The answer Pilsner Urquell gives to Plzen Before Pilsner Urquell is a short history lesson about Bohemia in the mid-1800s.

What was the town of Plzen like when Pilsner Urquell was founded back in 1842? To get a feel for things, imagine the number 563. That’s the total number of dwellings — just 563 buildings for living in — that stood in Plzen at the time of the town’s 1840 census.

Despite its small size, Plzen was still a relatively important place, especially after the construction of the military barracks that were built there in 1826 (this was crowd-funded and paid for by the citizens), after which the town’s population and strategic importance grew substantially. By 1840, Plzen had grown to 10,184 inhabitants, up from 6,447 inhabitants some fifty years earlier.

Along with the barracks, Plzen also developed a more cultivated side in the 1820s and 1830s, developing a merchant class and showing theatrical performances and concerts in both Czech and German languages. Perhaps because of that cosmopolitanism, as well as the town’s setting not far from the Czech-Bavarian border, a number of imported beers, including many Bavarian dark lagers, began showing up in Plzen by the mid-1830s. These proved to be quite popular, and some residents complained that Plzen was flooded by imported beers. Ironically, the imports were quite cheap, much cheaper than Plzen’s own beer at the time, which thus had trouble selling fast enough to keep up with its relatively short shelf life.

The result was a major problem for local beer lovers. The first solution suggested by the citizens of Plzen? A ban on all imported beer. Only after this idea was laughingly dismissed by the town’s mayor Martin Kopecký did the good people of Plzen came up with their second proposal: to build a new brewery that could compete with the imports.

It’s funny to see concerns about imports being an issue even 175 years ago, something that’s still talked about today.

The image Pilsner Urquell uses part of with the story is from 1649. It was a “copper engraving, uncolored as published,” and is a “Bird’s eye view of the city of Pilsen, published in the Topographia Bohemiae by Matthaeus Merian.”


Beer Birthday: Evan Rail

Today is the 43rd birthday of Evan Rail, expat American writer living, and writing about beer, in Prague, Czech Republic. Evan was born and raised in Fresno, but discovered his love for beer while attending U.C. Davis as a French and German literature major. While there, he spent his time at the nearby Sudwerk Privatbrauerei brewpub, and counted among his friends several students in the Master Brewers program. That’s also where he began homebrewing in 1993. He also studied in New York and Paris, before making the Czech Republic his home in 2000. His move to Prague was meant to be for a single year, but he’s still there fifteen years later. Given that he met his wife there, and they’ve started a family, it’s likely he won’t be moving home any time soon. In addition to writing the Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic, Rail’s also penned Why Beer Matters, In Praise of Hangovers and Triplebock, all Kindle singles. While we haven’t yet shared a beer in person, I did interview him via Skype for a newspaper column and look forward to a trip to Prague at some point in the future. Join me in wishing Evan a very happy birthday.

A Facebook cover photo of Evan (which is where I purloined it from, along with the next one, too).

A screenshot from a video of Evan talking about Czech beer.

PilsNOIR Urquell, Czech Brewery’s New Black Pilsner

The pilsner style, with it’s brilliant golden color, was first brewed in the Bohemian town of Plzen in 1842. Pilsner Urquell started a revolution in brewing and it became the most widely copied type of beer, quickly transforming it into the most popular beer style in the world.

After over 170 years making just one beer, Plzeňský Prazdroj decided it was time to do something different and today are launching PilsNOIR Urquell, a totally new black pilsner. Made with the same Moravian barley and their signature Czech Saaz hops along with the naturally soft local water that’s made Pilsner Urquell to make one of the finest beers in the world, it’s sure to start another revolution.


April Fools!

Just kidding. Mark Dredge, who’s been doing some work for Pilsner Urquell in England, sent me this mock-up spoof the brewery created just to have a little fun. No matter which beer you choose to drink today, remember to have yourself a little fun. The real copy should read:

“We’ve been making the same beer in the same way for 172 years. Why change now. Even on April Fools Day.”

Beer In Ads #1065: Pilsner Urquell Keeps You On Earth

Wednesday’s ad is for Pilsner Urquell, from what looks to be the 1950s based on the style of illustration on this postcard. Showing a geeky-looking mathematician in front of a blackboard filled with a calculation. I wonder if it’s just gibberish or if it really does express something mathematically — gravity perhaps? But the idea is that if it weren’t for math we wouldn’t be here on planet beer to enjoy our Pilsner Urquell.


Animated Beer Production In The Czech Republic

Today’s infographic is slick animated graphic showing the brewing process. It’s a pretty cool graphic. There’s different panels for brewing, basic types of beer, production by European countries, and some beer history. The only thing that would make it cooler would be if I could read Czech. But click on the image below to see it in all its glory.

Beer production (brewing)

by Newslab.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Beer Birthday: Josef Groll

Evan Rail reminded me that today is not only the birthday of Josef Groll, but if we’d perfected that cure for mortality, it would be his 200th birthday. Groll, of course, is considered the “Father of Pils,” and was born this day on 1813, in Vilshofen an der Donau, Germany. Many consider the Bavarian brewer to be the inventor of pilsener beer.

Josef Groll’s portrait.

According to the Wikipedia account:

The citizens of Pilsen were no longer satisfied with their top-fermented Oberhefenbier. They publicly emptied several casks of beer in order to draw attention to its low quality and short storage life. It was decided to build a new brewery capable of producing a bottom-fermented beer with a longer storage life. At the time, this was termed a Bavarian beer, since bottom-fermentation first became popular in Bavaria and spread from there. The climate in Bohemia is similar to that in Bavaria and made it possible to store ice in winter and cool the fermentation tanks down to 4 to 9 degrees Celsius year-round, which is necessary for bottom-fermentation.

Bavarian beer had an excellent reputation, and Bavarian brewers were considered the masters of their trade. Thus, the citizens of Pilsen not only built a new brewery, but also hired Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewer. Josef Groll’s father owned a brewery in Vilshofen in Lower Bavaria and had long experimented with new recipes for bottom-fermented beer. On October 5, 1842, Groll produced the first batch of Urquell beer, which was characterized by the use of soft Bohemian water, very pale malt, and Saaz hops It was first served in the public houses Zum Goldenen Anker, Zur weißen Rose and Hanes on 11 November 1842, and was very well received by the populace.

Josef Groll’s contract with the Bürgerliches Brauhaus (citizens’ brewery) in Pilsen expired on April 30, 1845 and was not renewed. Groll returned to Vilshofen and later inherited his father’s brewery. The Pilsen brewery was directed by Bavarian brewers for nearly sixty years until 1900.

A diorama of Groll in his lab at the Pilsner Urquel Museum.

Beer Sweden also has a nice two-part account, as does Brewing Techniques and Food Reference. Pilsner Urquell’s Czech website also has a brief history and a timeline. Brewer K. Florian Klemp wrote Presenting Pilsners for All ABout Beer, which includes Groll’s story.


So join me in wishing Josef Groll a happy 200th birthday with a glass of Pilsner Urquell.

How To Efficiently Drink Pilsner Urquell

This is an interesting piece of breweriana I stumbled upon. It’s from around 1900 and apparently is “an instruction manual how to efficiently drink Pilsner Urquell.” Although Google Translates it as “A glass of Pilsner Urquell in one fell swoop,” so I’m not entirely certain. It looks like a postcard to me.

Click here to see the advertisement full size.

Czech Republic Beer

Today in 1918, the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia, gained their Independence from Austria-Hungary.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic Breweries

Czech Republic Brewery Guides

Other Guides

Guild: Research Institute Of Brewing; Czech Beer & Malt Association

National Regulatory Agency: Ministry of Agriculture,
Food Production Department

Beverage Alcohol Labeling Requirements: EU Regulations

Drunk Driving Laws: BAC 0.00%


  • Full Name: Czech Republic
  • Location: Central Europe, between Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria
  • Government Type: Parliamentary democracy
  • Language: Czech 94.9%, Slovak 2%, other 2.3%, unidentified 0.8%
  • Religion(s): Roman Catholic 26.8%, Protestant 2.1%, other 3.3%, unspecified 8.8%, unaffiliated 59%
  • Capital: Prague (Praha)
  • Population: 10,177,300; 84th
  • Area: 78,867 sq km, 116th
  • Comparative Area: Slightly smaller than South Carolina
  • National Food: Vepřo knedlo zelo (roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut); Svíčková
  • National Symbols: Double-tailed Lion (Bohemia), Eagle (Moravia and Silesia); linden; Vltava (Bohemia), Morava (river) (Moravia)
  • Affiliations: UN, EU, NATO
  • Independence: Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, January 1, 1993; Note: although January 1 is the day the Czech Republic came into being, the Czechs generally consider October 28, 1918, the day the former Czechoslovakia declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as their independence day


  • Alcohol Legal: Yes
  • Minimum Drinking Age: 18
  • BAC: 0.00%
  • Number of Breweries: 127


  • How to Say “Beer”: pivo
  • How to Order a Beer: Pivo, pro-seem
  • How to Say “Cheers”: Nazdar or Na zdraví (“to your health”)
  • Toasting Etiquette: The most common toast is “Na zdravi!” which means “to your health,” upon which each person clicks glasses with everyone at the table. Make eye contact with each person you click glasses with, or you will be considered rude.


Alcohol Consumption By Type:

  • Beer: 57%
  • Wine: 16%
  • Spirits: 24%
  • Other: 3%

Alcohol Consumption Per Capita (in litres):

  • Recorded: 14.97
  • Unrecorded: 1.48
  • Total: 16.45
  • Beer: 8.51

WHO Alcohol Data:

  • Per Capita Consumption: 15 litres
  • Alcohol Consumption Trend: Stable
  • Excise Taxes: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Sales Restrictions: Specific events, intoxicated persons
  • Advertising Restrictions: Some
  • Sponsorship/Promotional Restrictions: No

Patterns of Drinking Score: 3

Prohibition: On September 14, 2012, the government of the Czech Republic banned all sales of liquor with more than 20% alcohol. From this date on it is illegal to sell (and/or offer for sale) such alcoholic beverages in shops, supermarkets, bars, restaurants, gas stations, e-shops etc. This measure was taken in response to the wave of methanol poisoning cases resulting in the deaths of 18 people in the Czech Republic. Since the beginning of the “methanol affair” the total number of deaths has increased to 25. The ban remains until further notice, though restrictions were eased towards the end of September.