Saturday 10 August 2013

Beer Event: Pilsner Urquell Nefiltrovaný in London

The rather lovely unfiltered Pilsner Urquell. Photo taken at the Prince Regent on Marylebone High Street.

Most people know Pilsner Urquell as the ubiquitous Czech Pilsner you can find all around London and, indeed, all around the world. Given its mass-market status (it is owned by SABMiller), it's actually a pretty decent beer, and if I happen to find myself in a non beer-focused bar I'll happily drink a Pilsner Urquell. What most people don't know, however, is that Pilsner Urquell actually make a different version of their flagship lager that rarely gets exported out of the Czech Republic. This different version, known as Pilsner Urquell Nefiltrovaný, is both unfiltered and unpasteurized (the version we see most often is unpasteurized and filtered). It is widely considered the best example of the Czech Pilsner style; it scores a 3.97 (out of 5.0) on consumer-based beer rating site RateBeer, which puts it in the top percentile for the style and makes it the highest-rated Czech Pilsner. By way of contrast, the standard, filtered version scores a 3.26, which places it in the 95th percentile and 45th highest out of all Czech Pilsners listed on RateBeer.  

The cask gets tapped at the Prince Regent.
As such, it was with much enthusiasm I greeted the news that Pilsner Urquell would tour their unfiltered beer around London. Wednesday was the first day of a four-day circuit around the Big Smoke. Basically, a team from Pilsner Urquell have a barrel of beer for each bar they visit. On Wednesday they started in Mayfair at the Guinea and finished on Marylebone High Street at the Prince Regent, the stop at which I visited them. On Thursday they were in East London (I stopped by the Haggerston for a pint), Friday in Central and North London, and they will finish today in Southwest London. For the full itinerary, see here.

I thought the beer was outstanding - and hence my effort to try it more than once. Interestingly, I actually picked up on some subtle differences in the beer from the two sessions. On the first night the beer had a much stronger bready character, a bit more toasted corn; on the second night it had more crispy straw bitterness and more restrained breadiness. I had one of the first pours out of the cask at the Prince Regent and the beer was flowing a little lively, resulting in one of the firmest heads I have ever seen on a beer. (If you wanted, I'm sure you could have literally rested another glass right on top of it.) Overall, though, the beer was essentially the same, defined mostly by its delicious, bready pale malts and delicate bitterness of hay and straw. The beer also has a fairly miraculous texture - exceedingly fine and creamy. It's just about one of the most drinkable beers I can recall having. After four pints on Wednesday and another one (and a half) on Thursday, I'm pretty confident about that statement.

First glass of unfiltered Pilsner Urquell.

As I noted above, today will be your last chance to try this beer for the foreseeable future. I spoke with a Pilsner Urquell rep at the Prince Regent and he said the brewery will likely continue bringing the unfiltered version out for special occasions but that it typically won't get to London more than once per year. So, whether you're a lager-lover or simply a beer enthusiast eager to try something special, I highly recommend you make your way to Southwest London later today to try some of this beer.

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