Mexican Viennas

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pootz
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Mexican Viennas

Postby pootz » Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:03 pm

From the strange bedfellows file: it has been a long running tradition for Mexican Breweries to be the world's largest brewers of Vienna style lager ( many of them market it [wrongly] as "Munich" dark beer). I'll be the first to admit my distain of the watery fizzy lime/lemmon slice Mexican pilsners but they have attempted to keep the Vienna style alive and in commercial circulation when most European brewers had abandoned the style.

Last night I had a surprise when I cracked a bottle of Negra Modelo Mexican Vienna...hard to avoid as the LCBO seems to be in full import mode (plenty around compared to the DFH60 buy).

Now, I like Viennas...my second favorite drink...I like traditionally profiled Viennas but I found Dos Equis lacking in the malt department and Cervesa Bohemia to be a tad too sweet and caramel accented...but this Negra Modelo ....well, it's an understaement to say its flavor is a surprise....it is probably one of the best examples of the Mexican Vienna style I have tasted....the profile is fairly exact...proper color, proper malting without cloying/caramel sweetness...proper use of hops that produce a crisp, drying finish to a medium bodied, creamy lager that starts with toasted malt accents and turns crisp by the finish.

I'm tempted to load up on this but the price seems a tad rich at $12.50 per six 325ml bottles of Mex sudz....still it is a great intro to the Vienna style for those who are not acquainted with this subtle-rich-balanced lager. If you see this Mexican on the shelf don't be afraid to try it. :wink:
Last edited by pootz on Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Josh Oakes » Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:33 pm

There is a certain vagueness to the very existence of the Vienna lager style. The first thing to remember is that Michael Jackson basically hypothesized this style, working backwards from some modern dark lagers, and making some of his biggest leaps when he attributes Austrian brewmaster migration to Mexico and a beer that was brewed in 1840 was soon eclipsed by pilsner and all having a clean lineage to the Mexican dark lagers today.

This is tenuous at best, and even if you took the concept lineage as truth, I think it is a vast stretch to suggest that products made with massive amounts of corn, ultra-short lagering times, a distinct lack of hops, industrial caramels and all the other hallmarks of industrial dark lager are anything like what Anton Dreher brewed in Vienna.

Vienna for all intents and purposes was reinvented in the past couple of decades by brewers working from Jackson's loose interpretations and these Mexican beers, the lame Negra Modelo included, have nothing to do with the Vienna style.
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Postby shintriad » Sun Jul 16, 2006 4:33 pm

I always thought there was something fishy about those Mexican Viennas. To me, Modelo was a drain pour, but perhaps I'll give it another shot someday.
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Postby SteelbackGuy » Sun Jul 16, 2006 11:31 pm

I just had the Negra Modelo, and found it offensive, stale/bland, watery, and rough in all categories other than appearance.
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Postby old faithful » Mon Jul 17, 2006 6:49 am

Jackson has admitted that even some modern brewers in Austria were skeptical that the Vienna marzen style ever existed since what they called marzen were ordinary blonde lagers and no beer in Austria (at least when Jackson started writing) met his stylistic criteria for a marzen beer (translucent amber). He made a connection beween Dos Equis and Austria from indeed the migration of Austrian brewers to Mexico in the 1800's/early1900's. At one time and probably still, German and Austrian brewers went around the world to utilise their expertise. The link to Austrian practice for Mexico was perhaps more specific. At one time, albeit briefly, Mexico was part of the Hapsburg Empire. It is not unreasonable to think, assuming Anton Dreher really made in circa-1840 a bronze beer which became a style in Vienna and environs, that they brought this with them. Jackson's work is historical/interpretative here. The fact that some Austrian brewers today don't think the style existed doesn't mean it didn't, just as the fact that Imperial Stout or Oyster Stout, which had disappeared or practically disappeared when Jackson first started writing, clearly existed at one time in U.K. brewing. Jackson's historical research brought them to light and helped resuscitate them.

The story Jackson gave about marzenbier was that Sedlmayr at Spatenbrau in Munich was inspired by Dreher's original bottom-fermented beer to make something similar. It caught on, he said, in Bavaria even though a marzenbier was originally a seasonal beer, made before refrigeration and methodical lagering - pioneered by Dreher and Sedlmayr - reduced the need to rely on seasonal productions. Jackson wrote that Sedlmayr intended to highlight and praise the new style by applying it to the very kind of beer it was designed to render unnecessary. This is somewhat unusual to be sure but the story seems so particular as to be true and I assume it is based on historical knowledge he or his researchers had. So he was aware (in his early books) that the style did not exist anymore in Austria or hardly so (one or two "spezials" seemed vaguely to recall a marzenbier). His focused more on the migration of the style to Germany, and when he first saw the Dos Equis beer and knowing something of the history of brewing in Latin America (which indeed has Germanic roots), he figured that too is a modern survival. Maybe one day someone will research this in greater detail and Jackson's views, both as regards Vienna beer from Dreher and the so-called Mexican Viennas, can be confirmed, or not. Personally I think there is something to the story. Jackson generally has been a good beer historian even though his main focus is consumer writing. Also, when you look carefully at his first book (World Guide To Beer), it was a kind of collaboration. Jackson wrote the book but relied on the assistance of numerous people resident in the countries mentioned. Various people from Germany and Austria are mentioned and I don't think Jackson is a German speaker or reader, so probably he relied on their technical and historical knowledge (which doesn't make his theories right but lends some credence I think).

Anyway as regards the Dos Equis and Negra Modelo, I haven't tried them yet. I think having been made in the new world for a long time and by a large company, they have to be judged on their own merits, i.e., regardless whether it is intended they reflect any particular style. I saw them at LCBO on the weekend and they appear to be fresh stock (the Modelo seems to have been brewed 8 weeks ago if I read correctly the date lightly printed on the glass near the neck). I had these 20 years ago and enjoyed them at the time. I imagine at their best they are pretty good but I think they are unlikely to resemble a craft beer.

Gary
Last edited by old faithful on Mon Jul 17, 2006 8:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby pootz » Mon Jul 17, 2006 8:48 am

Josh Oakes wrote:There is a certain vagueness to the very existence of the Vienna lager style. The first thing to remember is that Michael Jackson basically hypothesized this style, working backwards from some modern dark lagers, and making some of his biggest leaps when he attributes Austrian brewmaster migration to Mexico and a beer that was brewed in 1840 was soon eclipsed by pilsner and all having a clean lineage to the Mexican dark lagers today.

This is tenuous at best, and even if you took the concept lineage as truth, I think it is a vast stretch to suggest that products made with massive amounts of corn, ultra-short lagering times, a distinct lack of hops, industrial caramels and all the other hallmarks of industrial dark lager are anything like what Anton Dreher brewed in Vienna.

Vienna for all intents and purposes was reinvented in the past couple of decades by brewers working from Jackson's loose interpretations and these Mexican beers, the lame Negra Modelo included, have nothing to do with the Vienna style.


Josh: the key to Anton Dreher's creation was the secret of slow malting the local low sugar barley then toasting it to give color (red) and rich taste without caramelizing it...I concede that this malting secret for Vienna lager's main ingedient may be lost in the mists of time... and I'll further concede that the exact replicator fomula and yeasts for Dreher;s creation no longer exists making all Vienna styled lagers today "approximations".....these days all sorts of beer marketing wonks confuse Munich fest lagers and light Munich dunkels even golden lagers with a Vienna.......Perhaps for semantics it was rash to say "true Vienna" when referring to the offerings produced in Mexico today because of that. :oops:

I guess my point was that this Negra Modeleo Mex was a surprise for me....because unexpectedly it fits the BJCP tasting guidelines for the style and seems devoid of detectable corn dextrins or caramel in nose and flavor profile....either from malt extract or flavor adjunct. Now, I suppose this can be achieved by selective blending of specialty high grade malt extracts, but that can be more expensive than just using a proper red malt grist... so, unless you have direct knowledge otherwise, I gotta trust my taste and I come away with no corn or caramel in the flavor.....that's a great feat for a mass produced Mex dark... and for the record It stood up pretty well against the Bushwakker Vienna I had at hand in my beer fridge.

Is it in a class with Nils Oscar or Brooklyn or Great lakes Vienna…no, not by a long shot.
What I got on first tasting was a mass produced beer (probably all malt from grist, dry extract and liquid extract or a combination) that fit the BJCP profile for a Vienna and came off surprisingly decent considering the source.

So for me, I got no sensory hint of adjunct in it...Not even as it warmed (it tastes decent enough at warmer temp despite the fact it probably hasn't seen a 2 month lagering cycle)...Dos Equis..yep..lotsa caramelized malt extract tastes....Bohemia yep...caramel in the flavor and nose...Negra Modelo?..nope...I got malts without caramel sweetness good balance and a crisp drying finish...as per BJCP guidelines...re-try some this week then tell me I'm nutz. :wink:
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Postby old faithful » Mon Jul 17, 2006 9:37 am

Something of interest perhaps: on the Grupo Modelo website (www.gmodelo.com) it claims the Negra Modelo is a dunkel-style beer. Its colour does seem darker than a typical Vienna. I haven't tasted it in a while so I can't say based on taste.

Also, the site says the beer was first introduced in the 1920's as a draft product.

Gary
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Postby pootz » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:30 am

I saw that on their site Gary...thanks for posting it...as I said marketing guys confuse viennas with dunkles all the time....have a look at the beer...it is too light for a dunkel and has red highligts....copper-red. It also does not have the sweeter dunkel falvor profile....I have seen Negra Modelo tagged as an American Dark//perhaps it fits this slot in many respects ,,,except color...it's to light.
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Postby old faithful » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:58 am

Oh absolutely I agree. With the passing of time too each generation of brewers view the house's beers a certain way and maybe not always correctly. Not all brewers were beer style-conscious in the past. Also, the use of terms such as dunkel on big brewery websites is relatively new.

I'll try it soon and give my impressions.

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Postby downtown drinker » Tue Aug 01, 2006 11:33 am

Tried the Negra Modelo for the first time last night and can't disagree more about its Vienna-ness. The nose smells to me like adjunct and the body tastes of added caramel, which is probably what it is, considering where the beer comes from. Not much redeemable about this one, I think.
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Postby old faithful » Tue Aug 01, 2006 1:10 pm

I had this in California recently, it wasn't bad but not as rich as I recalled.

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Postby El Pinguino » Tue Aug 01, 2006 10:14 pm

Out of curiosity (and lack of anything else new and interesting on the beer front at the LCBO I visited), I grabbed two of these.

I found them passable and drinkable. I'm no expect on the Vienna style at all. But a generic opinion on the beer is that its better than most beers I've had and if you do say it's from Mexico, then I'd drink it over other Mexican options I'm aware of.
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Postby pootz » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:34 am

old faithful wrote: The story Jackson gave about marzenbier was that Sedlmayr at Spatenbrau in Munich was inspired by Dreher's original bottom-fermented beer to make something similar. It caught on, he said, in Bavaria even though a marzenbier was originally a seasonal beer, made before refrigeration and methodical lagering - pioneered by Dreher and Sedlmayr - reduced the need to rely on seasonal productions.


This is the story I get as reoccuring in the reading I have done.

To capsulize: Sedlmayr and Dreher were contemporaries, collaborators and pioneers in the brewing art....essentially, they created lager beers whose popularity with drinkers swept away older top fermented styles virtually over night in mainland Europe and the Americas. Sedlmayr is credited with the perfection of commercial cold lagering and cooler temp, bottom fermenting lager yeasts and Dreher ( who was also a master malter) invented a malt style from low sugar Moravian barley that produced reddish melonins, adequate sugar conversion, little carmelization and rich toasty flavors....this resulted in a cold lagered Vienna beer of copper-red color that florished in Austria in the mid to late 19th century.

Sedlmayr , now located in Munich, tried to duplicate Dreher's copper-red Vienna lager with a version of toasted more sugary munich malt, and although he reproduced the rich soft mouth of Dreher's Vienna, he could not reproduce the color, subtle complexity or the non cloying crisp finish....largely due to the fact he did not have access to the unique Vienna specialty malt Dreher was making.

History and fate were kind to Sedlmayr as his efforts spawned one of Munich's largest and successful brewing empires (Spaten) and his lager creation to honor his friend Dreher's Vienna, became widely known as the rich orange-gold Oktoberfest marzen. Sedlmayr encouraged other brewers to copy his marzen style which made the style popular and in wide distribution. Dreher was secretive about his brewing and malting expertise and after his death little specific knowledge of creating his Vienna lager survives today... with the exception of the approximations that modern brewers concoct based on what little historic record exists....the one thing we do seem to have historic record of is how Vienna tasted and looked and how it differed from Sedlmayr's Munich Marzens and it was from these records that Jackson and others such as the people who put the beer judging style guidelines together have recorded a flavor profile for Vienna lager:

http://www.bjcp.org/styles04/Category3.html#style3A


Anyway as regards the Dos Equis and Negra Modelo, I haven't tried them yet. I think having been made in the new world for a long time and by a large company, they have to be judged on their own merits, i.e., regardless whether it is intended they reflect any particular style.

I had these 20 years ago and enjoyed them at the time. I imagine at their best they are pretty good but I think they are unlikely to resemble a craft beer.

Gary


Proper way to come at this tasting Gary. My point in this thread seems to be misunderstood and that IS:

This is high volume Mexican macro beer. Most Mex dark macros are disappointing for one reason or another..adjucts mostly.....and I am not saying that this Negro Modelo is some wonder Vienna. What I wanted to get across was that this Modelo has (unexpectedly) a flavor profile that actually approximates the Vienna lager as per the BJCP guidelines. Malty front without cloying some toasted complex and crisp finish. Yet it is advertised as a Munich style dark??? On the lager scale I would not rate it great, or good but fair to passable....and if it has one drawback it is not the overt appearance of adjuncts in flavor or nose but a uncharacteristic "sharpness" from lack of proper cold lagering. I suspect that leaving beer to condition for 30 days or more in refrigerated tanks is a costly thing for a high colume commercial brewer in a hot country.

I also note that this is one of the oldest beers continuously brewed by Modelo and it is categorized as "super premium" suggessting an all malt beer...but who knows...they call it a Munich dark as well :-?


Just as a side note of related interest: Dreher was widely celebrated in his time (1840-1860s) for his lager creation...he was known as "the king of beers" and his brewery was in Michalovce or (Michelob) Bohemia...... have you ever heard these terms used in moder beer marketing?? :wink: add this to the previous A-B rip off of Bohemia's oldest brewer Budějovický Budvar ( Budweiser) and you can see there was a concerted effort in the early marketing thrust of AB to identify themselves with the origins of lager beer.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budweiser_Budvar
Last edited by pootz on Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby frosken » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:44 am

[quote=pootz]Just as a side note of related interest: Dreher was widely celebrated in his time (1840-18 for his lager creation...he was known as "the king of beers" and his brewery was in Michalovce or (Michelob) Bohemia...... have you ever heard these terms used in moder beer marketing?? add this to the previous A-B rip off of Bohemia's oldest brewer Budějovický Budvar ( Budweiser) and you can see there was a concerted effort in the early marketing thrust of AB to identify themselves with the origins of lager beer.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budweiser_Budvar[/quote]

What's more interesting is the Samson label...they're using the same 'font' as A-B's Bud
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Postby pootz » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:22 am

At least Samson's plagiarism adorns a decent all malt beer :lol:
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