Autumn 2021. In theory we could travel to other continents, but destinations we had in mind such as Japan or the United Kingdom were impossible to plan ahead. Instead we organised a rail trip to Eastern Europe, travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Karlovy Vary, Pilsen, Bratislava, Poprad, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg. By travelling to Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Austria, we explore an area which was in the (not too distant) past bonded together by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and by Austria-Hungary.
Being in Pilsen or Plzeň, it felt like a must to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery. Because pils beer or pilsner beer originates from this brewery. Josef Groll (1813 – 1887), a brewer from Bavaria, was invited to Pilsen to kickstart professional brewing. There he invented a new type of pale lager, pilsner, in 1842.
In the late 1830s the people of Pilsen, then in Kingdom of Bohemia, started to prefer less expensive imported bottom-fermented beers to local top-fermented beers. As a result, many of top-fermented beers from Pilsen were not being sold fast enough, got spoiled and the casks had to be poured out.
In 1839 the citizens with brewing rights 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 were popular mostly in Bavaria. For bottom-fermentation it is necessary to keep the fermentation tanks cool between 4 and 9 degrees Celsius. The climate in Bohemia is similar to that in Bavaria making it possible to store winter ice and sustain bottom-fermentation year-round.
The burghers of Pilsen not only built a new brewery, but also hired Josef Groll. On 5 October 1842, Groll brewed the first batch of Pilsner Urquell beer. The use of soft Pilsen water, barley malt prepared in indirectly heated English-style kiln (a type of oven) and Saaz hops, resulted in golden color and herbal, floral taste. The new beer was first served on 11 November 1842 and was very well received by the local populace. The demand for the Pilsner beer grew strongly. Soon the brewery expanded and started to export to many countries.
Josef Groll’s contract with the brewery ended on 30 April 1845. Groll returned to Vilshofen and later inherited his father’s brewery.
Thus Pilsner Urquell became the first pale lager, and the name pilsner is often used by its copies. It is characterised by its golden colour and clarity, and was immensely successful: nine out of ten beers produced and consumed in the world are pale lagers based on Pilsner Urquell. The German name, which means ‘original source’, was adopted as a trademark in 1898.
On the website you can book the ‘Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour‘. “You will learn about the ingredients from which Pilsner Urquell beer is brewed. We will also show you the heart of the brewery, three brew houses from different centuries. The culmination of the tour is a tasting of unfiltered Pilsner Urquell beer in the historical cellars.”
While the first part of the tour is predictable, with information about brewing beer and the company’s history, the visit of the cellars was worth it. It’s impressive. And you get to taste the unpasteurized pils.
We expected to see more of the factory though. It turned out you must book another tour for that, the ‘Bottling facility tour‘.
“From the Brewery courtyard, we will travel in a brewery bus for a tour of the bottling facility, which is one of the most modern in Europe and processes a remarkable 120,000 bottles and 60,000 aluminium cans per hour. Tickets can be bought only with a tour of the Pilsner Urquell brewery at the reception of the Visitor Centre. The tour of the bottling plant is given in Czech. Foreign visitors can download the SmartGuide application in English, German or Russian.”
So we were a bit disappointed. I would strongly recommend also booking the bottling factory tour.
2021 Rail Tour of Imperial Europe
- POTSDAM 2021 | Schloss Sanssouci.
- 1945 Potsdam Conference’s Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam 2021.
- REVIEW | InterContinental Berlin.
- BERLIN 2021 | Pergamon, ‘Das Panorama’.
- BERLIN 2021 | Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace.
- BERLIN 2021 | The Bundestag in the Reichstag.
- Berlin 2021.
- By train from Berlin to Gdansk via Szczecin.
- Stopover in Szczecin.
- REVIEW | Restauracja Ritz in Gdańsk.
- REVIEW | Holiday Inn Gdansk.
- GDAŃSK | Museum of the Second World War.
- GDAŃSK | European Solidarity Centre or Europejskie Centrum Solidarności.
- A walk through Gdańsk.
- Gdańsk 2021.
- POLAND | PKP Intercity Gdansk to Wroclaw via Warsaw.
- Wrocław Museum of Architecture.
- The Dwarfs of Wrocław.
- Poland 2021.
- By train from Wroclaw to Karlovy Vary.
- Karlovy Vary.
- REVIEW | Hotel Imperial Karlovy Vary.
- Czechia’s Great Spa Town of Europe Františkovy Lázně.
- CZECHIA | Pilsen Historical Underground Tunnels.