Known as the world’s greatest beer writer, Michael Jackson described Pilsner Urquell as the original Pilsner, and one of the world’s greatest beers. Certainly, it’s among the most beautiful, defining the style since 1842 as the classic golden lager.
Given that, Three Taverns Brewery’s recent Pilsen Liberation collaboration with Pilsner Urquell, and its experimental brewery, Pivovar Proud, has been something of a giddy surprise.
The short version of the story begins with Pilsner Urquel’s senior development supervisor, Petr Starý, who suddenly became curious about a beer called Prince of Pilsen, Three Tavern’s hop-forward tribute to the Pilsner style.
Starý loved the Prince of Pilsen samples Three Taverns sent his way, so much so that he invited founder and CEO Brian Purcell and head brewer Neal Engleman to travel to the Czech Republic to pour the beer at the annual Pilsen Liberation Festival.
“In May 6, 1945, during the end of World War II, the Americans liberated Pilsen from the Germans,” Purcell explained. “The first Pilsen Liberation Festival was celebrated in 1990 after the fall of the Soviet Union. So now, on May 6, they set up beer tents, and they have a big stage, where they’re playing 1940s jazz all weekend.
“These re-enactors flood the city, wearing U.S. Army uniforms with the triangle shoulder patch of the 16th Armored Division. It’s amazing to see. They have 1940s tanks and trucks lined up all over the city. And they just keep thanking the Americans, over and over.”
Engleman worked with Pivovar Proud brewmaster Lenká Straková to create Pilsen Liberation.
“When they contacted us and then invited us to come over and pour Prince of Pilsen, that was a marvel in itself,” Purcell said. “But then they said they wanted to make a hoppy Pilsner, like Prince of Pilsen, with us.”
Like Prince of Pilsen, Pilsen Liberation is dry-hopped with Citra, but the main hop is Cascade.
Credit: Bob Townsend
Credit: Bob Townsend
“It was mostly Cascade through the hot side and in the dry hop, then Citra and just enough Saaz to give it a peppery, grassy character, which I find plays really well with the Cascade,” Engleman said. “We used a floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner malt from Weyermann, grown in the Czech Republic but malted in Germany. And we used a tiny bit of de-husked roasted malt to give it that soft gold color.”
During the festival, Engleman tapped a special cask of Pilsen Liberation, which was quickly consumed by the crowd.
“That was probably the top of my beer experiences over the last 11 years,” he said. “Getting to be there for that moment, pouring beer in another country from a recipe you put together was emotional.”
The Three Taverns version of Pilsen Liberation was released June 4, during a celebration at the Decatur brewery. Served from traditional Czech side-pour taps in dimpled mugs, it proved a sublime representation of the style. And Purcell is planning to keep it in the rotation.
“We’ll continue to make it every year, and we’ll do it on the same weekend as the Pilsen Liberation Festival,” he said. “Hopefully we will be able to build into a bigger festival and invite other breweries to pour Pilsners and other lagers.”
Pilsen Liberation is currently available on draft and in 4-pack 16-ounce cans for a limited time.
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