I love West Virginia in June; the days aren't too hot and sticky, and the evenings are just about perfect. I am really looking forward to sitting out on the patio with a good beer book and popping the cap on a real pilsner beer, one of my favorite porch-sippers of summer.
The crispness of pilsner beer along with its refreshing bitterness really hit the spot. These beers are meant to restore the body and soul, and they are not too strong, allowing you to responsibly drink more than one. They are always thirst-quenching.
Did you notice that I specifically said "real pilsner" beer? You have to be careful these days because so many of the lifeless, flavorless macro lager brands label themselves as pilsner beer, but all it takes is one sip of the real thing and you know someone is fibbing to you.
The truth about "real pilsner" is self-evident. Pilsner comes from the Czech Republic. The very word "pilsner" is a derivation of the name of the Czech village that is first brewed this wonderful liquid. The Czech town of Plzen is located only an hour's drive from the Bavarian border, and just like in Germany, beer is a way of life in these parts.
In fact, a Bavarian brewer named Josef Groll worked in a Czech brewery and is credited for first brewing this crisp, clear wonder of the beer world. Braumeister Groll essentially gave us Pilsener Urquell - meaning "original source," which is still one of the most popular pilsners beers in the world.
The pilsner beer style has lived up to its Bohemian origins, traveling like a gypsy around the world, adapting to survive. Today, many unworthy beers call themselves pilsner beers, but we know better than to fall for one of those imposters.
There is no "gypsy" secret to the success of the real pilsner beers. The process to brew them is long and drawn out, using a triple decoction mash system, which is beer-geek talk for "a really long brewing process." The other keys to success are the inherently soft water source that is used, which softens the hop bitterness. The use of noble hops that are native to the Czech Republic is essential. After all that, a long period of aging (lagering) takes place to round out the flavors. Great ingredients along with the painstaking brewing and conditioning process make up the true pilsner.
The popularity of pilsner beer quickly spilled over into neighboring Germany. The resourceful Germans developed their own version. German pilsners are usually more bitter, but always very drinkable. They are usually lighter in color and alcohol than the Czech style. Unlike the weak-kneed and essentially flavorless American versions, German pilsners stayed true to the essential refreshingly bitter soul of the Czech pils.