This style is a light-straw colored, full bodied, lagered, bottom fermented beer named after the town of Pilsen (in what was then known as Bohemia), where it was first brewed in 1842. It quickly became a popular unique style because it was so different from the amber brews that were the norm at that time.
The Beer Judge Certification Program sites the following as the aroma, appearance, flavor, mouth feel, and vital statistics as parameters for three “styles” of Pilsner beer.
Go to Beer Judge Certification Program for the following as well as more information.
2A. German Pilsner (Pils)
“Aroma: Typically features a light grainy malt character (sometimes Graham cracker-like) and distinctive flowery or spicy noble hops…”
“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 malt sweetness are acceptable. Hop bitterness dominates taste, 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.”
“Mouth feel: 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.
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.
Commercial Examples: Bitburger, Warsteiner, König Pilsener, Jever Pils, Holsten Pils, Spaten Pils, Victory Prima Pils, Brooklyn Pilsner
2B. Bohemian Pilsener
“Aroma: Rich with complex malt and a spicy, floral Saaz hop bouquet. Some Diacetyl is acceptable, but need not be present. Otherwise clean, with no fruity esters.”
“Appearance: Very pale gold to deep burnished gold, brilliant to very clear, with a dense, long-lasting, creamy white head.”
“Flavor: Rich, complex maltiness combined with a pronounced yet soft and rounded bitterness and flavor from Saaz hops. Some Diacetyl is acceptable, but need not be present. Bitterness is prominent but never harsh, and does not linger. The aftertaste is balanced between malt and hops.”
“Mouth feel: Medium-bodied (although Diacetyl, if present, may make it seem medium-full), medium carbonation.
“Comments: Uses Moravian malted barley and a decoction mash for rich, malt character. Saaz hops and low sulfate, low carbonate water provide a distinctively soft, rounded hop profile… Dextrins provide additional body, and Diacetyl enhances the perception of a fuller palate.”
“Ingredients: Soft water with low mineral content, Saaz hops, Moravian malted barley, Czech lager yeast.”
“Commercial Examples: Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar (Czechvar in the US), Czech Rebel, Staropramen, Gambrinus Pilsner, Dock Street Bohemian Pilsner.”
2C. Classic American Pilsner
“Aroma: Low to medium grainy, corn-like, or sweet maltiness may be evident (although rice-based beers are more neutral). Medium to moderately high hop aroma, often classic noble hops…”
“Appearance: Yellow to deep gold color. Substantial, long lasting white head. Bright clarity.”
“Flavor: Moderate to moderately high maltiness similar in character to the Continental Pilsners but somewhat lighter in intensity due to the use of up to 30% flaked maize (corn) or rice used as an adjunct. Slight grainy, corn-like sweetness from the use of maize with substantial offsetting hop bitterness. Rice-based versions are crisper, drier, and often lack corn-like flavors. Medium to high hop flavor from noble hops (either late addition or first-wort hopped)…”
“Mouth feel: Medium body and rich, creamy mouth feel. Medium to high carbonation levels.”
“Overall Impression: A substantial Pilsner that can stand up to the classic European Pilsners, but exhibiting the native American grains and hops available to German brewers who initially brewed it in the USA. Refreshing, but with the underlying malt and hops that stand out when compared to other modern American light lagers. Maize lends a distinctive grainy sweetness. Rice contributes a crisper, more neutral character.”
“Ingredients: Six-row barley with 20% to 30% flaked maize to dilute the excessive protein levels. Native American hops such as Clusters, traditional continental noble hops, or modern noble crosses (Ultra, Liberty, Crystal) are also appropriate. Modern American hops such as Cascade are inappropriate. Water with a high mineral content can lead to an inappropriate coarseness in flavor and harshness in aftertaste.”
“Commercial Examples: Occasional brewpub and microbrewery specials.”