Pilsner is Not Champagne

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
June 24, 2009

Pilsner Urquell bubblesCynthia Sin-Yi Cheng

Pilsner Urquell
$9 per six-pack
At your local deli or supermarket

Pilsner is not champagne.

You’re thinking, “Silly, I know that.” Well, that’s what I kept thinking, too, when I attended a Pilsner Urquell food pairing tasting. But over and over I saw similarities between the two beverages. And not just the bubbles.

Here’s why:

  1. Buttery Taste: Pilsner Urquell has layers of complex taste, and although it’s very different in taste profile from champagne (esp. with the beer’s signature spice and the bitter finish from Saaz hops), it has a butterscotch profile that many Chardonnay-based champagnes also share.
  2. Glassware Counts: As with champagne, the glass you serve your drink in will enhance or deflate your experience. Try having your champagne in a regular water glass and see how the bubbles are less effervescent and the aromas dulled. For Pilsner Urquell, the suggested serving glass is lean and tall. Pouring at a 45-degree angle till the glass is 2/3 full then tilting the glass upright gives a good amount of mousse to top of the glass.
  3. Crystal Clear: Both beer and champagne started out as cloudy drinks. Josef Groll, the first brewmaster of Pilsner Urquell, decided to make a golden, bright beer by filtering.
  4. Food Companions: No need to beat the subject to death, but I do have champagne regularly with my meals (the sky’s the limit with cuisine pairing). I actually end up ordering beer with food a lot, too. Both champagne and beer are thought of as before-meal or stand-alone drinks, but I find both to be versatile and satisfying food companions. Beer and cheese are one of my favorite pairs. Try Pilsner with a Havarti or any other cow’s milk cheese. I find it a brilliant experience.
  5. Not just for Partying: While both drinks are associated with partying and gatherings, besides moving both to the dining table, I’d like to urge everyone to savor them more, rather than drink them mindlessly.



Comments (4)

Jason Treat

Jun 24, 11:58 AM

One important note about Pilsner Urquell: I don’t know why, but it tastes better from the pint-sized cans than the bottle. So good.


Jun 24, 12:03 PM

Thanks for your note, Jason.

Will keep that in mind.

Yes, good beer! I’m a beer girl (when I’m not Champagne Girl).


Alan J. Wax

Jun 25, 08:32 AM

I’d suggest that there was something wrong with the beer you tasted if you picked up butterscotch, which is diacetyl. It should be barely noticeable in a Bohemian Pilsner. Beer geeks will tell you that Pilsner Urquell is not the beer it used to be, especially since the brewery’s acquisition by SAB Miller. Urquell should be enjoyed for its delicate floral notes, light maltiness and, of course, its bitterness. The bitterness helps cleanse the palate, making pilsner especially good to pair with spicy foods and fish.

Courtney Cochran

Jun 25, 12:53 PM

Cynthia – Great seeing you in NYC last week! I love beer and it’s been too long since I enjoyed it thoughtfully with a meal. I’m going to get some Urquell soon and give it a whirl in my stemless Riedel Champagne flutes. Already excited.

Cheers, CC ;)

name (required)

email (required, will not be published)




Sign up to receive the Cravings newsletter!

Wine Features

The Wine of Paris

Island Whites (Part II)

Island Whites (Part I)

South African Diversity

Surprise, Surprise! Bordeaux is Really Very Good

Burgundy Joy

New Year’s Bubblies for a Splurge and Splash


My Weekend from Wall Street to South Beach

Vérité: French Roots in California Soil

A Spirit for the Ages

Ultimate Lurton

Vinexpo, the Asian Rendition

It’s Never Too Early to Think About Father’s Day… Especially if He’s Keen on Scotch

Gin from the Past

The Beauty of a Sommelier

March of the Carnivores

Discovering Mexican Wine

A Feast in the Hills above Las Vegas

Oregon: Wines on the Frontier

Not What We Expected, Per Se

Cru Beaujolais at Union Square Cafe

Beaujolais Retailers

Beaujolais with a Backbone

Summer Cocktails?

What is Bubbling in Champagne?

Tight Little Island: Islay Scotch

French Wine Finds

Alto Adige

Back to Restaurant Season in Paris

Cyn's Favorite Champagnes in 2006

Sparkles Everywhere

Discovering Jura Gems

A Taste of North Fork

Milou en mai: My Month of May

Parisian Bistrots à Vin

A Wine Story About Bees (Buzzed by Older Wines)

Gaia: Deconstructing a Wine List

Robert Pepi Makes New Waves Under the Eponymous Label

Holiday Toasting!

Parker on Champagne: What's in a Vintage?

Pascale Rousseau

Ed McCarthy

Terry Theise

Sean Crowley

The World of Champagne Seen from the Inside Out

Lieb Cellars - Recipe 2

Lieb Cellars - Recipe 1

Lieb Cellars - Retailers

Family Cellars' Pinot Blanc: Flat or Fizz?

Rosé - Related Websites

Cyn's Rosé Recs - Retailer

Cyn's Rosé Recs - By The Glass

Jancis Robinson, Rosé & I

Pearl - Champagne

Danube - Grüner Veltliner

Esca - Bellini

Prune - Bloody Mary


iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store


Sur La Table_Brand_120X90


Save Ten on Angie's List!

Alessi S.P.A. US