Like Burton-on-Trent and Munich, the town of Plzen (or Pilsen) in Bohemia, Czech Republic, is one of those rare towns where nature just happened to leave the perfect combination of ingredients lying around, and phenomenally gifted brewers happened to come along and find them.
The Czechs refer to beer as “Czech Bread”-they have always taken it incredibly seriously and drunk a great deal of it. But for most of beer’s history, the ability to brew beers to a high and consistent standard lagged behind the demands for quality. In the mid-19th century, the citizens of Pilsen were becoming increasingly concerned with the quality of their beer, culminating in 1838, when an entire season’s brew was solemnly poured away in front of the town hall.
Something had to be done, and the citizens came together to build a new state-of-the-art brewery, the Burger Brauerei (Citizen’s Brewery), uniting their skill and resources-and stealing as many ideas and resources as they could from the neighboring Bavarians. Martin Stelzer was commissioned to design and build the new brewery. He traveled extensively around Bavaria and met the man he knew he wanted as Brewmaster, Josef Groll.
At the time, brown Bavarian lager was the most celebrated beer style across Europe, and Groll was briefed to recreate a Bavarian-style lager at the new Burger Brauerei. He recruited Bavarian brewing assistants and barrel makers and brought Bavarian Lager yeast with him.
But what came out of the tanks in October 1842 was not Bavarian Beer. The citizens of Pilsen were handed a “golden beverage with thick snow-white foam…(and) the drinkers having tried it sharp delicious taste, welcomed it with such cheers that had never been experienced in Pilsen before.”
Bavarian skill had met Czech ingredients. Moravian barley is sweet, Bohemian Saaz hops have little bitterness but a lot of aroma, and the very soft, sandstone-filtered Pilsen water allows these flavors to come through. Soon Pilsner beer was being discussed excitedly throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire and beyond.
pFriem’s Oregon Lager represents a more recent chapter in the storied history of this now ubiquitous style. While in the words of Garret Oliver “the town of Plzen (or Pilsen) in Bohemia, Czech Republic, is one of those rare towns where nature just happened to leave the perfect combination of ingredients lying around,” Oregon is a similarly blessed brewing region. Barley grows with unbridled enthusiasm East of the Cascades. The Willamette Valley is one of the premier hop growing regions of the World, and the brewing value of Mt. Hood’s glacial spring water cannot be overstated. With this cornucopia of ingredients in mind, we set out to brew a Pilsner showcasing Oregon’s Terroir. For the German and Czech grains used in our other lagers, we’ve substituted Mecca Grade’s Pelton, a premium floor malted pilsner grown in Madras, Oregon. For German aroma varieties like Saphir and Tettnanger we’ve instead used perhaps the most Oregonian of Hops, the delicate and citrusy Cascade, grown just outside of Salem. The result is a beautiful blend of tradition and innovation; undeniably Pilsner and unmistakably Oregonian.