Vienna Lager

Vienna lager has an interesting history. One filled with adventure—well, mostly malt kilning—but that’s an adventure in itself, right!? The kiln, the adventure, the style, all comes down to one dude: Anton Dreher.

It all started in 1820 when this dude from Germany, Anton Dreher, inherited a brewery (I know pretty sweet). He was however too young to fully take over, so he did what any healthy young fledgling would do, he traveled. Along the way, he met another dude named Gabriel Sedlmayr. This dude Gabriel happened to also be inheriting a brewery. This little unknown brewery was called Spaten. Anton and Gabriel became good friends, and even finish their remaining travels together.

Conveniently, around this time, a new kilning technology came into use in England. This new kilning technology allowed the malt to be darkened without the harsh smoke or burnt flavors. Gabriel and Anton learned of this whilst in England, and decided to bring that kilning process back to their breweries. Dreher started experimenting with the English way of kilning in 1836, and created an amber malt that is just slightly caramelized, which he called Vienna malt. He then created a beer based off that, and in 1841 releases it. The Vienna lager is born.


Sedlmayr didn’t want to be outdone by his buddy, and combines his new malt with lager yeast and the well-known Munich Märzen is born. From research done by Ray Daniels for his book “Designing Great Beers”, Märzen was a term first used in Vienna, not Munich, to describe beers made in March and then cellared in caves. Sedlmayr also decided to market the new beer as “Marzen gebraut nach Wiener Art,” or “March beer brewed in the Viennese way.

But how did the Vienna lager style get popular in America you ask? In 1861, Napoleon III invaded Mexico, and the 3 years he was in power brought European brewers. From there, Vienna lagers were made, and from that, in 1926, Cerveceria Modelo opened in Mexico City, and soon it was producing its own adjunct-laden example of the style, Negra Modelo. Essentially, the Negra Modelo has authentic Vienna lager roots. Cray cray I know.

That brings us to today, where the craft beer movement has the Vienna lager more popular. Though the Märzen/Octoberfest is a lot more popular, the origin of the styles are essentially the same. The only difference being the Munich Märzen is slightly sweeter on the finish, carries less of a hop presence, and is generally slightly higher in alcohol.

Even though I do have a feeling I couldn’t tell the difference in a blind taste test, my Vienna lager recipe is pretty standard. The only difference I could find is that more Vienna malt is sometimes used, upwards of 100% of the grist even. Also, the hops for this are all over the place. I’ve seen Hallertau Hersbrücker, Tettnanger, and Mt. Hood all working for the style. The hops I used (Nugget and Spalt) were chosen because I liked them, and the spalt I thought would be a good fit what with it’s noble characteristics and all.

Lastly, I am going to do a full blown lager fermentation on this: Keep it cold around 50F for initial fermentation, warm it up to 65F for a diacetyl rest, transfer it to a secondary, then keep it around 36F for 2-3 weeks (some go up to 6 weeks, and in fact, Märzen means “March” so they would brew it in march, cellar it in caves, and serve it in October, hence Octoberfest beer).

I say it better here:


Batch Size: 1 Gallon
OG: 1.051
SRM: 12
Est ABV: 5%-ish
IBUs: 30
Boil Time: 70 Min

(45%) – Vienna Malt
(19%) – Munich 10L
(19%) – German Pilsner
(13%) – Crystal 40L
(3.5%) – Acid Malt (water reasons)

70 Min @ 152F

.05 oz (21 IBUs) Nugget (12.4% AA) @ 60 Min
.15 oz (9 IBUs) Spalt (3.5% AA) @ 15 Min


Here’s what went down:

Brewed 12/23/17

1/2/18: Activity is slowing. Started a diacetyl rest. Put the temp controller to 65F and let the beer warm up naturally.

1/9/18: Transferred to a secondary and started the lagering phase. Keeping it at 36F.

2/3/18: Bottled with 0.2 grams of rehydrated champagne yeast in 2 grams of water.

Tasting notes:

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