Vienna Lager 5.0 Recipe and Review

Vienna LagerHow time flies! My apologies for the radio silence over the past two months. Between moving apartments, a trip to CBC, the announcement of a brewery that I’ve working on, and an awesome trip to Asheville, NC, things have been crazy! More information on all of those things to come, but in the meantime, here’s a quick post about my latest batch of Vienna Lager. Cheers!

It’s a little baffling to realize that this is the fifth iteration of Vienna Lager which I have brewed. Not only does this make me do a double take in terms of realizing how much I’ve brewed over the past 6.5 years (over 150 batches and counting), but also illustrates how much I love this style.

Considering the number of different batches I brew, the breadth of styles that I have attempted to master, and the period of time that a lager like this occupies my fermentation space, it speaks volumes about the amount of respect I give a humble beer like this.

In many ways, Vienna Lager is the perfect beer for my tastes. I find it somewhat intangible trying to pinpoint why I love this beer as much as I do. It circumvents reason and defies cogent prose, but the closest I can get to describing why I enjoy this beer so much has to do with malt’s ability to be delicate and nuanced, while maintaining a quenching minimalistic lager dryness and boundless sessionability.

Being the constant tinkerer that I am, I made a couple tweaks over previous versions of this beer. As time has progressed, I’ve consistently lowered the amount of crystal malt in this beer. This version eschews crystal malts completely, making the beer a pure expression of the high-quality German base malts of which it is solely comprised.

Vienna Lager 5.0 Recipe

Size: 3.25gal
Efficiency: 76%
Attenuation: 76.0%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 13.35 SRM
Alcohol: 5.21% ABV
Bitterness: 23.0 IBUs

Malt Bill:
4lb (61.0%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
1lb (15.2%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1.5lb (22.9%) Weyermann Munich TYPE II
1oz (1.0%) Weyermann Carafa® TYPE II

Mash Profile:
144°F – 30m
151°F – 30m
170°F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2g Gypsum (to mash)
4g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

42g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (2.7% AA) – 60m

Kettle Additions:
0.5ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager – Decanted 2L Starter on Stir Plate

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 7A Vienna Lager.

Aroma (10/12):
Bready malt wafts from the glass accompanied by complimentary amounts of toasty crust and just a hint of toffee. There is some slight malt sweetness coming through on the nose. There isn’t any real apparent fermentation character, although there is a touch of grape-like fruitiness. It is unclear if this is a fermentation by-product or coming from the Munich malt. No apparent hop aroma.

Appearance (3/3):
Medium copper color with pristine clarity. Tightly spaced, off-white bubbles form a great foam cap which persists.

Flavor (17/20):
Beautifully balanced malt with nuanced layers of toasty malt and just a hint of caramel or toffee. The malt is balanced far more towards toasty and dry rather than sweet and caramel-rich. A touch of hop bitterness balances out the slight perception of sweetness attributed to the malt. Exceptionally clean lager fermentation with no hints of alcohol, ester, or diacetyl.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Medium to medium-low bodied with moderate carbonation. Soft and round with no perceptible astringency.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a beautiful, clean malty beer without being overwhelmingly melanoidin-rich or overbearingly complex. The beer finishes clean and dry making it a crushable pint. Dropping out the crystal malt only seems to have enhanced the beer as the base malts are still capable of producing some perception of caramel flavors without any of the associated sweetness or contributions of unfermentable sugars. This beer is a great alternative to Octoberfest beers which offer a great malt richness, but can often be a touch overbearing in terms of fullness and alcohol.

Excellent (44/50)

Vienna Lager 4.0 Homebrew Recipe

Vienna Ready to BRewUpdate: Unfortunately, the beer didn’t place in the second round of NHC. It did get pretty good scores however. I’ve uploaded the score sheets, in case you’re curious.

You can probably tell by my history of posting Vienna Lager recipes, that I love brewing (and drinking) the style. It is a great sessionable lager, and a lot of fun to brew. With that said, brewing this batch had ulterior motives.

My last batch of this beer turned out great. Judges tended to agree as it placed in both Homebrew Alley 8, and the first round of the National Homebrew Competition. Unfortunately, the bottles I have left are starting to show their age and will be well past their prime when the second round of the NHC occurs this June. With that in mind, I decided to brew up another batch. The recipe below was brewed on 3/30/14. This is pushing the time frame that I would normally be comfortable turning a lager of this strength around in. With careful yeast management and temperature control, it should be just enough time for the mid-June second round of the competition.


Recipe Specs:
Size: 3.24 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 74%
Brew Date: 3/30/14

Original Gravity: 1.052 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 SG
Color: 13.97 SRM
Alcohol: 5.07% ABV
Bitterness: 24.1 IBUs

3.75 lb (51.3%) Vienna Malt – Weyermann
1.25 lb (17.1%) Pilsner Malt – Weyermann
2 lb (27.4%) Munich TYPE II – Weyermann
4 oz (3.4%) Carafoam® – Weyermann
1 oz (0.9%) Carafa® TYPE II – Weyermann

Water Additions (in Mash):
Soft NYC Water
4g Calcium Chloride

My recipe employs a single step decoction mash.

A quick single decoction enriches the malt character… and it’s a lot of fun.

Mash Regiment:
20m – 144°F Beta Rest
Decoct to Alpha Rest
20m – 156°F Alpha Rest
Direct Fire to Mashout
5m – 168.0°F Mashout Rest

24g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 60 m
14g  Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 10 m



Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablet – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager – 1800ml Starter on Stirplate

1. Chill to 46°F and keep at 48°F until activity slows.
2. Raise to 58°F for diacetyl rest 24 hours.
3. Cool 6°F / day until back down to 32°F.
4. Rack to corny keg and lager at 32°F 3-4 weeks.

Vienna Lager Homebrew Review

Vienna Lager HomebrewIt’s been about six weeks since I’ve brewed my Vienna Lager — prime time to review this brew. This is the third or fourth time I’ve brewed a Vienna Lager, and I’m always excited when the time comes to tap a fresh keg. The recipe is primarily a blend of Munich, Pilsner, and Vienna malts. The goal is to create a clean and crisp malt-forward lager, while imbuing enough character to remain interesting. Getting the beer to finish relatively dry and low in alcohol helps to make this a great session beer. This beer is similar to what a beer like Negra Modelo or Dos Equis Amber could be if they were all-malt beers.

Fermentation went nearly perfectly with the beer starting at 1.052 and ending at 1.014 — approximately 73% apparent attenuation. The beer has been lagering at 32°F for the past 4 weeks and is ready for a taste.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 3A Vienna Lager

Aroma: (10/12)
The aroma is somewhat subdued, and very clean. There is a really nice round bready malt component that is very inviting and reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Intertwined are aromas of toasted biscuit and crusty sourdough. The is a light hint of sweetness that reminds me of golden colored caramel and provides a slight impression of sweetness.

Appearance: (2/3)
Rich amber with ruby red hues. The beer is clear, with just a hint of haze that should clear with a little more lagering time. The head is bright white, sticky, and persistent.

Flavor: (18/20)
The flavor is all about the interplay between toasty, dry, melonoiden-rich malt that finishes with a light touch of residual malt sweetness. There is no hop flavor that I can detect, but the bitterness is firm and clean, helping to keep the beer very balanced. To better fit the style, the beer could be a hair less bitter, otherwise it is nearly spot-on to style.

Mouth Feel: (4/5)
Medium-low bodied with a crisp and clean finish. There is a miniscule touch of astringency on the finish that provides further drying and slightly pushes it out of style.

Overall Impression: (8/10)
This is a beautiful beer to look at and consume. The balance is to the malt side, but it does so with a deft hand keeping it crisp, refreshing, and delicious. I will certainly be making this delicious recipe again.

Score: 43 / 50 (Excellent)

Vienna Lager 3.0 – Recipe and Brewday

Nice cool lager fermentation chugging away.

Nice cool lager yeast fermenting away.

Update: Vienna Lager Reviewed

Update 2/20/2014 – Beer placed 3rd as a Vienna Lager in Category 3 European Amber Lagers at the 2014 Homebrew Alley 8 competition.

UPDATE 4/5/2014 – Beer placed 1st as a Vienna Lager in Category 3 European Amber Lagers at the 2014 First Round of the National Homebrew Competition (NYC Regional).

When it comes to brewing a particular style of beer, I am a serial philander. Rarely do I brew the same beer twice, and when I do it is typically with radical departures to the recipe. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and Vienna lager is one of them.

I’ve probably brewed four or five Vienna lagers since I began brewing in 2009. While most have been outstanding, and several have won pretty nice awards (Gold in the 2012 NHC first round, and 2nd Best of Show at the 2011 Best of the Bay), I seem to always be making tweaks to the recipe to correct minor details that I believe would lead to a better beer.

With this iteration, I’ve gone back to my favorite lager strain, White Labs WLP833 German Bock, which always seems to produce very malt-forward, diacetyl free lagers for me. Additionally, I’ve introduced a single step decoction into the recipe as a replacement for the touch of melanoiden malt that I generally throw into my non-decocted lagers. A small Hallertaurer addition with 10 minutes left in the boil gives the beer an almost imperceptible late hop character.

With winter coming, and the ground water cooling, it is the perfect time to brew lagers. My Blichmann Therminator plate chiller struggles with warm summer water, but drops the wort to pitching temperatures with ease during the cooler months. With a little extra time in my fermenation fridge, I am able to chill my wort to 44°F before pitching my yeast. Over the course of the lag phase, I let the temperature free rise to 48°F and then keep it there until the very end of fermentation when I complete a diacetyl rest. This requires a very large starter, but tends to create what I feel is a cleaner lager character.


Size: 3.25 Gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 74% (projected)

Original Gravity: 1.052 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 SG (projected)
Color: 14.09 SRM
Alcohol: 5.07% ABV (projected)
Bitterness: 28.4 IBU

3.5 lb (47.9%) Vienna Malt (Weyermann)
1.25 lb (17.1%) Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
2.25 lb (30.8%) Munich TYPE II (Weyermann)
4 oz (3.4%) Carafoam® (Weyermann)
1 oz (0.9%) Carafa® TYPE II (Weyermann)

Boil Additions:
1 oz  Hallertauer Hersbrucker (4.1% AA) – 60 m
1/2 Tablet Whirlfloc (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.5 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker (4.1% AA) – 10 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

1800ml 1.040 starter on stir plate – White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager

Mash Regiment:
20m – 144 °F
Decoct to 156 °F
20m – 156 °F
Direct Fire to Mashout at 168 °F
10m – 168 °F

Water Adjustment:
Carbon filtered NYC water with 1g gypsum and 4g calcium chloride added to the mash.

Yeast Notes:
Final Volume into Fermenter = 2.75 Gallons
Yeast Required = 100 billion (per Mr. Malty)
Yeast Production Date: 10/14/13
Yeast Starter = 1.8L @ 1.040 on stir plate (Mr. Malty suggests 1L) = 7.5 oz. DME

1. Chill to 44°F and keep at 48°F until activity slows (1.5 weeks or so).
2. Raise to 58°F for diacetyl rest 24-48 hours .
3. Cool 2°F / day until down to 34 °F.
4. Rack to corny keg.
5. Lager near freezing 4-6 weeks.

Vienna Lager Recipe

While living in Seattle, I had embarrassingly easy access to a world-class Vienna Lager brewed by Chuckanut Brewing in Bellingham, WA. Their beer always does well nationally at the GABF and easily became one of my go-to session beers as well as the inspiration for this recipe.

Vienna is in many was the perfect craft lager. I don’t think any other style of beer epitomizes balance the way a good Vienna can. It is quenching with a subtle complexity keeping your palate from boredom. This beer features a nice toasty malt profile while not being overbearing or too rich. There is a small crystal malt presence which is often overdone and can become sweet and in conflict with the dry toasty quality of the Vienna and Munich malt this recipe uses. It is a dryer and leaner version of its bigger brother the Oktoberfest / Marzen.


Volume: 6.2 Gallons
Original Gravity: 1.050
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 13.82 SRM
Alcohol: 4.98% (ABV)
Bitterness: 23.7 IBUs
Efficiency: 80% (tweak recipe to match efficiency of your brew house)
Boil Length: 90 Minutes


4.5 lb (39.1%) Vienna Malt; Weyermann
2 lb (17.4%) Pilsner Malt; Weyermann
4.5 lb (39.1%) Munich TYPE II; Weyermann
4 oz (2.2%) Carapils®; Weyermann
2 oz (1.1%) Carafa Special® TYPE II; Weyermann
2 oz (1.1%) Melanoidin Malt; Weyermann
70 g (83.2%) Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (3.4%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15
.75 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m
.5 oz (16.8%) Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (3.4%) – added during boil, boiled 10 m
1 ea White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager Yeast – 2 gallon decanted 1.040 starter


Carbon-filtered Seattle water which is very soft.  All salts added to grist before mashing in.
2 g Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulfate)
4.0 g Calcium Carbonate (Calcium Carbonate)
4.0 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
8.0 g Calcium Chloride (Calcium Chloride)


90 Minute Saccharification Rest at 154° F
10 Minute Mashout Rest at 170° F (I do a second hot water infusion to mashout)
Sparge at 170° F and collect sufficient runnings to hit pre-boil volumes


  1. Chill wort to 44° F and pitch yeast slurry.
  2. Set temp controller to 48° F and allow to rise to this temp.
  3. Ferment at 48-50° F until beer is 2-6 points from terminal gravity then raise temp to 58-60° F. Hold at 58-60° F for 2 days.
  4. Chill fermenter 2° F per day until temperature is at 34° F. Rack beer off yeast and lager at near freezing 4-8 weeks.

Keys to Brewing

  1. Yeast is of paramount importance for craft lagers. A lot of outdated homebrew advice recommends fermenting warm for the first couple days to build yeast populations and then crashing the fermentation back to lager yeast fermentation temps. I don’t like this since I believe it can lead to significant problems including excessive ester, fusel, and diacetyl formation. I think it also tends to shock the yeast and produce incomplete fermentations. Build a big starter, pitch cold, and go from there.
  2. Use restraint with crystal malt. Too many homebrew samples are heavy on the caramel flavors which tend to mask the more subtle toasty / melanoiden flavors from the base malts.
  3. I like a touch of dehusked carafa malt to lend some rich red color to the beer. I tend to toss it into the mash right before I sparge to avoid any roasty flavors.


The beer brewed from this recipe has won numerous awards as a BJCP Category 3a. Vienna Lager:

  • 2012 NHC First Round – 1st Place
  • 2012 Cascade Brewers Cup / Puget Sound Pro-Am – 2nd Place
  • 2012 Novembeerfest – 3rd Place
  • 2012 Skagit County Fair – 2nd Place
  • 2012 Best of the Bay – 1st Place, 2nd Best of Show
  • 2012 Evergreen State Fair – 1st Place