After touring the Pilsner Urquell brewery last November I promised that when I got a chance I’d take a look at Michael Jackson’s video report from 1989 (the Beer Hunter series) to compare what he saw then with what Pilsner Urquell says is how long they’ve “always” lagered beer.
I tell you, that’s one great half hour of video. Discovery really needs to reissue the three hours of video in DVD form (before our VCR dies). Incredible details about the wooden vessels the brewery was using, the coopering, the whole process. I love watching Jackson wander through the caves, and the Hitchcockian moment where a giant barrel appears to be stalking him. You get thirsty seeing him march around open wooden fermenters, then he climbs a ladder to loom over one and explain that this is one of the things that make Pilsner Urquell different, presumably better. He says that others in the industry have told the brewery it is crazy not to modernize but that its leaders swear they won’t abandon open fermentation. Sigh.
But back to the question at hand. These days Pilsner Urquell lagers its beers five weeks, claiming this is the same amount of time as when Josef Groll first brewed the beer in 1842. On the other hand, the Beer Hunter report in 1989? “Three months,” which on my calendar is one quarter of a year (13 weeks).