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Pilsner: And the Brewmaster Said, “Let it be Light”
Beer is the world’s third most popular drink, but it wasn’t always known for its bubbly personality. Take a swig from Groupon’s study of how pilsner tapped a new taste.
Clear, golden beer. The concept may seem pedestrian today, but when the first pilsner was unveiled to the townspeople of what is now Pilsen, Czech Republic, in 1842, it looked like an entirely different drink from the dark lagers that had been popularized in nearby Bavaria. Brewmaster Josef Groll produced the beer The Oxford Companion to Beer describes as “malty, hoppy, and bittersweet” through experiments at the Burgher Brewery with cold fermentation, soft water, and a sweet, pale barley that brews without cloudiness. It’s no coincidence that, shortly after the beer’s unveiling, beer drinkers began to swap their traditional opaque drinking vessels for glassware that showed off the brew’s golden hue and bubble-rich texture.
Today, the beer style is so popular that in the mid-2000s the German Beer Institute estimated that 9 out of 10 beers consumed were pilsners or made in a related style. Although the pilsner is the model for many of the mass-produced golden lagers that dominate the market, it’s still possible to find versions that adhere closely to the original, revelatory recipe. Although the Burgher Brewery has changed hands, buildings, and machinery over the years, the very same beer made popular in 1842 can be enjoyed today under the Pilsner Urquell name. The brewery still produces small batches using 19th-century methods as a taste control, ensuring current production methods live up to the same standards as Groll’s original beverage.