David Sapsis's picture

Judge's Review: 95 Rating - pFriem Vienna Lager by pFriem Family Brewers

February, 2018
Judges Rating: 
23 / 24
6 / 6
37 / 40
10 / 10
Overall Impression: 
19 / 20

pFriem Vienna Lager by pFriem Family Brewers was judged as BJCP Category 7A - Vienna Lager.

The beer is served at 42F in a standard 200-ml kölsch straight-sided stange glass, poured vigorously to produce a nice head on top. The beer is solidly amber in color, around 8-9 SRM, and brilliantly clear;  the foam is off-white, and demonstrates a persistent stand. A steady population of outgassing columns indicates the beer is well conditioned. It's a very pretty beer, but how does it smell?

The aroma is dominated by a soft and elegant bready, lightly toasty malt note with some hints of both malt sweetness (almost cherry-like) and a subtle but distinct floral and spicy hop note with hints of heather and classic continental pepper/lavender angles reminiscent of Spalt. A light malt/sulfur note rounds out the aroma, which is squeaky clean, malt-forward yet also balanced. Absolutely spot-on. 

The flavor starts with a light bread-biscuit-toast note with countervailing notes of modest bitterness (~20 IBU estimated) and again that beautiful malt sweetness that reminds you of fresh sweet apple and dark cherries mixed with light toffee and nuts. This is not from ferment esters, but in my experience rather a product of light-kilned malt's maillard products and very cold ferments. The mid-palate flavors of malt and bitterness dance with pepper and dry-heather floral tones, eventually washing away into a long and soft finish that is quite dry, yet still malty with a residual hop character that offers a nice, dry balance. The mouthfeel is low to moderate and lacks any astringency. The gassy finish does add a slight carbonic acidity to the body and texture, and gives the dry finish a nice crispiness. 

Often, amber lagers tend toward a cloying sweetness and sometimes a pronounced cereal flavor with high levels of DMS. Not this beer. It is simple, elegant, and expertly balanced, highlighting classic ingredients of light kilned (Vienna, low color Munich) malts and wonderfully floral and spicy continental hops, all packaged up in a crisp and tight lager of modest strength that is both drinkable and complex enough to be savored. It is simply outstanding. Anton Dreher would be proud. In terms of food paring, its softness and subdued bitterness lend itself to a wide range of pairings. I'm trying it with some good New York Style Pizza, and it shines. Like I said, simply outstanding.