“Crime doesn’t pay,” or so the saying goes — and for nearly all circumstances that’s good advice. But there are exceptions to most rules, and the story of pilsner beer involves an instance in which crime paid so well, we’re still reaping the benefits nearly 170 years later.
When it comes to the origins of most beer styles, especially the centuries-old classics, it’s rare to encounter a tale everyone agrees upon. Most have multiple origin stories, each more fanciful than the next.
According to legend, the “crime” in question was perpetrated by an unlikely figure: a monk. Unfortunately, the criminal element is the least verifiable — and most colorful — part of the pilsner story, but most of the rest of the tale meets with general agreement.