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No Rests for the Wicked: Extracting the Elegance of No-Pressure Pilsner

Die-hards will say you need to go all-grain to brew a great pilsner. They’ll also say you need strict temperature control. That’s fine—we don’t have to share our beer or our tricks with them.

Annie Johnson Oct 9, 2021 - 8 min read

No Rests for the Wicked: Extracting the Elegance of No-Pressure Pilsner Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/

Pilsners writ large are easily the most popular beers in the world. They also happen to be the most popular in my house—refreshing and crisp yet complex, whether Czech-style, German-style, American-style, or freestyle.

A bit of background: the name pilsner comes from the town of its invention: Plzeň, in Bohemia, in modern-day Czechia. As the story goes, the locals wanted some better beer, so they contracted a young brewer named Josef Groll from Bavaria. Bringing some lager yeast with him, he brewed with local Saaz hops, the area’s soft water, and a then-new type of pale malt to brew Pilsner Urquell—the “original pilsner.” The brewery claims the beer is basically unchanged since then—and in its cellars, you can sample it unfiltered and unpasteurized. (It also happens to be the best beer I’ve ever tasted—so, when it’s time to start scratching such things off our bucket lists again, make those travel plans and get thee to Plzeň.)

Pilsner Brewing, Simplified

In Czechia, brewers invariably produce their lagers using at least one or two decoction steps in their mash. German brewers will do either a decoction mash or a multistep infusion mash. Step mashes that maximize attenuation and foam stability for pilsner are common around the world, and with American-style adjunct pilsner, there typically is a cereal mash, too (to convert that corn or rice).

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Annie Johnson is an experienced R&D brewer, IT specialist, and national beer judge. Her awards include 2013 American Homebrewer of the Year honors.