Vienna Lager Beer Recipes – Ingredients, Water Profile, & Brewing Notes

You’re a fan of a lager, but maybe you want something with a little more character? What do you reach for? If you immediately thought of a Vienna Lager, you’re not alone. If you’re ready to take it a step further, let’s take a look at some Vienna lager recipes.

Brew a smooth Vienna lager with slightly hard water that has more chlorides than sulfates. Use a majority of Vienna malt in your grain bill supplemented by Munich or Pilsner malt. Choose German Noble hops or others with similar characteristics. Finally, use a clean fermenting yeast with medium to high attenuation and high flocculation.

Making the best possible Vienna lager means knowing what ingredients to use, which brewing methods to employ, and having a good recipe to follow. Keep reading for all that and more!

What is a Vienna lager?

You may not know it, but I bet you’ve enjoyed a Vienna-style lager before. Sam Adams Boston Lager is ranked the second most important American craft beer and the fourth most popular beer, so chances are you’ve enjoyed this excellent example of the style at many a restaurant.

Your standard Vienna lager is a malty lager that brings bitterness and toasty malts without being overly heavy. This beer style ranges from amber to a reddish brown. In terms of alcohol content, it is fairly average.

The flavor profile is led by the malt flavors such as toasted bread and hop bitterness. The malt flavors should not reach the deeper notes of roast, caramel, or biscuit–though hints of biscuit are permissible. Hop flavors and aromas may be present but certainly not the main focus.

Generally, the beer finishes dry. The mouthfeel should be quite smooth and crisp as well. The style does include a decent level of carbonation. When poured it should form a finger of head that will stick around. 

Key characteristics of a Vienna lager - infographic with ABV, aroma, mouthfeel, IBU, color, and flavor.

Defining characteristics of a Vienna lager include:

  • Color – 9-15 SRM (copper to reddish brown)
  • Common flavor – Toast, hop bitterness, toffee
  • Aroma – Bready, light hop aroma
  • Mouthfeel – Smooth, moderate carbonation
  • IBUs (Bitterness) – 18-30
  • ABV – 4.7-5.5%

History of the Vienna lager

Vienna Lagers originate from Austria in a town near Vienna called Schwechat. The style was first brewed in 1841 by Anton Dreher of the Klein-Schwechat Brewery. This new style relied on new kilning techniques to create lighter malts.

In the early 1830s, Dreher and Gabriel Sedlmayer, a friend of Dreher’s, worked in an English brewery. It was at this time the English were developing those new kilning techniques.

The two took this new technique back to Schwechat and Munich, respectively. Using the lighter malts–later known as Vienna malt and Munich malt–they made the first Vienna Lager and Märzen.

The Vienna lager was first brewed in Vienna, using lighter malts and new English kilning techniques.

Both beers became widely popular for many years. Over time they began to fade in popularity. While they are still around these days they are less common. 

Vienna Lagers still hold favor in certain areas such as Mexico. This is primarily due to German brewers taking their techniques over in the late 1800s.

Looking for another great German beer? Try a German Pilsner!

Popular commercial Vienna Lagers

For the beer enthusiasts and the beer curious here’s a quick list of Vienna lagers you should try:

  • Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. Vienna Lager – This smooth beer is perfectly balanced with rich malty flavors and light sweetness. 
  • Sierra Nevada Vienna Lager – Sierra Nevada puts forward a malt-focused lager with bready notes as the main star. Don’t forget about the herbaceous bitterness to balance it out!
  • August Schell Brewing Company Firebrick – A mild example of the style. This beer showcases light hops paired with subtle malt flavors for a pleasant brew.
  • von Trapp Brewing Vienna Style Lager – The von Trapps present this lager with a malt forward profile and hints of hop aroma.
  • Samuel Adams Boston Lager – This popular beer has a taste all its own but also manages to be a prime example of a Vienne-style lager.

What exactly does the Sam Adams Boston Lager taste like? Find out!

Popular Vienna Lager recipe kits (all-grain or extract)

Vienna Lager Recipe by John Palmer (All Grain or Extract Kit)

John describes his kit as: "a smooth, copper lager that strikes the perfect balance between a toasty sweet malt body and the noble overtures of the hops.

This interpretation of the Vienna style has more hop flavor dancing around the edges than the current BJCP guidelines specify, but the hop profile really complements the rich malt palate for a lively complexity that you don't get from the hoppier Bohemian Pilsener or maltier Oktoberfest styles, and is richer and smoother than Dortmunder Export.

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How to brew a Vienna lager

Once you’ve explored some great examples of Vienna lagers, you may be thinking of how you’d go about brewing your own. In order to brew the best beer, you need to know the style forward and backward. To that end, I will break down everything you need to know.

To brew a Vienna lager, start with slightly hard water that has more chlorides than sulfates. You’ll want to focus your grain bill on Vienna malts, but you can supplement with a Munich or Pilsner malt. Choose German Noble hops or others with similar characteristics for bittering and flavor. Finally, use a clean fermenting yeast with medium to high attenuation and high flocculation.

To brew a Vienna lager, start with slightly hard water, use Vienna malts, and German hops with a clean fermenting yeast with medium to high attenuation.

Let’s start by going over some great choices for the recipe and ingredients. Then, we can look at the process including brew day, fermentation, and bottling.

Recipe and ingredients

While you can’t have beer without fermentation, you can’t get anywhere without quality ingredients. There are of course no wrong ingredients, but some will go together much better than others.

As always, start with your water. Since beer is nearly 90% water, good water makes good beer. Then consider your grain bill, hops, and finally yeast. Each one can have a significant impact on your final product. 

I’ll break down each of these ingredients in detail, and make recommendations for the best choices for this beer style.

Water profile

As with most beers named after their original brewing location, you’ll want to start with a water profile similar to that of Vienna’s natural H2O.

The best water profile for a Vienna Lager has more chlorides than sulfates and is balanced between soft and hard water. A good chloride-to-sulfate ratio is 2:1. Include at least 50 ppm of calcium.

Whether you start with RO water or tailor your tap water, aim for the rough profile above. The chlorides will enhance the malt flavors while the small amount of sulfates will help dry the beer. Too much sulfate will be too drying and enhance the hops more than appropriate.

The calcium, on the other hand, will provide several benefits. Having at least 50 ppm will improve your mash, fermentation, and flocculation. 

Base grains

To brew a Vienna lager, use a Vienna Malt, pale 2-row, and/or Pilsner malt.

The best base grains for a Vienna Lager are Vienna Malt, pale 2-row, and Pilsner malt. Your entire grain bill could be a mixture or even just one of these three.

The choice between these three is entirely up to personal preference. Each one will provide the malt flavors this style looks for. German varieties are more traditional though not essential. 

Pilsner and 2-row will create a lighter Vienna lager so keep that in mind. These can be great choices if you are planning on adding a slightly darker specialty malt.

Specialty grains or other additions

When it comes to specialty grains for a Vienna lager, you don’t need much if any. That said, the best choice is a Munich malt.

Munich malt may be on the divide between base and specialty malts but for the context of this style, it is the closest to a specialty malt that will be called for. This malt will add some malt depth to the beer and some color.

As this is a lighter beer, you may need to worry about the mash pH. For those interested in traditional brewing methods, acidulated malt is one way to lower the mash pH without using acid directly in the mash.


A Vienna lager calls for some light hops both for bittering and flavor. Hops are useful in this style to provide a balance to the malt flavors. German hops are most traditionally appropriate. 

While German hops are the most common choice, you can experiment with other varieties. The hops should not overpower the malt flavors. Try to use hops that are similar in flavor and aroma to German noble hops. 


Bittering hops added early in the boil will go through a process called isomerization. This is what gives a beer its bitterness.

A Vienna lager calls for anywhere from 18 to 30 IBUs. Since this is not a particularly high IBU count, you don’t need hops with extremely high AA concentrations.

Here are some good choices for bittering hops.

NamePurposeAlpha Acid %
HallertauFlavor + Aroma3.5-3.5
TettnangFlavor + Aroma2.5-5.5
SaazFlavor + Aroma2.5-4.5
Table showing the best bittering hops for brewing a Vienna lager
Aroma and Flavor

Aroma and flavor hops added towards the end of the boil don’t add much bitterness. Instead, they add oils that provide flavor and aroma.

Vienna lagers can make use of a mid-boil addition to add bitterness and flavor.

Here are a few good choices to get you started.

NameFlavor/AromaAlpha Acid %
TettnangWoody, floral, citrus, cream2.5-5.5
SaazWoody, floral, citrus, cream2.5-4.5
HallertauHerbal, woody, floral3.5-3.5
LibertyFloral, spicy3-6
Table showing the best hops for adding aroma and flavor to a Vienna lager


This beer style is not too sweet, perfectly clear of yeast haze, and has little to no fermentation by-products. German yeast strains are, of course, preferred.

The best yeast to use in a Vienna Lager is one that has medium to high attenuation, high flocculation, and little to no ester production. Use clean fermenting yeasts in general.

Liquid or dry yeast is up to the brewer’s discretion just make sure to pitch a generous serving of yeast.


Below are some good dry yeast options for a Vienna Lager.

NameAttenuationFlocculationTemperature Range
SafLager W-34/7080-84%High53-65°F
Mangrove Jack’s M76HighMedium45-57°F
Imperial Yeast L1770-74%Medium50-60°F
Table showing the best liquid yeast strains for brewing a Vienna lager

Below are some good liquid yeast options for a Vienna lager.

NameAttenuationFlocculationTemperature Range
Wyeast 220673-77%Medium to High46-58°F
Wyeast 212473-77%Low to Medium45-68°F
Table showing the best liquid yeast strains for brewing a Vienna lager

Brewing process

After acquiring all of your ingredients, you can move on to brew day. What you do on brew day can have just as much impact on your results as your choices of ingredients. On brew day, one of the most important aspects is sanitization. Be thorough when sanitizing. 

All grain, partial, and extract brewing each have important considerations for you to make. When doing all-grain or partial brewing you need to consider mashing and sparging. From there the other considerations are similar. The boil step and on is the same for all three.

Let’s break down each step with the Vienna lager in mind.


The mash for a Vienna Lager can be a simple single infusion. The mash should be an hour long. For elevated results, do a step mash. For a Vienna lager, include rests at the beta-glucan range and the starch conversion range.

If you don’t want to take the time to do a step mash you can still achieve great results with a single infusion mash. 

However, if you do decide to do a step mash, here are the recommended temperature ranges. For your beta-glucan rest, the range is anywhere between 104°F and 113°F. The starch conversion rest can be between 142°F and 162°F.

The beta-glucan rest can be 10 to 15 minutes long. The starch conversion rest on the other hand can be from 30 to 60 minutes long.

Another important aspect of the mash is the pH. You want the mash pH to be between 5.2 and 5.6. Since the malts used in a Vienna lager won’t lower the pH enough, you may need to adjust it manually. There are a few ways to do so from acidulated malts, calcium sulfate, or calcium chloride.


After the mash and lauter, prepare for the boil.

A Vienna lager boil should be a simple hour-long boil. You can do an hour and a half though it is not necessary. You will have hop additions towards the beginning and end so that you get both bitterness and flavor.

You won’t have a bunch of hop additions but there will be a few throughout the boil. You may also choose to use a fining agent to clarify the beer.

Whirlpool or flameout

After the boil for your Vienna lager, you can whirlpool. This step is not essential to the style though it can help collect any trub. Some recipes use this time to add some hops for flavor.

While adding hops to the whirlpool can add flavor and aroma it won’t be necessary for this style. Any flavor you’ll need can be added during the boil.


When fermenting a Vienna lager, you should keep the temperatures on the lower end if you want fewer esters or on the higher range if you want more. After fermentation, be sure to lager the beer for three to four weeks.

Keeping the fermentation temperatures consistent is key to brewing quality beer. However, sometimes you need to raise or lower the temperatures to control what the yeast is doing. In this case, you should perform a diacetyl rest.

During the last two days of fermentation, you should raise the temps to roughly 60-65°F. This will give the yeast the kick to remove any diacetyl.


The recommended temperature for primary fermentation is around 50°F to 55°F for a Vienna lager. A diacetyl rest for a Vienna lager should be between 60°F and 65°F.

Keep in mind that lower temperatures can help reduce ester production while higher temps increase production. 

Bottling or kegging

The debate between bottling and kegging is strong for some styles – but not here.

Bottling or kegging both work well for a Vienna lager. There is no style preference one way or another.

Bottling vs kegging – which is better?

Do what you find easiest – if you find one method easier, for lagering then go with that method.

Vienna lager recipes

If you aren’t one to create your own recipes here are a few that you can follow for great results. These recipes are from various brewers as credited below.

  • Germican (Negra Modelo) (All Grain)
  • Vienna SMASH Lager (All Grain)
  • Vienna Lager (Extract)

Germican (Negra Modelo) (All Grain)

This recipe comes from user nota on Brewer’s Friend


  • German Vienna malt – 7.5 lb
  • Flaked Corn – 2 lb
  • German CaraMunich III – 1 lb
  • US Caramel 20°L
  • Galena hops – 1 oz
  • Campden tablets
  • Whirlfloc
  • OYL-113 yeast


  1. Heat 7 gallons to 152°F.
  2. Add grain bill and mash for 1 hour.
  3. Mashout.
  4. Collect 7.83 gallons of wort.
  5. Boil for 60 minutes.
  6. Add half of the Galena at 50 minutes left.
  7. Add the rest of the Galena and the Whirlfloc at 10 minutes left.
  8. Flameout and transfer to the fermentor. Add the Campden Tablets at this time.
  9. Cool and pitch yeast.
  10. Maintain 50° F during primary fermentation.
  11. After 1 week in primary transfer to secondary.
  12. Maintain near-freezing temperatures for 2 weeks to a month.
  13. Rack to keg or bottles. Enjoy!

Vienna SMASH Lager (All Grain)

This recipe comes from user llvtt on Brewer’s Friend.


  • German Vienna malt – 10 lb
  • German Tradition hops = 2 oz
  • WLP830


  1. Heat 5 gallons to 150°F.
  2. Add grain bill and mash for 1.5 hours.
  3. Mashout.
  4. Collect 7 gallons of wort.
  5. Boil for 90 minutes.
  6. At 60 minutes left, add half of the hops.
  7. Flameout and add the rest of the hops. Then transfer to the fermentor.
  8. Cool and pitch yeast.
  9. Maintain 50°F during fermentation.
  10. Transfer to secondary. Lager at near-freezing temps for at least 2 weeks.
  11. Rack to keg or bottles. Enjoy!

Vienna Lager (Extract)

This recipe comes from user seyahmit on Brewer’s Friend.


  • DME Pilsen – 0.5 lb
  • Briess Goldpils Vienna – 6.6 lb
  • US Blackprinz – 1 oz
  • Hallertauer Taurus hops – 1 oz
  • Saaz hops – 1 oz
  • Whirlfloc
  • WLP800


  1. Heat 5 gallons of water for your boil.
  2. Add the steeping grains when the water is around 140°F.
  3. Remove the grains when the water is around 170°F.
  4. When a boil is reached, add the malt extract.
  5. Boil for 20 minutes. Add the Domestic Hallertau right away.
  6. At 15 minutes left add the Hallertaurer Taurus.
  7. Flameout and add the Saaz. Then transfer to the fermentor.
  8. Cool and pitch yeast.
  9. Maintain 50°F during fermentation.
  10. After 2 weeks rack to secondary for 2-4 weeks.
  11. After secondary fermentation, rack to keg and force carbonate or bottle condition.

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