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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