As many of you know, our Bavarian lager yeast strain has been back in house for several weeks now, and Dylan and Brandon have been hard at work brewing some of your very favorite lagers … just in time for summer. First up is the Civil Life’s much loved Vienna Lager, on tap now at our pub and available at some of our city’s most discerning purveyors of fine ales and lagers.
Vienna Lager is the case of a beer whose history is known in some detail. We know, for example, the first Vienna Lagers showed up in Germany and the Austrian Empire in 1841. A couple of enterprising brewers by the names of Dreher and Sedlmayr went to England to research recent improvements in kilning techniques that allowed for even, pale-roasted malts. Up until then, German beers, whether ales or lagers were dark (dunkel). Malted grain was dried by direct exposure to heat, roasting was uneven with some grains being scorched, and lightly roasted malts were not possible.
Dreher and Sedlmayr brought these new techniques back to Germany and got to work on some closely related styles of beer, Vienna Lager, Marzen, and Oktoberfest. Pale ales were starting to dominate the English market and Czechoslovakia would release Pilsner the next year. All these beers were pale in color, relatively dry, drinkable, and very popular.
Then Vienna Lager began to lose ground as a style after World War I, and Helles and Pilsner became the stein-fillers of choice. For a while, the most commonly seen Vienna Lagers in the US came from Mexico, Negra Modelo and Dos Equis Amber being the most famous examples. American craft brewers started to bring the style back. The only problem was that many of these breweries were using little or no Vienna malt.
And here is where an apparent digression is actually central to our discussion of the subject at hand. Your friends at the Civil Life are, as you know, a bunch of malt fanatics. And it just so happens, Vienna malt is one of our favorites. You’ll find some in many of the beers we brew (including our celebration of the great malts, “The Angel and the Sword”).
So why is Vienna malt so special? It imparts a deep orange color (it almost seems to glow) and a layered complex flavor with pronounced toastiness and nutty and bready notes. It’s a natural foil to the big spicy notes of traditional German noble hops. It also has excellent attenuation (meaning most of those fermentable sugars are readily converted to alcohol by the yeast). The result is a beer that, despite having a rich malt character, also has a delightfully dry finish. And while some Vienna Lagers may skimp on the Vienna malt, ours is composed of a whopping 76%. The Vienna as well as the other five malts used in the beer all come from venerable maltster Weyermann, from Bamberg Germany.
We finish the beer with Hersbrucker hops, a variety of noble hops indigenous to Bavaria for hundreds of years. They are spicy with subtle floral hints.
Civil Life Vienna Lager is toasty and spicy and oh so drinkable. It’s food friendly and extremely refreshing without being lean. Please come down and try some. Find out why we like Vienna malt so much. Just make sure to come before Charlie gets back from his work trip or before Alex drinks it all, because when she’s not fulfilling her daytime role as one of St. Louis’s most renowned architects, she’s down at the Civil Life drinking Vienna Lager and filling the world’s largest growler with this tastiest of brews.
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.