Sunday, 4 January 2015

American beer styles of the 1930’s – Vienna Type Beer

Continuing our leisurely stroll through the beer styles of the 1930’s, we’ve arrived at one of the early Lager favourites.

The Vienna style of Lager was very much the creation of one man, bottom-fermenting pioneer Anton Dreher. His brewery in Klein Schwechat just outside Vienna soon became the largest in Continental Europe on the back of the success of his amber Lager, which was to be found in every capital in Europe.

But when Dreher died a relatively young man, Vienna Lager’s star began to dim as newer, paler styles took over. Which is why the first sentence of this quote surprises me:

Vienna Type Beer
This type of beer has gained considerable popularity in America since the repeal of Prohibition. It contains approximately 3.8% alcohol when correctly brewed and can be produced with all malt of the same variety as used in brewing Pilsen beer; that is, one that has been dried at low temperatures, thus containing very little caramel. The boiling period should be shorter than that used in brewing the Muenchener type but longer than that used in brewing the Pilsener type. This beer can be satisfactorily produced from worts of 13% original extract. The hops employed should be approximately .65 pounds per barrel if the wort can be removed from the hops in less than one-half hour's time.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 171 - 172.

I would have expected the exact opposite: that Vienna Lager’s popularity was fading and the style shuffling towards extinction. That’s what you get for making assumptions: you  end up looking an idiot.

The hopping rate is exactly half way between Mild and Strong Pilsner, and is pretty light. A British beer of that strength would have had more than a pound a barrel. And the hopping rate was lower than pre-Prohibition. As you can see from this table:

Hopping rate for Vienna Lager
OG Balling kg/hl lbs/US barrel
12.5 0.36 0.93
13.5 0.4 1.03
"American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades" by Robert Wahl and Max Henius, 1902, page 783.

I make that around 50% more hops in the older iteration.

How exactly do you brew an amber beer using all pilsner malt? Unless you’re using some sort of sugar or caramel to get the desired colour. Then again, you could totally cheat:

“The preferred method for producing beer having the characteristics of the Vienna type is to properly brew the mild Pilsener type and also the strong Muenchener type and then after storage these two beers are mixed in approximately equal proportions giving a resulting beer having characteristics midway between the mild Pilsener and the strong Munich beers. (See analysis on Vienna Type Beer.)”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 172.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this was more common than brewing Vienna as its own beer. Just makes life so much simpler.

Now here‘s a real-life Vienna Lager analysed:

Reported by "Wahl Institute, April 21, 1936
This beer is composed of the following substances, reported in percentages or pounds per hundred:
Alcohol (by weight) 3.74
Real extract (dry substance) 5.2
Carbonic acid 0.59
Water 90.47
The real extract (5.2) is made up of the following substances:
In Percentage  In Percentage
of the beer of  the extract
Acid (lactic) 0.117 2.25
Acid salts 0.117 2.25
Protein 0.503 9.67
Ash 0.15 2.89
Sugar (reducing) 1.276 24.54
Dextrins 3.037 58.4
5.2 100
The following are important brewing figures:
Specific gravity of beer 1.015
Original balling of wort 12.68
Apparent extract of beer (balling) 3.75
Real attenuation. 7.48
Fermentable sugar in the wort 8.76
Apparent attenuation 8.93
Alcohol (by volume) 4.68
Percent of extract fermented 59
Percent of extract unfermented 41
Percent of sugars in original wort 69.1
Percent of non-sugars in original wort 30.9
pH value 4.7
Total acidity 0.234
Carbonic acid by volumes 3
Amlo dextrins none
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 177.

At just 70%, the degree of attenuation is the lowest we’ve seen so far. Note that the gravity is lower than the 13º Balling suggested by the Wahls, though the ABW is pretty much spot on.

Next time we’ll be moving on to top-fermenting styles. Bet you won’t be able to sleep until then.

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