This Style Feature will walk you through all things Pilsner. The Pilsner, a lager style beer, has a rich history that's been carried across the world. Learn about where pilsners come from, what they taste like and how the style is defined, and our recommended Pilsners to order online and get in your fridge today.

Style Feature: Pilsner

Defining the Pilsner Style: from the 1800s to Today

The history of the Pilsner style is not like any other beers. The Pilsner was invented in the Czech town of Pilsen in the late 1800s. It was a beer so revolting--it was said to have been a dark sludge consumed through straws to avoid all the floating sediment at the top--that the townspeople decided they had had enough and dumped out more than 30 kegs of the beer on the ground in front of the city hall. Then, they built a new brewery (Pilsner Urquell which still remains an active brewery today) and hired a Bavarian man, Josef Groll, as the new head brewer.

Using the methods he learned from his father as well as new brewing methods in the area, Groll was able to kiln an incredibly light coloured malt which resulted in a golden-yellow beer, rather than the previous dark beer brewed in Pilsen. He then used soft water, bottom fermenting yeast, and Saaz noble hops to brew the beer, followed by lagering it in a cave for the cool temperature. The result was a crisp, clear golden beer that won over everyone in the town. The original pilsner is a type of lager that is still being made in the same brewery today.

Sub-style: Bohemian Pilsner (Czech Pilsner)

The original style Josef Groll brewed in the 1800s is lovingly known as the Bohemian, or Czech, pilsner. This style has low to moderate carbonation, is a pale golden yellow, and features bready and malty flavours and aromas. Hop bitterness is medium. Bohemian Pilsners (or pilseners) are usually the darkest in colour in the Pilsener family.

Sub-style: German Pilsner

When the Germans brewed the pilsner style, they had to adapt the brewing methods slightly due to the limited availability of water and other Bohemian Pilsner resources. The result is a pilsner that is lighter in colour and slightly less hoppy than its Czech counterpart. You'll often hear the German Pilsner referred to as a "Pils" to signify its German craftsmanship. The German Pilsner and the Bohemian Pilsner are the two most common pilsner styles.

Sub-style: European Pilsner

Less common than the German Pils and the Bohemian Pilsner is the European Pilsner, which may be described as slightly sweeter than the aforementioned pilsners and can be brewed with grains other than barley malt. Dutch pilsners and Belgian Pilsners are common European pilsners in this sub-style.

Sub-style :American Pilsner

Pilsners were introduced to America by German immigrants. The American Pilsner is brewed with barley malt and about 25% rice or corn, as these resources were more readily available when the style was introduced to North America. The classic American Pilsner is thought to be one of the most popular styles in the country today.

What's the difference between a pilsner and a lager?

All pilsners are lagers, but all lagers are not pilsners. Almost every single beer is either alager or an ale, and beer styles fall underneath those two main categories. In this case, a pilsner is a type of lager.

How is Pilsner beer brewed?

Correctly brewing a pilsner is a true science. Here are the basic steps:

  1. The journey starts with soft water, free of excess minerals.
  2. Next comes the malt. BeerAndBrewing.com writes: "Pilsner Malt is a type of pale lager malt made from two-row spring barley that is always highly modified (i.e., good protein degradation) during malting and is kilned to an exceptionally blonde color value of no more than 2.5 to 4 European Brewery Convention (EBC; approx. 1.5° to 2.1° Lovibond)."
  3. The malt is then boiled (mashed) to extract all the sugars and flavours from the grains. This is a multi-step process to create the liquid called wort, which is essentially unfermented beer.
  4. Next, the wort boils for a specified period of time during which Saaz hops or other noble hops are added.
  5. The wort is then cooled down and bottom-fermenting pilsner lager yeast is added to the wort. It is said that the strain of yeast used by Pilsner Urquell is the same strain used in the original Bohemian pilsner.
  6. After fermenting for approximately a week and a half (varies by recipe and style), the fermented beer is transferred to a separate vessel and is lagered in a cool environment for months.
  7. Finally, it's transferred to its final vessel (bottle, can, keg) and ready to be chilled and enjoyed.

Best Way To Drink a Pilsner

Pilsners arguably taste best when poured into a pilsner glass. This is a tall, tapered glass slightly smaller than a pint glass. It has a wide mouth to help retain the foam head to accentuate all the beautiful, complex pilsner flavours and aromas.

According to Pilsner Urquell, the ideal serving temperature for a pilsner is 5°-8° Celsius. And if you're looking to enjoy a refreshing pilsner with dinner, it pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Brewers Association suggests foods like chicken, salmon, salads, and bratwursts as well as light desserts like lemon shortbread.

Whether you drink it straight from the can or in a glass over beer with close friends, you're sure to enjoy all the bready flavours, noble hop aromas, and other cracking pilsner characteristics.

Featured Pilsner: Budweiser American Pilsner

Budweiser is an iconic American pilsner brewed with both two-row and six-row wheat, in addition to rice. It has a 5% ABV and, like most American pilsners, is a very pale, light yellow colour. It's a fantastic fridge filler and a go-to case for getting together with friends.

3 Budwesier American Pilsner Beer Bottles

Featured Pilsner: Stella Artois Belgium Pilsner

Stella Artois is the #1 best-selling Belgian beer in the world. The European-style pilsner is 4.6% ABV and features balanced malt sweetness, floral aroma, and crisp hop bitterness from the classic Saaz noble hops.

3 Stella Artois Belgian Pilsner Beer Bottles

Featured Pilsner: Modelo Mexican Pilsner

Modelo is a light, crisp Mexican-style Pilsner with unique flavours and aromas of orange blossom honey and a slight hint of herb. At 4.5% ABV, this sessionable pilsner is a refreshing fridge staple suitable for any occasion. Salud!

3 Modelo Mexican Pilsner Beer Bottles