Competition Results: Palaeotis Pils and Take Two Vienna Lager

I submitted my recent Vienna lager and German pils for the 2017 Romancing the Beer Competition, hosted by Thousand Oaked Homebrewers. I was pretty happy with these beers, and was pleased to see that the judges agreed! Take Two Vienna Lager earned an honorable mention in the Amber and Dark Euro Lagers category (out of 15 entries), and Palaeotis Pils placed third in the Euro Lagers category (out of 18 entries).

Let’s take a look at the overall results, and see how they stack up against my own tastings!


Take Two Vienna Lager

This beer averaged 37.5 (from scores of 37 and 38), falling at the upper end of the “very good” range by the BJCP guidelines.

Overall, the judges thought it hit most of the notes for the style. Hops were noted as nicely balanced against the malt. I was curious to see that the judges were split on mouthfeel–one thought it was pretty much perfect for the style, and the other scored it as slightly thin and watery. Similarly, the judges were split on the maltiness–one thought it was right on point, and the other thought it a bit lacking.

One judge picked up slight estery notes (or possible acetaldehyde). I suspect that this corresponds with a brief period in early fermentation when I lost temperature control due to a power outage.

Based on my tasting, it’s interesting that the recipe doesn’t terribly fit what I like in a Vienna lager (in terms of just a little bit too malty and roasty) compared with what the judges liked in a Vienna lager. I won’t likely brew this recipe again, but I am tempted now to brew something for competition more in line with my preference and see what happens!

Palaeotis Pils

I’m really proud of how this beer turned out. It came across really well on my personal tasting, and was absolutely enjoyable when it was on tap. It may not have won top tier in the category, but the judges comments make me feel like I’m on the right track. The beer averaged 38 (individual scores of 37 and 39), right at the base of the “excellent” score range.

Aroma scored well, although both judges said they were looking for a little more malt character. In terms of the hop aroma, both seemed okay with it (but one noted their perception of a tiny hint of vegetal character and that the overall hop aroma was a bit heavy). Appearance was nailed, and flavor was also pretty solid, with a balance between hops and malt. Interestingly, one judge noted perfect carbonation and the other thought it was a bit low. One thought the finish could be a touch more crisp.

So, if I brew this again, what should I change? I might add a touch of melanoidin malt, or else I might perhaps lengthen the overall decoctions. Another option might be to use a different base malt–perhaps one of the “standard” offerings from Weyermann rather than the Bohemian floor-malted version. I would probably also reduce my late hop just a touch, to about 2/3 or 3/4 of what it was originally. And, I suppose I would reduce the bitterness a tiny bit, too–maybe down to 28 or 30 IBU rather than 34. This would let the malt shine through a bit more. Another alternative (and something I might try) would be to up the overall malt bill and initial gravity a tad. I suppose I could carbonate more strongly or package more carefully, too, but given the split judging assessment, I’m not too worried about it yet.

I’ll be trying a slightly modified version of recipe again soon!

Beer Tasting: Take Two Vienna Lager

20170128_132534My latest Vienna lager ran out just a few days ago, but not before I worked in a beer tasting as well as a submission to a local beer competition. This batch earned an honorable mention (i.e., 4th out of 15 entries) in a combined Amber and Dark Euro Beers table at the 2017 Romancing the Beer competition. Tasting notes below were completed before competition results were announced, and I have not yet been able to compare my impressions with those of the judges.

  • The Basics
    • O.g. = 1.052; f.g. = 1.013; 5.1% abv; 12 SRM; 25 estimated IBU
  • Appearance
    • Deep amber, brilliantly clear beer, with a persistent ivory head.
  • Aroma
    • Slightly toasty, with a spicy and mildly floral hop note.
  • Flavor
    • Toasty maltiness, with the slightest hint of a caramel note at the very end of the finish. Hoppiness is subdued but noticeable.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Slightly dry, medium-light body.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a good Vienna lager, but not a great Vienna lager (in my opinion). The slight touch of caramel on the taste throws it a bit out of style for me, and also isn’t quite what I wanted in the beer. The color is apparently within the bounds of the BJCP style guidelines, but darker than I really desire for this kind of beer. I suppose it falls within the realm of “North American Craft Vienna Lager.” For the next time around, I would reduce the melanoidin and Carafa II malts to lighten the beer and reduce any caramel notes. All that said, if I set aside stylistic preferences this is an exceptionally drinkable brew, and it was quite popular at a recent get-together.
  • Overall
    • 7/10

Lager / Pils Update

vienna_lagerThings have been moving along on my latest Vienna lager (Take Two Vienna Lager) and German pils (Palaeotis Pils). The two beers are in the same fermentation chamber; because the pils was brewed most recently, the temperature control regimen has been dictated by that batch.

For these brews, I elected to use a fast lager schedule. The pils was brewed on 9 December, with a starting gravity of 1.048. When I checked the beer on 16 December, the gravity was down to 1.020. At 57% apparent attenuation, this exceeded the recommended 50% threshold for temperature ramp-up, so I was clear to go. I didn’t bother to check on the Vienna lager, because it had been in there for a week extra and high krausen had long since passed. So, I figured it was more than safe to ramp that one up too.

At this point, I turned off the fermentation chamber to let things free-rise for the first day. Because my garage temperature was fairly cool, the temperature in the fermentation chamber hadn’t exceeded 55° after 24 hours. So, I added the heating pad and set the temperature for 68°. The temperature probe was loose, so that it would sense ambient temperature in the chamber, for a slower rise in the fermenters themselves than if the probe was attached to a fermenter directly.

I checked the pils again on 24 December, at which point the gravity was 1.011, and this was unchanged two days later (5% abv, with the 1.048 starting gravity). The Vienna lager (depicted in the photo) was at a final gravity of 1.013 (5.1% abv, following a starting gravity of 1.052). So, on 26 December I set the fermentation chamber to 34°, still leaving the temperature probe loose so as to ensure a slower temperature drop in the fermenters. I filled the airlocks with vodka, to avoid having the sanitizer water sucked in as things cooled.

After 24 hours of cold-crashing, I added gelatin, with 1/2 tsp. in a half cup of water for each batch. I’ll let things settle for a few more days before kegging and carbonating.

Take Two Vienna Lager

My previous attempt at a Vienna lager was pretty darned tasty, but a little short of the style in terms of coloration. For my next round, I elected to throw in a few additional dark malts, as a short-cut to something more on style. Additionally, I decided on a straight-forward infusion mash, rather than messing around with decoction. The decocted lager I did before was really tasty, but also a bit of work, and I wanted a quicker brew session for this batch.

The recipe was modified from one by Andy Weigal that medaled at NHC in 2015. I simplified the grist slightly (replacing the portion of pilsner malt with Vienna malt, and using regular Munich malt instead of Munich II). Additionally, I switched to Saaz alone for aroma and bittering.

Take Two Vienna Lager

  • 9.5 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich malt
  • 0.25 lbs. melanoiden malt
  • 0.175 plbs. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.25 oz. Saaz hop pellets (5.6% alpha acid), 60 minute boil
  • 0.25 oz. Saaz hop pellents (5.6% alpha acid), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. German lager yeast (White Labs WLP830), prepared in starter to target ~390 billion cells
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient, boiled in 1/2 cup water and added to chilled wort

Target Parameters

  • 152° mash, batch sparge, 60 minutes
  • 1.051 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.2% abv, 25 IBU, 12 SRM, 6 gallons into the fermenter


  • Five days in advance of brew day, I prepared a 3.5L starter, using 2 packages of yeast and 353 g of extra light DME. After 2 days, I decanted 1L of the starter to set aside a 125 billion cell culture for later use. The remainder was cold-crashed for 3 days, with supernate decanted.
  • On this batch, I followed a water treatment popularized by Gordon Strong. I added 1/4 tsp. of phosphoric acid per five gallons of brewing water, and also added 1 tsp. of calcium chloride to the mash. I am a little surprised by his minimal treatments (especially on the acid additions, given their likely minimal effect on mash pH), but figured I would give it a try.
  • To start the mash, I added 3.6 gallons of water at 167°. This slightly overshot my mash target of 152° (hitting 156°), so I added a half gallon of cold water. This undershot my mash target, so I added a half gallon of boiling water to finally hit the mash target temperature about 25 minutes into. Close enough, I figure.
  • After collecting the first runnings, I added 4.25 gallons of water for the sparge (followed by vorlaufing) and collected the second runnings.
  • All told, I collected 7.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.045. This equates to an efficiency of 85%. Perhaps it was so high because my mash ended up relatively thing…I’m not certain.
  • 20161202_224854I boiled the wort and added hops and other ingredients per the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I removed the hops, chilled the wort, and transferred to the fermenter. Once the temperature had dropped to 56°, I pitched the yeast.
  • I will be fermenting this at 52° for ~10-14 days. I brewed this on 2 December 2016.
  • Starting gravity was 1.052, right about at my target. Not too bad! The wort is a deep amber color…a bit darker than I expected, but still looks to be within BJCP style.