When you're standing anywhere near the center of Pilsen (Plzeň), you can see the slender tips of two buildings. The first, St Bartholomew Cathedral, is smack-dab in the center square and was the first place I visited: closed except for a small vestibule. Today I tried again and it was still closed; instead, I went toward the other, rounder landmark. The old smokestack is still the tallest part of Pilsner Urquell (Plzeňský Prazdroj), and you can navigate to it by site. By contrast, it was humming with constant large tours in Czech, German, and English. Make your own joke about the town's religion here.
One could say a lot about the modern, pasteurized beer made in that building, and a lot of it would be bittersweet. Indeed, even here at the source, the beer is fairly characterless. (That goes for the unfiltered pour we got from the wood in the cellar.) But as a place to visit, it was extraordinary. By miles the best public tour I've ever taken (I couldn't swing a private one.)
I would write some details, but I woke up with a scratchy throat this morning and it has developed into a head cold. My brain is mush, so I'll show you instead.
I'm sorry these aren't in order, my little blogger app scrambles them.
1. The new brewery
2. The magnetic bottle cap conveyor belt that lifts the crowns up a vertical climb.
3. Some of the barrels where the age unfiltered beer--a product they don't sell.
4. The old brewery buildings
5. The snazzy panoramic vid they show you
6. The sole piece of equipment from 1842--buried so it wouldn't be discovered in WWII.
7. The old brewery (which is right next to the new one).
8. There are nine kilometers of lager cellars below the brewery--some are lighted for the tour.