Inspired by Derek Springer's quest for the ultimate Vienna Lager www.fivebladesbrewing.com/geburtstagsparty-traditional-vienna/, I challenged the Maltose Falcons, and they answered. The Crew: Tom (Jedi Master) Sisolak, Art (The Truth is Out There) Fitzsimmons, Michael (Our Final Hope) Covarrubias, and the Get 'Er Done brew team of Andrew McGrory and Mike Robinson. I have to tell you, if I had to battle Hell on Earth, the skills on this team would offer me intriguing possibilities. The Wednesday prior, I met with Kent Fletcher, who designed this storied 50-gallon HERMS system (and wrote the manual). Kent sported a Maltose Falcons tat that I much admired.
We proceeded to pull together the brew at 8:00 a.m. sharp on 27 August. Let's open the kimono right now: I spent sleepless nights wondering how I was going to lead the team on this amazing Falcons system. The recipe and technical advice from Derek was the inspiration, and I had enjoyed his tasty versions at our Society of Barley Engineers meetings in Vista, CA. Even though this promised to be a white-knuckle ride, I was fascinated by the story of this style and was compelled to brew it.
Fun fact: The Vienna Lager was the outcome of espionage by Anton Dreher of Vienna, who joined Gabriel Sedlmayr from Munich to travel to Burton upon Trent. Together, they squirreled away wort and yeast in a hollowed-out walking stick to analyze the "English method" of making beer. A couple of years later, Anton created the Vienna Lager at Klein-Schwechat Brewery; Gabriel created the Märzen at Spaten. And that is the provenance of Earth's amber lagers. Knowing this kind of thing, wouldn't you be compelled to brew it too? Read about this style in Jeff Alworth's Beer Bible: www.amazon.com/Beer-Bible-Jeff-Alworth/dp/0761168117.
It's only with the support of Derek, Kent, Tom and Art that we were able to pull this one off. Advice and practical assistance from Falcons' Matt Myerhoff and Drew Beechum were key to making this brew A Thing.
Andrew and Mike began brewing together a few months ago. The Dynamic Duo dove into the project every step of the way, including the dough-in. As in almost every brew day, we improvised on ingredients. The all Weyermann grain bill: 96.4% Vienna Malt; 2.4% Melanoidin and 1.2% Carafa III.
Tom measured the hops: 10.25 oz Perle for the 60-minute addition; 6 oz Hallertauer for the 10-minute. He also served as Budget Master, which provided much needed discipline and rigor to our unruly but earnest team. Between you and me, Sean at the Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop offered knowledgeable and patient support throughout the brew. If you are looking for the Best Homebrew Shop in Town, shop here and shop often (or your local shop -- support the independents).
If you are wondering about the yeast, Tom, Art, Michael and I went with Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager; Andrew and Mike chose ale yeasts to accommodate the crazy warm weather that has become the new norm in Los Angeles (thanks, Global Warming).
Spent grain went to use, from feeding livestock to making bread.
As a female brewer and Canadian soupmaker, I was inclined to stir the wort during the boil from time to time. The men admitted they had not witnessed this on prior brew days. I used this opportunity to discuss stratification and hot pockets, which they agreed made sense. (When brewing with the Lady Falcons, stirring is de rigueur. Woman = stirring things up. You know you like it!)
The Dynamic Duo confirmed that our original gravity of 1.049 was right on target. You know that the Vienna Lager is a key beer style of Mexico, right? This style came to Mexico in the 1860's when France briefly ruled there. The French embedded an Austrian archduke, Ferdinand Maximilian, as "Mexican Emperor." Unfortunately for Ferdinand, he was executed three years later, but the Austrian brewers he had brought over to Mexico continued brewing the style. (Who on Earth would kill a brewer?!) The tradition lives on in Mexico, and not so much in Vienna. Sam Adams Boston Lager made the style popular in the U.S. (Thanks again, Jeff Alworth, for the intel.)
The ground temperature water was too hot for pitching the yeast, in spite of our cooling efforts. We agreed to pitch at home in cooler climes. It was a fantastic day and, right now, we are all reporting in on our progress. In this heat and high humidity, I am thankful for temperature control, but even much more thankful for a terrific brew and technical support team. Thank you, especially, to Derek Springer for the inspiration.
My article on temperature control has been published by HomeBrew Talk. A big thank you to the brewers who contributed their knowledge. Check it out.
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