Friday, 26 October 2007

Austrian Lager in the 1870's

The reponse to yesterday's post about British lager was so overwhelming I've decided to stick with the theme. The lager bit, that is. If you've bothered to read the title you'll have realised that I've moved the location to the east.

Austria. That's where I'm looking at today. Austria (which at the time included Bohemia and Moravia) played an important role in the development of bottom-fermenting beers. The samples were taken in Vienna in the 1870's. I don't think the locals could have complained about lack of variety. There are beers from all over Austria-Hungary and from Bavaria.

What interests me most about these analyses are the inclusion of a number for the beer's colour. I'll be honest with you. I haven't the foggiest idea what scale they are using. But fortunately there are a couple of points of reference. Salvator and Porter both have a colour of around 40. We can assume that's pretty dark brown. The palest beer is Pilsner Urquell with 3.5. I can't imagine that Pilsner Urquell has got darker over the years, so I'll take 3.5 as being a golden colour. An English is 10 and Munich Bocks around 15. I'll interpret those as dark amber and pale brown.

Now we've got some idea of what the colour scale is, we can look more closely at the individual beers. Most are in the range 4 to 7. I reckon that makes them between golden and pale amber. Most modern pilsners would be, I reckon, between 2 and 3 on this scale.

But I'm most interested in the Viennese beers. This is the supposed heyday of "Vienna Lager". Now what colour would you expect them to be?

I've just had a look at the bjcp pages. I know, I shouldn't do it. It isn't good for my blood pressure. What I noticed is that the scale used in these analyses bears a remarkable similarity to SRM. That's very convenient. It saves me a lot of messing around.

Now my mates at the bjcp reckon that the colour of a Vienna lager should be in the range 10 - 16 SRM and a Pilsner 2 - 5. That's very intersting. Pretty well all the beers in the table fall in the range 4 - 7. The Bohemian beers (Jaroschau, Napagedl, Leitmeritz, Pardubitz, Medleschitz) are mostly the palest, but are at the upper end of the Pilsner colour range (3.5 to 4.8). The Viennese beers - Schwechater and Dreher, for example - are 6 to 7. Right at the pale end of amber.

I haven't explained myself very well, have I? These are my conclusions: the Vienna beers are paler than I would have expected, the Bohemian beers a bit darker. Rather than there being a strict division between amber and pale, there's a continuum from gold to pale amber. Put simply, Vienna lagers don't seem to have been as dark as we've been told.

(I'll try to improve the quality of my writing tomoroow. This post's been a bit clumsy and incoherent. My apolgies.)

The figures come from the book "Theory and Practice of the Preparation of Malt and the Fabrication of Beer" by Julius E. Thausing, Anton Schwartz and A.H. Bauer, Philadelphia 1882, pages 748-751.


Stephen Lacey said...

Maybe the colors have just shifted over time. Could it be due to changes in either malting/kilning technology or just shifts in time on the composition of the grist that is used for beers that are regarded to be exemplary of the "style". I think BJCP are generally meant to reflect the parameters that define the most widely accepted versions of modern incarnations of the particular beer style. A more instructive comparison would be the historical data with some actual modern examples to see if there really has been a shift. Would need to find out exactly what that colour scale is first though.

Ron Pattinson said...

Well the problem is that Vienna lagers died out in Austria. I think that maybe one or two brewpubs make one, but that's about it. Using modern American Vienna lagers for comparison is pretty pointless, as these will be brewed using the bjcp guidelines.

To me the colour scale looked like a pretty good match with SRM - Porter 40, Pilsner Urquell 3.5, Munich beers around 15.

All I'm saying is that the original beers from Vienna seem to have paler than is usually reckoned - both by Michael Jackson and the bjcp.

Stonch said...

Now wait a minute, Ronbo. Are you sure it's true to say that "Austria included Bohemia and Moravia"? Surely those regions were just part of the Austrian Empure/Habsburg Empire/Austro-Hungarian Empire? I will look into it and get back to you!

PS. Just back from Bohemia. I too am Donald Ducked.

Ron Pattinson said...

stonch, Bohemia and Moravia were in the Austrian-run half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Slovakia was in the Hungarian half. They really were quite separate. I have much better statistics for the Austrian part.

Stonch said...

Yes but is it correct to say they were part of Austria, as opposed to part of the Austian Empire? That's my very pedantic and pointless point.

Ron Pattinson said...

Bohemia and Moravia were provinces of Austria. Austria and Hungary togetehr made up Austria-Hungary.

Loren said...

"Put simply, Vienna lagers don't seem to have been as dark as we've been told."

Um...who told you they should be dark? Surely not Anton Dreher?

I would wager pale orange, at best. No?

And you were perusing the BJCP guides? Uh oh...

Ron Pattinson said...

loren, I was going to say Michael Jackson told us, but I've just checked his World Guide to Beer and he just says amber. So just American stylists.

Why was I browsing through the bjcp's website? Know your enemy.

Anonymous said...

I was just having a discussion about Vienna lager and the BJCP and found this post. Eventually everyone reluctantly concedes that there are problems with the style guideline but always fall back on the "its just a guide for homebrewers" argument (then why are there commercial beers labeled as "vienna lager" and "Robust Porter"?) or that "its just about tasting" (then why does the exam test judges on fake beer history? ie. scots are too cheap to use hops) followed by "then why don't you bring it to their attention to get that changed?" (I'm pretty sure higher profile people than myself have already done that). If google isn't lying to me, you and Martyn are the only people out there who seem to be openly challenging their authority. Thanks for calling out BS when you see it!

Ron Pattinson said...

Anonymous, I've pointed out where the BJCP guidleines are completely wrong many times. The chances of them being changed anytime soon is nil.

Even though the Scottish styles are totally fictional, ther's no way they're going to get rid of them. First, they'd look silly. Second, too many homebrewers make them.