By Michael Blakley
Every other week we explore one of the many varieties of beer you’re likely to come across in Berlin. We’ll explain its distinctive characteristics and teach you a little brewing history. Soon you’ll be impressing your friends with your ability to work the subject of yeast into just about any conversation. Finally we’ll give you a few suggestions on where you can do some research on your own. That’s right. Homework. Delicious, delicious homework.
The taste: bitter, earthy
The color: pale golden, straw colored
The body: light
Pilsners are light beers with earthy bitterness. They lack the sweetness of their blond Belgian cousins and aren’t the hop bomb of their other close relative the IPA. Pilsners are the featherweight boxers of beer; so light you wonder how they can pack such a flavorful punch. Popular international brands come from the Netherlands (Amstel), Belgium (Stella Artois) and of course the Czech Republic (Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen) where the pilsners were invented. You’ll find a wide variety of German Pilsners: Jever, Becks, Veltins, Radeburger and many more. Berlin’s two large commercial breweries still produce local favorites, Schultheiss and Berliner Pilsner.
Pilsners were first produced in mid 1800’s in the city of Pilsen, in what is now the Czech Republic. Bavarian Josef Groll gets the credit for the first modern batch in 1842 when he took advantage of the cool temperatures found in the underground cellars where he brewed. These low temperature, bottom fermenting techniques improved over time adding increased clarity and shelf life to the batches. Then pilsners got another boost in popularity when scientist Carl von Linde arrived on the scene in the late 19th century with this funny new technology called refrigeration, essentially allowing pilsners to circulate in a larger radius than just the caves they were born in.
No introduction to pilsners is complete until after some taste testing. To get you started with your homework, here are three places to enjoy a German pilsner here in Berlin.
Prater Beer Garden
Berlin’s oldest and largest beer garden has their own Prater Pils on tap. Grab a bratwurst and saddle up at a picnic table next to the locals (and likely their kids) at this neighborhood favorite.
Location: 7 Kastanienallee
Berliner Kindl-Schultheiss-Brauerei GmbH
One of only two remaining large breweries in Berlin. You’ll find both Berliner Pilsner and Schultheiss in the gift shop alongside all kinds of kitsch merchandise. Tours are available, in German, if you are curious to see what all this bottom fermentation actually looks like.
Location: 66-69 Indira-Gandhi Strasse
Kpt. A Müller
Located on Fredrichshain’s most popular street for nightlife and still serving two euro beers! Crowded to say the least, but with any luck you can get in a game of kicker or snatch mismatched chairs by the bar.
Location: 32 Simon-Dach-Strasse