Pilsner Urquell is firing a new salvo in the battle for fresh beer. Light-struck, or “skunked” beer is a rampant problem for breweries, especially those overseas that need to ship product over a longer distance than domestic brewers. Pilsner Urquell is packaged in a distinctive green bottle, but, while attractive, it doesn’t do much to prevent ultraviolet and fluorescent light from penetrating it and reacting with the hops to cause those off-flavors and aromas. It’s not uncommon to hear consumers say that Pilsner Urquell and other beers in similar bottles, like Heineken and Grolsch, taste better in their native lands than what is offered on shelves in America, and light exposure is a big reason why.
But Pilsner Urquell has recognized this problem and is taking proactive steps to deliver a fresher beer to its fans. The brewery will be keeping the same green bottle, but redesigned its entire packaging to shield it from light and will use refrigerated trucks to cold-ship across the country. While expensive, the goal is to provide fresher beer that will attract a brand new segment of customers.
However, faithful drinkers of Pilsner Urquell can rest easy. Besides the new shipping and packaging, what is inside the bottle has not changed. It still pours the familiar shade of light straw, clear and clean, topped by a tall, billowing ivory head. The cap has decent retention, but the lacing is somewhat meager.
Grassy, floral, and somewhat spicy hops are apparent in the nose, as well as a strong malt grain smell. The hops are fresh and crisp and really do provide a sharp contrast to bottles shipped under the old method. The aroma is also ripe with pilsner malt that ties everything together.
The overall flavor, while not overly complex, is traditional. Not much has changed within the brand from its original recipe in 1842, but there isn’t much to fix when it’s not broken. It starts with a bready flavor reminiscent of biscuits that gives it a rich texture to build off of, while the hops follow to seal the deal. The biggest notes come from these fresher hops, especially an earthy grassiness, subtle lemon, and even a somewhat bracing spiciness.
Time-tested flavors and ingredients combine to make this an easy-drinking pilsner that is a joy to drink. Pilsner Urquell is going the extra mile to make sure their beer is delivered in a cool, dark environment, so if you are new to the brand or looking for redemption from an off-bottle, seek out the new, cold-shipped packaging.
B+ / pilsner-urquell.com / $9 per six-pack