Replacement of chains in mash pans at digester house of Pilsner Urquell

16.2.2011 Pilsner Urquell

In the 19th century, the lager from Plzeň already had a world reputation thanks to its unique taste and golden colour, which until then wasn’t common for beer. The unique production process, which brewers from Plzeň have been following meticulously since 1842, leads to an extraordinary result. The first distinction is in the malt from Plzeň, from their own malt house. The malt is prepared from clearly defined types of Czech barley. More unique distinctions can be found at the digester house: a triple layer of mash and direct heating of the mashing pans with a handmade copper chain, which mixes the malt.

„In the digester house we mix malt with water for mashing, during which we separate a part of the mixture and heat it in copper mashing pans. Then we return it to the main mixture, to the so–called „work of art.“ In the majority of breweries you will see a one–time, or at maximum, a two–time mashing process. At our brewery we mash three times,“ said Václav Berka, senior brewer from Plzeňský Prazdroj.

In each mashing pan, at both ends of the blade mixer, is hung a copper chain, which mixes the mash and rubs against the bottom of the pan. The temperature of the open fire under the pot, which is very important for the slight caramelisation of malt sugars, is around 600°C (1112° F). That is why it is imperative to constantly move the chain on the bottom, so that the result is the famous and unique taste and colour of Pilsner Urquell. Every two weeks both the bottom and the chain are checked, and the chain is also turned.

The chain has 62 parts made from specially annealed copper, and it is 5.2 metres (17 feet) long and weighs 35 kilograms (77.2 pounds). Individual parts of the chain are made and connected by hand at the brewery. The chain is then „melted“ in the oven at Škoda in Plzeň at a specific temperature for a set amount time, so that the metal reaches the correct „softness.“

„The physical, chemical features of copper have a positive influence on the final taste of Pilsner Urquell beer, and copper cooking pots have been used ever since the beer was first made,“ adds Václav Berka.

More information:

Vladimír Jurina, Plzeňský Prazdroj, Phone: +420 724 617 886