Today’s choice is August Schell’s Firebrick Vienna lager. Vienna Lager is one of my favorite lagers to drink, but there really are not too many of them out there. Vienna lager is one of the beers that is complex in its simplicity, if that makes any sense. The malt profile should be soft, yet flavorful. What is commonly misunderstood, is that caramel flavors are not appropriate in this style or in Oktoberfest. If you don’t believe me, take a look at other review sites and see how often they review Oktoberfest or Vienna lagers with caramel tones and give it high marks. Sure, the beer may taste good, but if you are evaluating it against what the brewer says it is, you need to pay attention to the parameters of the style. If caramel is not not appropriate, or hop aroma is not appropriate, you cannot give the beer an overall score of an A+ if the brewer states its a Vienna lager. You can however, note in the overall impression that you liked that flavor, but it should not be shown in this style of beer. Make sense?
Vienna lager and Oktoberfest fall under the same major category, European Amber lager with Oktoberfest being the slightly larger brother of the Vienna Lager style. With that, lets take a peak at this beer.
The aroma is quite clean, with a real nice Vienna malt character. Toasty and slightly nutty aroma. The malt aroma here is very nice, with not much in the way of hop aroma. There is a bit of sweet malts in the aroma as well. I don’t think it is strong enough to detract much, but it is borderline. Nice clean malt profile. (7 points)
The color is a rich coppery color, with very good clarity. The head poured was small, but dense and long lasting. (3 points)
The flavor is quite good. A nice toasty malt flavor with some mild sweetness. There is a touch of hop bitterness. and a slight citrus note, that is not appropriate. The bitterness balances the malt very nicely and the lingering toasty malt finish is my favorite aspect of the flavor. All in all the flavor is quite good, and the only thing inappropriate is the citrus flavor, even though it is light. (10 points)
Mouthfeel is medium light, with a nice creamy feel. Carbonation is good. (4 points)
Overall I think this is a very good Vienna style beer, but has some minor stylistic faults. The citrus in the flavor is not per style, but does not make for a bad beer, its just not right for the style. I think the best quality is the lingering malt finish, which is pure toasty Vienna malt. Vienna lager should be Oktoberfest’s little brother and I think this beer fits that bill.(6 points)
In the end the score is a misleading 30 points, which would equal about a C+. The beer is actually better than my grade indicates. The reason is because I scored the flavor so low because of the inappropriate citrus flavor. But in the end the beer is quite drinkable.