Every so often I find a beer so delicious, it magically disappears. I open one and perhaps another, then amazingly they’re gone! Where did they go – I certainly didn’t drink them all myself!
Devils Backbone Vienna Lager is one such beer – two six packs have managed to vanish in as many weeks. I think my fridge may have been burglarized.
I have a soft spot for Vienna lager, as it sits nicely beside other Central European beers I enjoy – Czech pilsner, German lager, even lager variations such as schwartzbier and märzen. Vienna lager, amber or light red in color, is slightly sweeter and softer than its Bavarian or Bohemian brethren. Honestly, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite style of beer originating from Germany, Austria, or the Czech Republic.
Oddly enough, the number of U.S.-brewed Vienna style lagers seems to outnumber the actual number of lagers exported from Austria. Domestic microbrewers have capitalized on the American thirst for these lagers by producing their own versions. A quick search on Beer Advocate easily shows the few European imports among the vast American selections. (This list of course says nothing about what is actually available here in the states.)
This brings us to Devils Backbone, the Virginian microbrewer producing the beer I’ve struggled to keep stocked. The beer itself is lighter than ordinary ambers, but is nonetheless complex on the tongue, finishing clean and crisp – yet not so abruptly as to confuse it with a German lager. Vienna lager is also rounded and comforting, without the filling quality of a hefeweizen or the sharp snappiness of a pilsner.
The lager’s characteristics are reminiscent of Vienna itself: similar to its regional neighbors of Prague and Munich, yet approachable and navigable. Vienna is simultaneously Eastern and Western European (if such a distinction still exists). It is inviting and expansive, seated at the crossroads of western luxuries and eastern functionality. Both decadent and conservative.
My visit to Vienna was all too brief – a few days during a nearly month-long journey through Europe almost 10 years ago. Still, the lager brings fond memories of a few days spent casually walking the city, enjoying its cafes and cuisine, relaxing in palace gardens between meals and museums. To this day, it still ranks as one of my favorite cities.
How nice to be reminded of such a wonderful place by such a wonderful, easily available American microbrew. All I have to do is open the refrigerator – if there’s any left.