Golden touch: Pilsner is on its way back
A large crowd gathered in a small east London bar the other week. Well, free beer will do that. The Strongroom was celebrating the arrival of unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell, a version of this original golden lager several leagues better than the stuff you'll find elsewhere.
Pilsner (the good stuff, that is, rather than the lowest-common-denominator hooch whose depressing ubiquity led to the current good-beer revival) is on its way back. Pilsners might not offer the same bang for your buck as IPAs, but as session beers they're very hard to beat. Only the best cask ales are in the same class.
Pilsner Urquell is owned by SABMiller, a global giant which makes its fair share of nondescript golden liquid, so the fact that it has committed to a quality product in this way speaks volumes. The PU on offer at The Strongroom (and the White Horse in Parsons Green, with more outlets to follow outside the capital soon, I'm told) boasts impressive balance; a growing bitterness allied to a full-bodied, bready base.
But Pilsner Urquell is not the only show in town. At The Finborough Arms in West Brompton, you'll find Tipopils, an Italian-made, German-style Pilsner notable for its clean, herbal bitterness.
British Pilsner gets better by the month. Bayern, made by the mighty Thornbridge in Derbyshire, is one of my favourites while – depending on where you live – you might stumble on a decent version brewed by Meantime, Freedom, Sharp's or Cotswold Brewing.
And then there's Windsor & Eton's Republika, which is perhaps the closest any British brewer has come to replicating Czech-quality Pilsner. Given that it was brewed in collaboration with Czech brewer Tomas Mikulica, that's no surprise – and you don't have to squeeze into an East End booze den to drink it, either.
Three to try
Windsor & Eton Republika
This clean, crisp Pilsner is perfect now the sun is here (ahem). 4.8 per cent, £2.50 for 33cl, beermerchants.com
Just enough herbal, prickly bite – but not too much to scare the horses. 4.7 per cent, £1.89 for 33cl, beersofeurope.co.uk
This north German classic has grassy, lemony bitterness in spades. 4.9 per cent, £2.83 for 50cl, beerritz.co.uk
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