The brewmasters of Plzeňský Prazdroj decided to change from oak to stainless steel for the maturation of their famous Pilsner Urquell beer back in the 1970s. However, deep in the cellars of the famous Czech brewery, a small amount of the beer is still aged in wood. This unpasteurised and unfiltered liquid is served to those who make the pilgrimage to visit the brewery in Pilsen.
Standing in amongst the barrels, sipping on the golden nectar straight from the source, is a transformative experience.
My companion, Shaun Hill, of Hill Farmstead brewery in Vermont, is equally transfixed. Despite being the founder and owner of the number one brewery in the world according to US website RateBeer, a flicker of envy crosses his face as he walks through the gigantic oak barrels towering above him.
“I wish I had just an ounce of the space these guys have here; I’d love to do something like this,” he laments. “But even digging just a small way down under our site would cost us tens of thousands of dollars.”
The sheer size of the underground tunnels, stretching almost 9km in length and up to 22m below the ground, gives you an idea of the scale and history of this ancient brewery. It would be easy to get lost forever down here, but with a near-infinite supply of unfiltered pilsner to sup on, it wouldn’t be a bad way to see out the rest of your days.