German Pilsner (Pils) / Beer Style

What is the most dominant beerstyle in the world? That's right Pilsner. Back in the day light/pale beers were not available. In Munich the lagers were darker. The light pilsners from Bohemia were all the rage. Brewers needed to compete and so the brewers from Munich developed a new style in response, Munich Helles.

Pilsner Urquell, the original Pilsner, became so popular that the style took it's name. This beer was first copied by the Germans (German Pilsner), German brewers migrated to the United States bringing their beer and brewing style with them and thus we have the Classic American Pilsner. Not to stop there the Standard and Premium American Lagers, followed by Lite American Lager and most recently by the style of Imperial Pilsner.

Why was this beer developed by the Bohemian brewers? Bad Beer!!! the same thing that drives us to make better beer. In 1838 the brewers of Pilzen rolled 36 barrels of ale out into the streets and dumped them because they were undrinkable. They decided that they wouldn't let this happen again. They hired a Bavarian brewer to teach them the new "German" brewing style lagering. Rumor has it that a couple of years later a monk smuggled some German Lager yeast to Pilzen. The rest, as they say it, is history.

German Pilsner (Pils)

History: A copy of Bohemian Pilsener adapted to brewing conditions in Germany.

Aroma: Typically features a light grainy Pils malt character (sometimes Graham cracker-like) and distinctive flowery or spicy noble hops. Clean, no fruity esters, no diacetyl. May have an initial sulfury aroma (from water and/or yeast) and a low background note of DMS (from Pils malt).

Appearance: Straw to light gold, brilliant to very clear, with a creamy, long-lasting white head.

Flavor: Crisp and bitter, with a dry to medium-dry finish. Moderate to moderately-low yet well attenuated maltiness, although some grainy flavors and slight Pils malt sweetness are acceptable. Hop bitterness dominates taste and continues through the finish and lingers into the aftertaste. Hop flavor can range from low to high but should only be derived from German noble hops. Clean, no fruity esters, no diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, medium to high carbonation.

Overall Impression: Crisp, clean, refreshing beer that prominently features noble German hop bitterness accentuated by sulfates in the water.

Comments: Drier and crisper than a Bohemian Pilsener with a bitterness that tends to linger more in the aftertaste due to higher attenuation and higher-sulfate water. Lighter in body and color, and with higher carbonation than a Bohemian Pilsener. Modern examples of German Pilsners tend to become paler in color, drier in finish, and more bitter as you move from South to North in Germany.

Commercial Examples: Victory Prima Pils, Bitburger, Warsteiner, Trumer Pils, Old Dominion Tupper’s Hop Pocket Pils, König Pilsener, Jever Pils, Left Hand Polestar Pilsner, Holsten Pils, Spaten Pils, Brooklyn Pilsner

Ingredients: Pilsner malt, German hop varieties (especially noble varieties such as Hallertauer, Tettnanger and Spalt for taste and aroma), medium sulfate water, German lager yeast.

Source: BJCP:,

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