“A HEAVENLY DRINK, LIKE CONCENTRATED SUNSHINE”: VIENNA LAGER PAST AND PRESENT


A few years back, the beer world came together to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) promulgated in 1516. The atmosphere across Bavaria was festive. Breweries touted the Reinheitsgebot during their tours, museums staged exhibitions about the edict’s history, and beer enthusiasts began a fresh round of debate about the relevance of this centuries-old writ.

Four hours east of Munich as the RailJet flies, the Viennese were marking a milestone anniversary of their own, albeit with much less fanfare: 175 years of Vienna Lager. Even if no museums commemorated the fact, and even if the media resonance was akin to the sound of one hand clapping, Vienna had good reason to celebrate its contribution to the culture of brewing. Bottom-fermented beer had been produced for centuries in Europe’s Alpine regions, but it wasn’t until Anton Dreher, owner of the Brauhaus zu Klein-Schwechat, brought together technological advances he learned in Britain and Bavaria that he was able to produce the first lager beer that could be brewed year-round. That happened in 1841. Up until then, Vienna’s top-fermented beers had a poor reputation: a dark brown, turbid, and frothy concoction that contemporaries dubbed “recht miserabel.” (I probably don’t need to translate that.)

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