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Pilsner Urquell: Different in US

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by honkey, Apr 7, 2014.

  1. honkey

    honkey Savant (320) Alabama Aug 28, 2010

    I was wondering if anyone knew about an export version of Pilsner Urquell being different from what is sold in Europe. I tried a sample in Germany and it was FULL of diacetyl. I was told that they have been trying to get more diacetyl production, but when I tried it last month in Chicago, there was only the normal moderate amount that I am used to. Can anyone shed some light?
  2. steveh

    steveh Champion (895) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    My first question is how were both samplings dispensed and served?

    Also, I'm pretty sure Urquell served here in the US, in any form; keg, can, bottle, is Pasteurized. That always has the tendency to take away a beer's character -- at least in the beers I've had on either side of the Atlantic.
  3. crowellbw

    crowellbw Savant (415) Washington Dec 1, 2010 Verified

    Its just pasteurized here. If you actually go to the brewery, you can sample it unfiltered as well (down in the lagering caves). That is truly an experience I will never forget
  4. honkey

    honkey Savant (320) Alabama Aug 28, 2010

    Honestly, with that much diacetyl, I'm not sure I could ever drink it again. It was like drinking movie popcorn butter. Both samples were bottles, somewhere around 50 degrees.
  5. steveh

    steveh Champion (895) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    I hope I didn't imply differently. Though I can't say if it's Pasteurized or not when exported to the UK or Asia.
  6. Maybe it was just an ‘off’ batch?

    Although the topic of: “I was told that they have been trying to get more diacetyl production…” would seem to indicate it was purposeful?

    Why would Pilsner Urquell want to get more diacetyl production? If that is indeed true I will no longer be purchasing this beer. The Pilsner Urquell beers that I have consumed have the just right amount of diacetyl for my palate; more than that level and Pilsner Urquell would be unappealing to me.

    AugustusRex and victory4me like this.
  7. herrburgess

    herrburgess Champion (935) South Carolina Nov 4, 2009 Verified

    Who told you they are trying to produce more diacetyl? No chance it was SO2 you were picking up on? Otherwise not sure; it could be that PU isn't pasteurized for the German market, but I have never heard/read such from any reliable sources.
  8. honkey

    honkey Savant (320) Alabama Aug 28, 2010

    Their sales continue to rise with increased diacetyl... It is only an off flavor when consumers don't like it. Apparently, in this case, consumers like diacetyl. I wonder if in America we are more critical of diacetyl and that has something to do with the different flavors. I doubt that a batch from a brewery of their size would make it out the door if it was this far off.
  9. honkey

    honkey Savant (320) Alabama Aug 28, 2010

    Definitely not SO2. It was straight up butter. A brewer in Munich told me that they were aiming for higher diacetyl levels, but he wasn't sure if there was a US export version or not. He had never tried it in the US and couldn't say whether or not it was higher than what he remembers since it had been so long since he drank it. He did note that the diacetyl was high, but couldn't tell if it was higher than normal.
    herrburgess likes this.
  10. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (430) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    Did you hear about this from someone who works at the brewery or works for SABMiller, or from someone who has knowledge of the current brewing of the beer some other way? Interesting information either way. I definitely notice the diacetyl in the PU I buy here in Sweden, it stands out even among the other Czech exports. PU is the only Czech pilsner that I can think of which has that flavor (that I've tried). There are Swedish lager beers, budget brands nonetheless, which exhibit the same taste note and it's not one I enjoy, but the bitterness, hop flavor and malt flavor in PU makes it tolerable, whereas in the lower hopped Swedish export lagers it becomes pronounced and intolerable.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  11. herrburgess

    herrburgess Champion (935) South Carolina Nov 4, 2009 Verified

    I have heard numerous "rumors" about brewing in Germany; seems like there's always something floating around out there meant to scandalize (one that I found particularly humorous back in the day was that Brauerei Kraus in Hirschaid, just south of Bamberg, was actually contract-brewing Warsteiner). I'm not sure this isn't just another one of those. Maybe ask your friend for primary-source evidence of the claims?

    PU has always had a fairly distinct diacetyl note. For whatever reason, I have it in my memory that the note is more pronounced in Europe/when ultra fresh than here in the U.S. Then again, so is the hop note, the soft water note, and the overall flavor profile....
  12. TWITA

    TWITA Aficionado (180) California Feb 9, 2014 Verified

    They sell unpasteurized Urquell as tank beer in Czech Republic, Toronado had a keg of it right after SF Beer Week. It stays fresh for couple of weeks.
    Have no idea about diacetyl.
    dar482 likes this.
  13. honkey

    honkey Savant (320) Alabama Aug 28, 2010

    I guess that could be the case, but if so, I can't believe how it would be popular. It tasted like someone had spiked the sample with an off flavor training kit.
  14. "if so, I can't believe how it would be popular." A HUGE +1 to that!!

    Do Europeans enjoy diacetyl more in their beers? If so, wouldn't the German breweries produce beers with higher diacetyl levels?

  15. drtth

    drtth Poobah (1,170) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    Remember you're talking about the country that gave us both the Radler and the Diesel as well as several different great beers and styles. :)
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  16. @bulletrain76, do you have any knowledge of Pilsner Urquell increasing the level of diacetyl in their beer?

    Do Europeans enjoy higher levels of diacetyl in beer?

  17. When I was at Doemens, the Germans mentioned the Czech method of cooling lagers before the end of fermentation, which will arrest diacetyl reduction somewhat. It's the old way of lager brewing that most German brewers have gone away from, as the public taste has generally shifted toward beers with no detectable diacetyl character. If PU is using this method to increase levels these days, I have no idea, but I do know that playing with diacetyl levels if very difficult and I've had a few nasty lagers from Czech and Franconian brewers that were absolute D-bombs. I much prefer a rising fermentation curve with a diacetyl rest before cooling back down to lagering temperature.
  18. Beric

    Beric Savant (475) Massachusetts Jun 1, 2013 Verified

    I got a fresh 4pk of PU last month and I haven't detected anything overly buttery about it. Now I know that you're talking about a version of the beer you had in Germany, but I'm naturally suspicious about whatever claim you were told.

    You might have gotten a sample from a bad line or keg.
  19. honkey

    honkey Savant (320) Alabama Aug 28, 2010

    It was a bottle.
  20. Beric

    Beric Savant (475) Massachusetts Jun 1, 2013 Verified

    Oh yeah, just saw that.

    Interesting. Do you think it's possible that the beer could have been subjected to intense temperature swings? I know that when I had warm (and I mean warm- like 75 degrees or warmer) beer in Germany, it tasted like a buttery, foamy mess. I know you said it was served around 50 (which is a bit warm for PU, I'd suspect), but it's possible if the beer was left in a car and got really hot that something could mess up your particular bottles, rather than it being an actual thing brewery-wide.

    I dunno. I'm just skeptical that a brewery would actually want to increase diacetyl levels to the amount you're describing ("movie popcorn butter").
  21. t420o

    t420o Advocate (605) California Jul 16, 2009

    There are a couple bars in Plzen that serve the unfiltered version as well. It's fucking great
  22. “I much prefer a rising fermentation curve with a diacetyl rest before cooling back down to lagering temperature.” Sam, do commercial breweries have the capability to warm up fermentation tanks (e.g., 600 barrel tanks) from 50°F to 65°F over a time period of 1-2 days? Do they then transfer the 65°F beer to a lagering tank and then cool it down (over a period of days?) to 33°F?


    P.S. The above mentioned temperature values are just example values.
  23. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (430) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    I found this description of Bohemian beer brewing in "Pilsener B. Brauerei" (Bürgerliches?) in a German yearbook for chemical technology from 1907 (pages 353-354) which I thought was interesting and might fit the thread (my own translation, feel free to correct it as needed):
    The Läuterboden (?) covers only half the lautertun bodens(?) , the mash temperatures are 28, 38, 48 and 58 to 60. The saccharification temperature is maintained for 15-30 minutes, only thick- mash is drawn, the wort cooks for two hours, and at the beginning of the boil the entire hop addition (only fine Saaz hops) is added. They use for 100 hl beer (85.4 barrels) 22 hektokilo (4856 lbs) malt and 47 kilo (103.7 lbs) hops.

    Stammwürze 80%, nachguss (sparging water) 20%, the grainbed is only mixed once, the abzugbier is 11%, the lager beer 12% strong. In the fermentation cellar the vats each hold 25 hl; the temperature of the fermentation cellar is 4, it is set to the same temperature, and only with low fermenting Munich yeast. They let the temperature rise to 6 to 7 degrees, it is worked without swimmers (I assume they mean small floats with bits of ice on them used to cool the wort); degree of attenuation 55-58%; on siphoning day the vat is elevated.

    - The vat is not lacquered, it is treated with lime and before it is filled with water, to which some juniper is added, washed (my rough translation, might need corrections). The beer is lagered for 8 to 12 weeks, afterwhich it is abzug or lager beer; it is lagered without wood chips, the lager cellar temperature shifts between 1.5-2 degrees. They let the beer 4 weeks stossen (?), and it is for this purpose gestochen (?) 3 to 4 times; bunged 14 days without kräusen.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
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  24. Crusader, thank you for taking the time for the research and the translation. Cheers.
  25. cambabeer

    cambabeer Advocate (530) Florida Dec 29, 2010 Verified

    yeah, I was in the czech republic last year and it is definitely a more complex brew over there. Surprisingly so, in fact.
  26. I have heard of some breweries in very cold climates rigging hot water into their tank jackets to warm fermentations during winter, but this is not typical. Commercial tanks normally only have the capability to be cooled via refrigerated glycol. The typical technique for a diacetyl rest is to turn up the set point for the cooling to your desired temperature during the final part of active fermentation. Yeast activity in a large cylindroconical tank generates a very large amount of heat that will quickly heat up the beer if the cooling is turned off. If you time it right, the beer will reach your diacetyl rest temperature just as it gets to about terminal gravity. If you are using a unitank system, you just wait until the beer passes a diacetyl test and then can start cooling it back down in the tank. For lagers, you can either take it down gradually by setting the cooling manually over time, or if you have automated tanks, you can program the cooling to go as fast as you want it to. For separate lagering tanks you can split cooling between the two tanks, cool all in one, or transfer through a heat exchanger and cool in line. Breweries all have different ways of doing it.
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  27. herrburgess

    herrburgess Champion (935) South Carolina Nov 4, 2009 Verified

    The more I think about this, the more I am starting to believe you are the victim of some kind of trick. The notion alone that Urquell is intentionally trying to amp up diacetyl is pretty absurd. And the levels you describe tasting sound off-the-chart high. I know that you guys are tested there on your ability to pick up off flavors by these being added to pils and then you consuming them blindly. Any chance your "friend" spiked a couple of bottles? You can test this by going to the store and picking up a couple more off th shelf and doing a taste test of your own. If you're still picking up that much diacetyl, then maybe your palate is just super sensitive to the stuff. I still think the story about PU shooting for higher levels is apocryphal, though.
  28. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (430) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    Small correction of the temperatures, they're expressed in grad reaumur, with one degree R equal to 1.25 degrees C.
    Mashing temps: 35, 47,5, 60, 72,5 to 75 degrees celsius
    Fermentation cellar starting temp: 5 celsius
    Fermentation cellar temp during fermentation: 7,5-8,75 celsius
    Lager cellar temperature: 1,87-2,5 celsius
  29. honkey

    honkey Savant (320) Alabama Aug 28, 2010

    No chance of that. The tests are done seperately. We do styles tastings and we do off flavor tastings. Off flavor tastings are done in lighter beers (Budweiser). Increasing diacetyl amounts slowly over time wouldn't be crazy to think about, if they have done studies and it has been shown that people reacted positively to diacetyl, they might try to ramp it up a bit. Everyone in the class tried the PU and was amazed by how much more diacetyl there was than what we had a few weeks previously in the US.