But it got me thinking about what Pilsener is in my mind and what the limits of Pilseneriness are.
A 1873 description of the flavour of Pilsener in comparison to Bavarian and English beer opines:
Most of the Austrian beers have a mild and soft flavour, and it is rarely that any of them are so bitter as the English pale ales. An exception, however, must be made with regard to the so-called Pilsner beer brewed at Pilsen, in Bohemia, on a very extensive scale, and much in favour with the Viennese who do not object to pay a slightly higher price for it. The beer is exceedingly pale in colour as well as remarkably light, being even weaker than the Vienna beer, and contains a considerable amount of carbonic acid. Its distinguishing quality, however, is its strong, indeed almost medicinal bitter flavour, due to the Saaz hops, held in the highest esteem in the locality. The Citizens' brewery at Pilsen, which produces by far the largest quantity of this beer, and is in fact the most extensive brewing establishment in Bohemia, had a medal for progress awarded to it for the samples it exhibited. Another brewery company at Pilsen received a medal for merit, the same reward being given to five other Bohemian breweries, in addition to which honourable mention was made in five instances.Most people today will still say a Pils should be on the hoppy side, but a strong, almost medicinally bitter flavour? How many Pils brewers today can honestly say that of their beer?
A few months ago I raved about 77 Lager, and Velky Al, who knows much more about Czech beer than I do and knows what he's talking about, agreed it was good but rejected completely the suggestion that it was a pilsener.
I think the difference is in our attitude to the hops. Nobody thinks anything of a pale ale using the latest fashionable hop any more. We accept that it is what it is and enjoy the unfamiliar aromas. But when it comes to lager we have come to expect the flavour of certain classic noble hops and no others.
Should Pilsener be considered a beer made with Saaz or Hallertauer or other noble hops only, or even be reserved for beers that actually come from Plzen? I'm certainly not at all sure that I'd like to see it diluted into the kind of recipe free-for-all that the pale ale category has become.
On the other hand, would that be any worse than the likes of Warsteiner and Heineken calling their beer Pilsener?
I don't know, but I do know that lager brewers are not going to keep using just the same five or six hops forever. What are we going to call the bitter lagers of the future?