The pinnacle of our pivo pilgrimage, the Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour.  The Czech people really do have it going on with their beer, and they deserve every right to be as proud of their brewing heritage as they are.  The enthusiasm (and knowledge) of our tour guide and the grandiosity of the multimedia exhibits, including the sensual experience of raw materials, could have converted even the most ardent of teetotalers. Think tent revival, with beer at the end of the rapture.

Passing through the Pivovar Plzeň gates, one senses immediately the warm, yeasty aroma of fermentation in the atmosphere. At first it is off-putting, but by the end of our visit everyone seemed to be enjoying the slight buzz. (Everyone, that is, except the crazy American family who dragged their very young and very bored children through the 100 minute tour, yelling at them constantly to “pay attention.” Yikes.)

I won’t bore you with the details, but both of us technically-minded people really appreciated the engineering behind the beer production. The facilities in both the old and new production plants were impressive, as were the output numbers of the golden brew. We were taken from the sauna-like fermentation rooms to the deep and cold storage cellars, to the hushed “Hall of Fame” gallery containing the Magna Carta of Pilsner Urquell and other important parchment.  At the end of our experience we quenched our thirst with samples of unfiltered and non-pasteurized Pilsner Urquell straight from the barrels.

The Pilsner Express moved us between old and new manufacturing facilities.

No detail was spared.

A shift crew of just 25 keeps the beer production flowing; during peak production (summer) there are four shifts of Pilsner producers.

Rejected cans of Pilsner in the foreground.  Wonder what happens to that beer? 😉
The sensual experience of raw materials part of the program, we were allowed to touch the barley and grind hops into our hands.

One of three copies of the Pilsner yeast strain (sorry for the bad photo). The other copies are in Prague and London under heavy security.

Gleaming copper facilities.

Once upon a time the city had over 500 individual breweries. Josef Groll, first Pilsner Brewmaster, brought them all together. And the legend was born.

Cold, unfiltered, non-pasteurized Pilsner Urquell. Another day, another Na zdraví!