Take some malt from specially refined Moravian barley and bring the mash to the boil three times. Add medium ripe red hops from the area around Saaz each time, and leave the brew to ferment slowly at a low temperature. Finally store it for up to 30 days in cooled barrels. This recipe, written on 5th October 1842, was the first ever recipe for Pilsen beer in the world: a golden yellow, pearly, deliciously bitter drink with a pleasant aroma of hops and a snow-white frothy head. Anyone who wants to know more about this legendary "Pils" beer should pay a visit to the traditional, and simultaneously highly modern, Pilsner-Urquell brewery in the Czech city of Pilsen. Here visitors can not only touched the raw materials used in making this famous beverage, but also smell it and even taste it. A cinema with revolving seats enables visitors to get a vivid idea of the brewing process. The brewery exhibits comprise everything from a brewing kettle (a so-called "copper") made in 1842 to the fully modernised brewing house and a highly technical bottling plant. It goes without saying that a tour of the brewery also includes a glass of cool Pilsener Urquell in the 9 kilometre long cellar vaults. Aftwards a visit to the Pilsener Brewery Museum is highly recommended. Here you can learn all about the history of beer from ancient times until the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The triumphal march of Pilsen beer began with a disaster. In 1838 in a spectacular action, the town council ordered 36 barrels of beer to be emptied in front of the town hall because the contents where undrinkable. The opprobrium was so great that those citizens of the town who had a right to brew beer joined forces, decided to close the many small family breweries and erect a large modern substitute. The upshot, in September 1839, was the so-called "citizens brewhouse" – a genuine joint-venture and the living expression of a determination to make beer the future figurehead of the town. The first master brewer was a recognized specialist in the trade: Josef Groll from Vilshofen in Bavaria. He was 29 years old at the time, and had a reputation for being very short-tempered. That said, he made much more of a reputation for himself with the beer which he created in Pilsen in 1842. His particular achievement was to exploit the unique local ingredients to the full by using a new bottom-fermenting brewing process. It was a breathtaking success. In order to satisfy the rapidly growing demand the brewery staked all its hopes on modernisation. The first steam engine in the town went into operation here. In 1865 gas lighting was introduced, followed in 1881 by the introduction of electricity to parts of the brewery. At the 1899 World Exhibition in Paris the Pilsener Brewery presented a prototype of beer refrigeration wagon, and shortly afterwards the brewery constructed its own water tower and even built its own power station. In 1999 the brewery was taken over by the brewery concern SABMiller. It now contains gigantic stainless steel tanks and the most up-to-date bottling plant in central Europe. Nonetheless, part of the beer is still brewed just as it was 150 years ago, including the fermentation and conditioning process in vats and oak barrels. This not only pleases the many visitors but also guarantees quality control. When all is said and done, this is the only way to guarantee that today´s Pilsen beer tastes just as good as it did at the time of Josef Groll.
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