Bohemian Pilsners (Czech Pilsener)

Bohemian Pilsners Description

Bohemian Pilsners (sometimes called Czech Pilsners) are what all other pils are compared to. In 1842 it was the clear and pale colored beer.  Today, these beers tend to be somewhat darker than the typical “Modern” style pilseners.  

These beers are crisp, well-balanced but complex and refreshing. What characterizes the style is the deep golden color and intricate layers of hop flavor, aroma and bitterness from the local Saaz variety of hop.

Prior to the craze for the hoppy West Coast IPAs and pale ales of today, this beer was considered to be a very hoppy beer.  It’s funny how perceptions can change so quickly.  Although it does have a nice hop profile, the bitterness, hop flavor and aromas are balanced by the malt sweetness in this style.

Many people wonder about lager vs pilsners, what’s the difference.  Since pilsners are brewed with lager yeast, they are the quintessential lager style of beer.  A pilsner brewed with ale yeast, unless brewed at the very lower limit of the yeast’s temperature range, will not resemble the crisp and bright flavored pilsners we know and love.  The fruitiness from the ale yeast brewed at typical ale temperatures would push the style more toward the cream ale and blonde ale category.

Brewing Tips for Bohemian Pilsners:
Bohemian Pilseners get that malt sweetness from the use of continental (Moravian) pils malt which gives it a light but grainy taste we expect in this beer.  The malt sweetness can be enhanced by the use of no more than 5% Vienna, light Munich or melanoidin malt.  Extract brewers should look for a high-quality Pilsner or Pilsner-type malt extract.  

Mash in the medium range of 152 to 156°F area (67 to 69°C) with soft water low in sulfates and carbonates, so the finished beer will have nice body and a fuller mouthfeel.  

Use a good Czech lager yeast and allow plenty of time for the fermentation to rid the beer of any excess diacetyl.   Although some diacetyl is acceptable, try and keep it to the bare minimum.  Some good choices for yeast include White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager and Wyeast 2001 Urquell, White Labs WLP802 Czech Budejovice Lager Yeast, Wyeast 2000 Budvar Lager, 2124 Bohemian Lager, or 2278 Czech Pils.  Pitch plenty of healthy yeast or build a yeast starter for best results and a cleaner fermentation. 

A true Bohemian Pilsner will have Czech Sazz but it is not absolutely necessary.  Any hop variety with spicy character will do, such as Tettnang, US Saaz, Polish Lublin, Sterling, Sladek, Ultra or Vanguard.

Information for this page was adapted from the BJCP Style Guidelines for 2015 and 2008, the article Picturing pilsner by Eric Warner in All About Beer magazine, and the paper Pilsner to Summer Brew: An Odyssey by Jaime Jurado, 2002.

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