Author's Note: Earlier this month I traveled to the Czech Republic on a press trip hosted by Pilsner Urquell in order to tour the brewery.
Start a debate over the "most influential brewery of all time," and things are bound to get heated. The most compelling arguments will be for the trendsetters—the breweries that bucked convention and created a product that spawned enough imitators to establish a tradition. The thing about traditions, though, is that they can rarely be definitively traced to just one brewery.
Except in the case of pilsner, that is. In 1842, using Bohemian ingredients, English malting equipment, and Bavarian lager brewing techniques, the Burghers' Brewery of Pilsen introduced the world to an entirely new product called pilsner. 57 years later, the trademark on that beer was established: Pilsner Urquell.
Now, 171 years after that fateful first brew day, pilsner, its variants, and its bastardizations dominate the world's beer sales. One look at the aisle-long swath of pale "pilsner-style beers" lining your local supermarket's shelves will confirm it—Pilsner Urquell has been immensely important in shaping the way the world drinks beer.
I visited the brewery to see how Pilsner Urquell is made today, from grain to bottle, as well as to see some of the equipment and methods that were used in the past. Jump over to the slideshow to look behind the scenes with me »
About the author: Mike Reis is a Certified Cicerone and Co-Director of Beer at the Monk's Kettle and Abbot's Cellar restaurants in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @beerspeaks or find him behind a pint near you.
More from Mike Reis
5 Brewing Terms Every Beer Drinker Should Know
How to Identify Bad Flavors in Your Beer
How to Identify Yeast Flavors in Beer: Esters, Phenols, and Alcohols
How to Identify Oats, Rye, Wheat, Corn, and Rice in Your Beer
How to Identify Hops in Your Beer: The Three C's
Have Beer Weeks Grown Too Big?
Aging Beer: 6 Tips to Get You Started
Hops From a Land Down Under