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The Caverns of Plzen

Beneath the town of Plzen, Czech Republic lies a labyrinth of caverns and tunnels reaching 20km long.  Carved out of soft sandstone and history rests the world’s first pilsner beer, Pilsner Urquell.  Named after the town of Plzen, this beer style was so popular that it rapidly spread across Europe, and influenced the change from stoneware mugs to clear drinking glasses.  Today pilsner style beer accounts for two thirds of the world’s beer sold.


In 1839, beer quality was inconsistent.  The citizens of Plzen, Bohemia formed a brewing guild and brewery to improve quality.  The Pilsner Urquell Brewery hired Joseph Groll, a Bavarian brewmaster, to blend the Bavarian, bottom fermenting lager style of beer with soft Bohemian water, a new pale style malt, and Saaz hops.  This beer matured in wood casks stored, or “lagered”, in underground cellars.  The resulting clear, golden pale lager beer revolutionized the beer industry. 


Europeans had been used to drinking dark, strong, cloudy, and often infected, ales in stoneware mugs.  But the golden, straw colored pilsner lager was light, refreshing and beautiful.  Clear drinking glasses soon replaced stoneware as pilsner (and many imitation styles) rapidly spread across Europe.


Down in the dim lit, damp, cold caverns of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, you can taste a fresh pilsner beer.  The unfiltered, unpasteurized fresh beer comes direct from a traditional, oak wood cask.  The taste is pure heaven.  The light lager bubbles forth out of cask captivity, and flows down easy, a slight hint of sweetness and pure balance with the mild, bittering hops.  At that moment, deep beneath the town of Plzen, perfection is achieved.