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)

6 thoughts on “Vienna Lager 5.0 Recipe and Review

  1. Curse you for posting this! I have been tinkering with your original nhc medal winning recipe for a good while now and am on my 5th attempt. I have pretty consistently scored 34-37’s and feel as if I am always landing on the more modern side of the style. In fact I have entered my latest attempt at the recipe as both a amber european lager and vienna lager to see where it does better… I assume it will be in the amber category. Now I will have to try this V5 recipe, just when I thought I was out you pull me back in…

    Aside from not being able to medal with this beer I have seen over 21 gallons of it drank in the past year and a half so thanks for that!

    • Hi John, glad to hear I’m not the only one obsessed with Vienna Lager!

      Funny story, I entered this beer in this year’s NYC Homebrew Alley competition and it scored well, but didn’t place. The judges commented that the beer was a bit too malty for a Vienna. For kicks, I entered it into this year’s NHC categorized as a Marzen, and it placed second in the first round and will be judged at the National level next week. Competitions are a finicky thing!

  2. lol that is great! They really are a funny/frustrating thing. I have come to grips with any kegs that kicks was a good beer regardless of scores. Ironically two of the more recent medals I’ve won were batches that I eventually dumped in my garden because I didn’t care much for them….

    how did you do at NHC?

    • No medal this year — looks like it got a 35. I haven’t seen the scoresheets yet, but I’m guessing the judges didn’t find it malty enough. Maybe next year it’ll be back in as a Vienna!

  3. Finally medaled with a vienna lager! Was a 400 total entry competition not sure how many were heads up in category though, they haven’t posted that info yet. It scored a 39 from a national judge which is nice… I went back to your V1 malts and adjusted the recipe a bit to keep trying to deal with judge feedback I also used magnum (60) and saaz (5) I assume because that is what I had on hand. Ibu was set for 25 tinseth but im not sure my amounts because it looks as if I left my spreadsheet open and my 3 year old did some editing…

    thanks for a great base to work from and for pretty much introducing me to the style which I now have on tap regularly.

    Here is what I did I BIAB and use a spreadsheet that is metric so my weights are always wonky in standard…

    5.25g batch est O.G. 1.050 actual O.G. 1.054 IBU 25
    BIAB full volume 90m mash at 152° with a mash out at 168°
    75 minute boil

    2916g Vienna
    686g German Pilsner
    343g Munich II
    86g Melanoidin
    86g Carapils
    69g Carafa III (added before mash out)

    12.3% magnum (60)
    2.6% Saaz (5)
    not sure of weights (thanks 3 year old!)

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