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.

 Specifications

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

Ingredients

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

Water

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)

Mash

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

Fermentation

  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.

Awards

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

15 thoughts on “Vienna Lager Recipe

  1. Looks good… I’m planning on brewing a Vienna Lager very soon (with the Wyeast Munich Lager II they have out right now), and was going to use the recipe in Brewing Classic Styles. I think I prefer your recipe, however, as it has less Pilsner malt and more Munich malt, which seems like a good idea to me, considering the flavor profile a good Vienna Lager is supposed to have.

  2. Brewed this on 1/17/15 as a 10 gallon batch. Still trying to dial in my efficiency at that size and overshot the gravity by 1.007, but it is damn tasty. Pitched WLP830 slurry from a German pils I made in November. I will definitely brew this again – thanks for sharing!

  3. For your water, when are you adding your salts? All to the mash or in you HLT? Would you change the additions much if you were using RO water? I am thinking about giving this a shot as my first lager on the AHA big brew day.

    • I’ve changed up my water profile a bit since the above recipe was written. Currently, I add 4g of Calcium Chloride to a 3.25 gallon batch – all in the mash. The water I use is almost devoid of mineral content, so would be pretty close to RO. Thanks for reading, and please let me know how it turns out!

      • Thanks for the reply, I have another question for you. Two actually.
        1. What are you using for your ibu scale? Garetz? I’ve not used Garetz before but it is the closest to your numbers after I adjust for my setup.

        2. How do you make your 2 gallon starter? This will be my first lager so I’ve never needed that large of a starter. I have a 2L flask and a stirplate.

        • Hi John,

          I use the ‘Basic’ formula in Beer Tools. The utilization curve looks closest to Tinseth. I use a 3-gallon better bottle for the starter. You could use the 2L flask on a stir plate and then supplement the starter with an extra pack or two.

          Nick

  4. Finally getting a chance to give this recipe a go. I have had a pretty packed brew schedule for larger batches so I pieced together the equipment for smaller biab batches to try and sneak in some more brew during the week. This will be my first attempt at biab so hopefully all goes well.

      • Racked it to keg today for lagering finished at .014. I didn’t get much of a taste, but what I did have seemed good, nothing noticeably out of place. The aroma was very strong graham cracker is that similar to your experience? I’m not terribly familiar with Vienna lagers. A German buddy in my homebrew club brought one he brewed to club one night and I loved it so wanted to give it a try.

        • Graham cracker is a good descriptor. I’d be careful though that you’re not smelling honey (which can be oxidation) or butterscotch (diacetyl). I’d give it some time lagering and see where you’re at. It should get real smooth after 4-6 weeks at near freezing temps.

          • Flavor wise I didn’t pick up on any diacetyl, although I only got an ounce or two though. I did use a diy bucket fermenter it was my first 3 gallon batch using biab and didn’t want to spend on better bottle or glass 3 gallon vessel till I knew I liked the process. So the potential for oxidation is there. I have never used buckets before and the inability to see what is going on drove me a little nuts with this being my my first lager. I opened the bucket a few times so easy my mind and likely introduced far more oxygen than when using better bottles. I have really enjoyed the biab method as far as brew day is concerned and have brewed 3 batches in 3 weeks. Hopefully, the enjoyment continues to the finished product. If so I will plan to pick up some properly sized fermentation vessels. Any recommendations from your experience?

          • Sounds like the beer will end up just fine. I’m a bit crazy when it comes to O2 pickup, but in the end there are much larger things that will impact the final flavor of the beer. I’m a big fan of better bottles. I’ll even slightly pressurize the better bottle with CO2 prior to cold crashing the fermenter in order to prevent any suck back of air into the fermenter as the pressure changes. Crazy… probably, but it does buy me some piece of mind.

  5. Thanks for the share, this looks like a killer recipe. I am going to be brewing it next week (only using Wyeast Octoberfest blend). What liquor to grist ratio do you usually use in your mash?

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