Pilsner Urquell Knows How to Celebrate a Birthday in Style
Attempting to replicate a commercially brewed beer is a tall order for a homebrewer, and the task doesn’t become easier when that beer happens to be not only a member of a particularly delicate style, but also the beer that originated the style in the nineteenth century and can still be found in the vast majority of bars around the world today.
For the second year in a row, Pilsner Urquell hosted its Master Home Brewer Competition in cities across the United States for a chance win a trip for two to Prague and Plsen and “to brew a special one-time only batch of Pilsner Urquell with the Brew Master, Vaclav Berka.”
This year’s contest happens to be especially significant because not only will Pilsner Urquell celebrate its 170th birthday later this year, but the brewery launched a major campaign in July to bring the U.S. experience of drinking the beer closer to the Czech experience. In other words, Pilsner Urquell decided to up its freshness game.
Better refrigeration, faster shipping and enclosed packaging that covers those precious green bottles are some of the key tenants to the initiative that tackles what Pilsner Urquell deems “the ‘enemies’ of beer”—time, temperature and light.
And so far, those Saaz saboteurs have been kept at bay. A week ago, All About Beer Magazine publisher Daniel Bradford, contributing writer K. Florian Klemp and I had the privilege to judge the Master Home Brewer competition a few blocks away from our offices at Tyler’s Taproom & Restaurant in Durham, NC. Along with judges Dave Buning and Janet Kennedy and steward Jimmy VerVaecke, we chose Andrew Mason’s entry as the winner, but we all agreed that though most of the entries were wonderful beers that we would enjoy drinking on a humid August day in the South, none quite replicated the soft and thirst-quenching Saaz bite of the “true original.”
And due to Pilsner Urquell’s smart freshness campaign, the true original tasted better than ever. Florian, a celebrated beer writer, award-winning homebrewer and veteran beer consumer commented that “those were by far the best Pilsner Urquells I’ve ever had, and I’ve been drinking it for over thirty years.” Because my beer-drinking tenure is seconds to Florian’s light years, I’ll take this as a solid endorsement.
Cheers to Pilsner Urquell for not only realizing that logistics compromised the quality of its beer, but for also doing something about it and forgoing the apathy route that will begin to create even more of a quality gap in the years to come among breweries. Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám (translated: “Happy Birthday”), and I look forward to coming closer to the true Czech Republic experience on my own front porch.