Famed Scotch whisky and beer writer, late and lamented Michael Jackson used to refer to Pilsner Urquell as “the Montrachet of beers”, comparing the level of quality and refined taste to the world-famous white dry Burgundy wine by that name.
The few North Americans who are lucky enough to try Pilsner Urquell at the source will refuse to drink any pseudonym brewed in North America, and for that matter, anywhere else.
What makes for quality in beer is primarily the water, then come hops, followed by malt, and type of yeast used for fermentation.
Most of the real, unadulterated and original Czech beers can only be found in the eponymous republic. The Czechs are avid beer drinkers and connoisseurs, and breweries don’t dare putting inferior quality on the market.
Per capita beer consumption in the Czech Republic is the highest in world with some 150 litres.
In the USA Anheuser-Busch, now part of INBev contributed largely to the popularization of pilsner style of beer. Over time the style has been diluted to what it is today in an attempt to entice an ever larger population segment to drink it.
Czech pilsner is a blond lager with noticeable floral hop aromas of Saaz hops, and generally refreshingly bitter containing typically from 25 up to 40 IBU (International Bittering Units).
In North America the population, with a few notable exceptions, will reject such “bitter” beers.
Molson export has approximately 15 IBUs, and Labatt’s Blue probably less.
True Pilsner has a buttery flavour and malty taste.
Pilsner style was invented mid 19th century in the then Czechoslovakia, partially because nature provided ingredients, and partially because of the experience of brew masters toiling in primitive (compared to today) breweries without even the benefit of a thermometer. The feel of the elbow estimated the temperature of a fermenting batch.
During this period Bohemian glass manufacturers invented the technique of producing clear glass. This allowed consumers to see the colour and clarity of the beer. Brew masters wanted and felt obliged to create a beer that has an appealing golden colour and was clear. Cold fermentation, required for lager beer, produces a less fruity (estery) beer as opposed to ale.
Most of the high-quality Czech beers are produced using malt, subjected to decoction mashing, and which extracts the flavour of the malt completely. No additives are used to preserve or otherwise to alter the natural taste of the beer.
The question that Canadian beer aficionados is, `can brew masters in this country produce memorable beers
The answer is an unequivocally yes.
All you have to do is sample brew pub-beers, or select a few beers produced by Ontario craft breweries and see for yourself.
I should also add that there are several small breweries in Quebec, Maritime provinces, and British Columbia that produce fine pilsners.