Vienna Beer at Zero Degrees

Graffiti outside Zero Degrees.

As part of our mission to visit every pub in Bristol* we popped into Zero Degrees on Saturday where, to our surprise, we encountered a beer of the year contender: a Vienna lager of astonishing perfection.

Something like fifteen years ago (wow) we used to swoon over Meantime’s Golden Beer, which was a kind of doppio malto affair, darker and heavier than a standard Pilsner but not sickly or sweet. It disappeared from Meantime’s roster more than a decade ago; thankfully, the Vienna Lager (5.3% ABV) at the Bristol branch of the Zero Degrees brewpub is a dead ringer.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Zero Degrees, a similarly lager-focused brewery founded at around the same time as Meantime in the same part of the world and targeting the same market, should sometimes produce beers that resemble Meantime’s. We haven’t dug into it but suspect some of the same staff have rotated in and out of those two breweries, too, over the years.

But, the Vienna… It was indeed golden — not quite amber, but definitely deeper than yellow — and balanced magically on the knife-sharp edge between all-about-hops and all-about-malt. It was advertised as dry-hopped but that didn’t translate into brashness. This is the kind of beer that stopped us shrugging about lager all those years ago — the kind of beer that makes us say, ‘Wow!’ without having any particular prominent feature to point at. (Further reading.) The wow factor is in the perfection of its structure, the precision with which each part does its job, the taming of weed and seed into perfume and biscuit when they can so easily end up all grass and mud. In the past we’ve had beers at Zero Degrees that lack life but this sparkled and glowed, and had a decent head, without being fizzy or like a bubble-bath.

An Oktoberfest beer also on offer was less successful (dense and dark, but sticky with sugar) and a sour cherry beer was almost brilliant except that the sourness had a faint suggestion of hangover sweat about it.

Overall, despite our ongoing problem with the chilly pizza restaurant vibe, we resolved to visit Zero Degrees again soon, and more often in general. Anywhere that is consistently brewing these Continental sub-styles, with only tasteful ‘twists’, deserves a bit of love.

We’re expecting this to take several years. We’re making the rules up as we go along, defining ‘pub’ as somewhere primarily defined by the availability of beer, and ‘Bristol’ as — gulp — the ONS definition. Visits made to pubs before we moved here in July don’t count; we both have to be present for a visit to register; but only one of us has to consume an alcoholic drink. We’re up to (checks) 72 so far.

6 thoughts on “Vienna Beer at Zero Degrees”

  1. For future reference, zero degrees is referred to by Bristolians as “Big O little o”.

  2. I am also trying to do all pubs in within Bristols tight city boundarys,travelling down from Nottingham,done over 220 in just under two years,you will have to drink plenty of John Smiths Smooth if doing all pubs.
    When i try and do all of a city i never start in the middle,but do main roads and areas of them to start with and do a couple close to the train station to end,i also try and mix in a few bars so i am not leaving all of those to the end.
    I know i am no beer expert like you two are,but i really like Bristol and have enjoyed all pubs crawls down down there.

    1. We’ve got a lot better at drinking whatever’s on offer if the pub is interesting. We’ve also decided we quite like Guinness these days which helps.

      Our approach so far (insofar as there is an approach, as such) is to do crawls which take in various types of pub so that it’s not just four or five similar ones in a row; or, alternatively, to pick off the odd outlier when we’re in the area doing other things (seeing family, shopping, whatever).

  3. You are both very lucky in living in Bristol,there are so many nice areas with loads of pubs and bars,Gloucester Road is great and the same goes for Whiteladies Road and Fishponds Road,the Grounded chain of bars have no real ale,but a good vibe to them,just as the Loungers chain and they both open early.
    All the best for doing all of Bristols pub stock.

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