What is the difference between a pilsner and a lager beer?

Answered by Roy Gibson

The difference between a pilsner and a lies in the specific characteristics of each style. Let's dive into the details and explore the distinctions between these two popular beer types.

1. Origins and History:
– Pilsner: Pilsner is a type of lager that originated in the Czech city of Plzen (Pilsen) in the 19th century. The creation of pilsner is attributed to a combination of factors including the development of new malting techniques, the use of bottom-fermenting , and the invention of refrigeration.
– Lager: Lager, on the other hand, is a broad category of beer that includes various styles such as pilsner, amber lager, Munich dunkel, and more. The term “lager” comes from the German word “lagern,” meaning “to store.” Lagers are known for their cold fermentation and longer maturation periods.

2. Ingredients:
– Pilsner: Pilsners are typically brewed with a specific type of known as Pilsner malt. This malt is lighter in color and imparts a clean, crisp taste to the beer. Pilsners also tend to have a higher hop presence, which contributes to their characteristic bitterness and aroma. Saaz , a traditional Czech hop variety, are often used in pilsners.
– Lager: Lagers, including pilsners, are brewed with a combination of malted barley, , hops, and yeast. The choice of malts and hops can vary depending on the desired flavor profile. While pilsners lean towards a more hop-forward taste, other lagers may focus more on malt sweetness and balance.

3. Fermentation:
– Pilsner: Pilsners are fermented using bottom-fermenting yeast strains, such as the classic Czech Pilsner yeast. These yeasts work at cooler temperatures (around 45-55°F or 7-13°C) and settle at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. This results in a clean, crisp flavor profile with fewer fruity or estery notes.
– Lager: Like pilsners, other lagers are also fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast. This yeast type, known as Saccharomyces pastorianus, ferments at cooler temperatures compared to top-fermenting yeast strains. The use of lager yeast contributes to a smoother, more refined character in the beer.

4. Flavor Profile:
– Pilsner: Pilsners are known for their pale golden color, brilliant clarity, and a prominent hop presence. They often showcase herbal, floral, or spicy hop flavors with a moderate to high bitterness. Pilsners also exhibit a light to medium body, crisp carbonation, and a dry finish. The balance between malt and hops is key in achieving the distinct pilsner flavor profile.
– Lager: While pilsners are a specific style of lager, other lagers can vary widely in flavor. Amber lagers may have more malt-forward profiles with toasty or caramel notes, while Munich dunkels can present bready, nutty, or chocolate flavors. Lagers, in general, tend to have a clean, refreshing character with a smooth mouthfeel.

5. Examples and Personal Experiences:
– Pilsner: One of my favorite pilsners is Pilsner Urquell, a renowned Czech beer that stays true to its traditional roots. It showcases a balanced combination of bready maltiness and spicy Saaz hops, resulting in a refreshing and flavorful experience.
– Lager: On the lager side, I've enjoyed classic German lagers like Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen and Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. These beers exhibit rich malt profiles with subtle hop bitterness, offering a different experience compared to pilsners.

Pilsners are a specific type of lager beer that originated in Plzen, Czech Republic. They are characterized by a more hop-forward flavor profile, typically using Saaz hops, and are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast strains. Lagers, on the other hand, encompass a broader range of beer styles, including pilsners, and can exhibit various flavor profiles depending on the specific style.