Is Pilsner Urquell better in a can or a bottle?
This post is part of the Session. The MicroBrewr is hosting Session 98 and asks: cans or bottles?
Walking through the liquor store I noticed a selection of fancy pint sized cans of Pilsner Urquell. Pilsner Urquell in a can! Did God finally answer my prayers?! I snapped it off the shelf as fast as a kid ripping of the cookie jar. Then I stopped and wondered… does it really matter? Is a can any better than a bottle. Well as luck would have it a case of Pilsner Urquell bottles solemnly stared back at me saying, hey, we’re glass, we’re better, look at us in our fancy glass bottles. I had to try both! Which one would win the battle? Was there really any difference at all?
As a side note, I’ve kind of been on an Urquell bender. Ironically, the bender started right after our blind pilsner tasting where the Urquell performed rather badly. Shortly after that tasting SABMiller moved this classic pilsner into brown bottles from green bottles (I am sure this is because Pintwell is a powerhouse in the beer industry and SABMiller saw our post and said, we have to do something!). This alone was a welcome change as we had docked it heavily in the blind tasting for skunk and diacetyl. You can easily taste the difference in the new brown bottles. Oh, for all the #CRAFTBEER brand warriors out there who plan on judging me for drinking a mass produced beer, get over it. This beer is a classic. And it’s a damn good beer.
Back to the question at hand, does the can matter? To test this I had my wife secretly pour the bottle and the can into a couple pilsner glass and then secretly marked which one was which. So, could I tell the difference? I honestly thought this was going to be a total shot in the dark tasting. Look, I had 50/50 odds anyway, so I had a good chance of figuring out. But no! It’s actually crazy easy to see the difference! It was mind blowing to me how different the two beers were. To be fair, if you’re not paying attention, sure you probably wouldn’t take note. But with a quick glance it’s fairly significant.
Check out the header pic for this post and see if you can spot the can version…. Done? Figure it out? Yeah, it’s the one with the green rubber band. Visually the two beers are quite different. The carbonation level in the canned version is SIGNIFICANNTLY higher. As a result the foam retention is better which leads to better lacing on the glass. Not surprising, cans hold onto gas a lot better than bottles. This also resulted in better aromatics. The noble hops were brighter and stronger in the canned version.
Most importantly, the can version simply tasted fresher. That makes all the difference with a pilsner or any lager. Especially one shipped across the Atlantic. For lower ABV beers and lagers, I think cans destroy bottles in preserving quality. With bigger ales the difference probably wanes. In this case, it’s time to put all of Urquell in a can. Sadly, I haven’t found any more of these Urquell cans to enjoy.
Quick reminder, use a glass. The magic happens when you pour the beer out of the can into a glass!