Within the last decade, craft beer has seen the kind of attention by food lovers that’s typically reserved for wine. Reaching the pinnacle of this trend are two craft beers that received top score by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Ranked at the top is Wibby Brewing’s Volksbier Amber Vienna Lager.
“I was kind of confused when I first saw the email,” said Ryan Wibby, the brewery’s co-founder and brew master. “I didn’t think they gave out 100s. We had three beers that got rated. I saw the 100 and I assumed it was an ID number or the 100th year or something. Then I noticed our other two beers got a 92 and a 93 and I realized the number was Volksbier’s ranking. I never expected to get a 100 on anything. I never did that well in school, so I guess I found my calling making beer.”
Wibby is familiar with the other brewery that achieved the rare 100 points. Heater Allen from McMinnville, Oregon in the Willamette Valley, received a top score for their pilsner, which was inspired by the beloved Pilsner Urquell.
Like Wibby Brewing, Heater Allen focuses exclusively on lagers which take longer to brew and are more expensive to produce. Wibby got to know the competitor brewery when he spent time brewing for Deschutes, another well known, Oregon-based craft beer maker.
According to John Holl, the author of the American Craft Beer Cookbook and Wine Enthusiast’s Beer Editor, the magazine received more than 300 beers for the blind tasting and review. “Both (100 point beers) are rooted in tradition with tweaks that made them stand just a little bit taller than the others” he said in an overview article that accompanied the results.
In fact, the Volksbier Amber Vienna Lager does have a history. The lager won Wibby Brewing its first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2020. However, the history is deeper than that.
“We introduced Volksbier in 2016 and it was one of our first year-round offerings that we didn’t start off the brewery with,” Wibby said. ”The idea was to have something that was super approachable, with a little more flavor than our Helles or the lighter beers Vienna lagers, which are just generally loved. They’re super drinkable. I love them.”
This beer was made with Mt. Hood Hops from Oregon, consistent with how Wibby uses German malt and American hops in everything that goes into the brew kettle. When it's first poured, there’s a golden amber color and a rich, creamy head. While there’s a strong malt backbone, it's balanced by a bitterness that lightens things up and makes it more drinkable.
The result is one of Wibby’s most popular, recognized and requested offerings. Beer server Teryn Wiedemann has worked at Wibby for a few months and said it's been one of her favorites so far.“Customers regularly ask for Volksbier. It’s great for when they want a malty, amber beer,” Wiedemann said.
“We’re just really ecstatic for it,” Wibby said.