beer 101

A short history of the Vienna Lager

Once upon a time there was a brewer

Anton Dreyer, who inherited a brewery when he was just 10 years old, is the brainchild behind the Vienna Lager. In the 1820s Anton was travelling Europe on what was officially a kind of apprenticeship, but sounds suspiciously like a years-long brewery crawl.

Along the way Anton met up with another young brewer, Gabriel Sadlayer, and they joined forces and headed off to England. Remember, that in this period of brewing history, English brewers were all about creating ales, while in the German-speaking countries in Europe, it was all about lagers. Also at the time, a new technology was emerging in England. Instead of using direct heat to to dry malts, brewers were experimenting with using dry air.

Why does this matter?

More control over the colour of the malts means less ‘smokiness’, and gentler, more subtle, delicate malts.

What happened next?

Anton and Gabriel proceeded to steal samples of their hosts’ malt in canisters they had designed especially for the task. Gabriel is reported to have said “It always surprises me that we can get away with these thefts without being beaten up.”

Anton and Gabriel survived, apparently scot-free, and headed back to their respective breweries, in their respective hometowns (Vienna and Munich).

Gabriel used this contraband to create a Munich malt resulting in the creation of style we know now as Märzen or Oktoberfest. That’s a another story for another day, so for now, we will say auf wiedersehen to Gabriel.

Back in Vienna...

Now at the helm of the Klein-Schwechat Brewery, Anton continued to experiment with the English way of kilning and created a slightly caramelised amber malt that he christened Vienna Malt. He combined that with traditional German lager yeast and in 1841 the Vienna Lager was born.

For about 60 years the Vienna Lager was popular, and gold-medal-winning, in Austria and other parts of Europe. Then it mysteriously disappeared completely after World War I. No one really knows why.

But don’t worry

In the early 20th century the style popped up again in Mexico. Yes, Mexico! Far from its European origins, the style was lovingly nurtured by Austrian brewers that immigrated to central America. Using local ingredients such as corn, the Mexican version is considered to be more robust than the original, but just as delicious. You’ll probably even heard of some of the more popular examples such as Negro Modelo and Dos Equis Amber.   

That’s not the end of the story

As these beers were exported across the border Vienna Lagers were quickly embraced by pioneers in the US craft beer industry. These days hundreds of American craft breweries, including big names such as Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada and The Boston Beer Company all have a Vienna Lager on their books.

And in New Zealand a small number of craft brewers, including the team here at Tinker Tailor are spearheading the Kiwi-comeback of the Vienna Lager.

Vienna Lager craft beer in a glass

Four steps to the perfect pour

Craft Beer Glasses

1.     The glass. Always start with a clean glass. Wash it in warm soapy water, then make sure you rinse thoroughly to remove any traces of detergent. A room temperature glass is best. Too hot and the beer can go flat; too cold and ice crystals form and make the beer foam up. Either way you risk making the beer taste bland. After all the hard work your brewers have gone to to create layers of subtle flavours you want to make sure you can enjoy every aspect.

Craft Beer Pour

2.     The initial pour. Hold your glass at about a 45 degree angle. Then pour the beer down the side of the glass aiming at the point halfway between the bottom of the glass the the rim.

3.     The tilt. When the glass is about half full tilt the glass upright. Keep pouring into the middle of the glass. This part is very important to create a good head on the beer. Depending on the style of beer you are aiming for a head of 2-4 cm. Find out more about why head (or foam as the Americans say) is good.

craft beer glasses in hands

4.  The drink.

Time to enjoy!


What is a Porter and how is it different to a Stout?

craft beer porter or stout in a glass

A Porter is traditionally a dark style of beer, developed in London, made from brown malt and usually well-hopped. Apparently the name Porter was first recorded in the 18th century and is thought to come from its popularity with street and river porters. One reference from 1802 claims that the beer was “very suitable for porters and other working people”. Whatever that stereotypical statement implies!

So what's the difference between a Porter and a Stout?

The short answer is there isn’t one.

While it is possible that historically there may have been some difference, no one seems to be able to agree what that was, or is. Some suggest a stout was simply a stronger version of a Porter. Some say that Stouts traditionally contained roasted barley. Some hypothesize a difference in the type of speciality malt used.

It looks like we can safely conclude that the names are used interchangeably now days. But, hey, if you’ve got some further insights, or just like studying old beer recipes, then let us know.