No need to adjust your beer goggles: when you visit Pilzen, you’re sure to be seeing (and drinking) beer just about everywhere.

Why? Because Pilzen is the proud birthplace of the pale-gold blond lager known as Pilsner beer -- the world’s most popular style brew.

First produced in 1842, Pilsner beer currently inspires more than two-thirds of the beer produced in the world today (called pils, pilsner and pilsener in honor of the city). But it wasn’t always this way. While beer is probably the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage (cheers to that!), dating back to at least 5,000 BC – for centuries, lagers remained much darker. (Hm, after thousands upon thousands of years, perhaps it can be said that it is beer that can age like a fine wine?) Even in the Czech city of Pilzen, a city which had been brewing since 1295 – beers had remained darker and top-fermented.

Taste, standards and prices of local breweries varied and in 1838, 36 barrels of bad beer were emptied out onto the street under concerns that cheaper, imported beers would start replacing those made in the neighborhood if something didn’t change. A year later, city officials agreed to build a new brewery that would begin producing a bottom-fermented beer (a so-called Bavarian beer as this is where it first became popular). Thus, the officials looked to Bavaria and hired Bavarian brewer Josef Groll to create a new beer.

The first batch was brewed on October 5, 1842 – using new techniques to produce the pale malted barley, local hops, soft Pilzen water and specially-chosen lager yeast. It was the world’s first golden lager – fresh, clear and refreshing with a hint of caramel sweetness and a fragrant, balanced hop bitterness. The world of beer (and parties) would never be the same again.

By the 1870s, it was being sold in the United States. Some would argue (probably over a pint), that this particular brew is possibly still the world’s very best. Visit Pilzen and you can have the very authentic pleasure of imbibing in the city that created it.

But, of course, there’s much more to do than simply chug a beer here. Several breweries (like the always popular Pilsner Urquell and Plzeňský Prazdroj) offer tours. Plzeňský Prazdroj even offers a popular non-alcoholic beer called Birell.

Naturally with a history steeped in beer, the city has its own Brewery Museum as well, which tells the story of beer, the brewing industry and Pilzen pubs. From ancient times to today, the museum reveals the secrets of beer making, serving and drinking. Visitors can view a beer brewing laboratory, a Gothic malt house – including a malt house, kiln and rollers – and even the world’s smallest jug (only one centimeter high).

Taste Pilzen’s iconic brew and more as an extension of our Christmas Markets on the Danube, Grand Danube and Legendary Danube itineraries.

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