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  1. Cocktails These are going to almost all be in Miami Beach based on one ridiculous evening of drinking that got a bit out of hand. Keep in mind that cocktails in Miami beach will be $15+ so can get expensive quickly. On the other hand, there's some truly good cocktail places out there. Miami Beach Repour - Probably the cheapest drinks (don't lower your expectations too far, its still Miami Beach) and probably my favorite of the evening. Very laid back vibe next to the lobby of the Albion Hotel. Regent Cocktail Club - The smallest cocktail list of the places we visited (though still with a full bar), but well made drinks. There was also live music that was quite good and was nice to sit and relax and listen to some music with a couple cocktails. Sweet Liberty - Dimly lit, we sat at the far end of the bar and the bartender helped us immediately. Good cocktails, imaginative, and made well. Brickell Blackbird Ordinary - Solid place for a solid cocktail. Not sure what it's like on the weekends as some of the pictures definitely look different than what it was like during the week (very laid back) Things to Do I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Wynwood Walls. Most of Wynwood is adorned with graffiti that is amazingly interesting to walk around and look at. And then there's the art exhibit called Wynwood Walls. Absolutely amazing. Graffiti artistry at its highest in a curated exhibit. Entrance is free. You could easily spend a couple hours here if you were so inclined. I think we spent a bit over an hour and it's one of my favorite parts of the city.
  2. Similar as above, these are roughly in order of my preference within their group. I've starred those that I'd seek out. Restaurants Wynwood * Kush - Great burgers, great beer list. If you're out drinking in Wynwood, this is a great place to end (or start) the evening. * Coyo Taco - Great taco place right near J Wakefield. Everything I've had here has been great. Has Nopales (grilled cactus) and Hongos (with huitlacoche as well) tacos, which I haven't seen a ton of places. They also have a ton of other options like Al Pastor, Carne Asada, Cochinita Pibil, etc. Beaker & Gray - Shared plate concept with really good cocktails. Really enjoyed the food here. The cheeseburger croquettes were quite good, really everything we had was but those are what I remember the best. Enriqueta's - Not really Wynwood (its between Wynwood and the bay), but close enough. Cuban diner that we had to wait to get a table for. Simple, homestyle Cuban food. Really enjoyed this place. Only open for breakfast and lunch. BND Burger - The burger was quite good (not as good as Kush's). There's a bouncer to get by, which isn't awesome. But its also connected to a club (separate entrance) which can be either good or bad based on your preference Little Havana * Old's Havana - Great option for Cuban. Ropa Vieja was the best I've had, and the black beans were great as well. * Azucar - Great place for ice cream with cuban-inspired flavors (and some non-cuban inspired flavors as well). Across the street from Old's. El Pub - Mostly a sandwich place, they make a perfectly serviceable cubano and its derivatives (medianoche, croquetta preperada, especial, etc). Its a block away from Old's, so unless you want a sandwich, go to Old's (which might also have better sandwiches, but I haven't had a sandwich at Old's) Miami Beach ** Stubborn Seed - Best restaurant I've been to in Miami. By a pretty long way. We had the 8 course tasting menu as well as the wine pairing and cocktails. My wife wasn't inspired by anything on the cocktail menu so asked for the bartender to come up with something gin-based and he did a great job. We were able to get a reservation day of, but I'm not sure that's normal and this was during the week not the weekend. I don't remember a ton of what was on the menu, but I remember every single course being very good and also not being hungry after dinner. It's certainly not cheap, but the skill and quality is absolutely showcased. * OLA - Latin place in north South Beach (some might even call in Mid Beach). If you go here, make sure you're going to the right place (in the Gates Hotel) as its moved somewhat recently and something list its old address. The Fire & Ice ceviche really showed off the Cobia, which was nice as it wasn't a fish I'm overly familiar with. I don't remember exactly what we had for entrees (pretty sure at least one was a special), but remember thinking they were quite good. For dessert we had the Chocolate Cigar (which they're known for), which was cute while still being tasty. Seating out back is outside and right on the river/canal. Azabu - In the Stanton. Yes, a hotel restaurant. Though, its a Miami Beach outpost of a NY Michelin star restaurant. I tried the fish collar (a new experience for me), maki, and robata. All very good. Pubbelly - Sushi with a solid sake and beer list. There's another one in Brickell City Center. Had a roll or two (including the butter krab roll) and some robata. I bit expensive for what it is... But its Miami Beach. La Sandwicherie - A walk-up counter sandwich place that's open until 4am. Had to check it out myself. Very good sandwiches (I had the Italian) and milkshakes. There's another one in Brickell. Lobster Shack - Casual place for lobster rolls. If you're in the area, its a solid option. Wouldn't go out of my way for it. Brickell * La Centrale - This is really three (or more?) restaurants in City Center. The bottom floor is Mercato, the second floor is Osteria (I think, can't remember), and the top floor is Enoteca. The first floor is further split into a Cafe and a Pizza & Pasta place while the second floor is further split into Stagniole, Pesce, and Carne, with a gelateria (Venchi) right outside. Enoteca is 1 restaurant, a wine bar. So there's somewhere between 3 and 7 restaurants, plus 3 bars. I've barely scratched the surface here having only eaten here once. The Papperdelle in the Pizza & Pasta area was quite good with a Tuscan sausage (the sausage itself in the sauce was a bit overcooked). Tacology - Top floor of City Center. Really solid tacos and options for mezcal/tequila. The line can be kind of a problem, but as a singleton I had no problem being seated immediately. Boulud Sud Miami - Went here for a happy hours picked up by work. Everything was very good, but I wasn't picking up the bill, so that might have tempered my opinion. * B Bistro & Bakery - We went here right after getting off a cruise and actually got here before the bistro was open (but the bakery was open). We started with a couple bakery items and a coffee and then ordered a couple brunch items. Can't remember what exactly they were (and the menu online isn't jogging my memory), but they weren't the 'typical' brunch items and showed some imagination and were quite good. Unfortunately the service here got nonexistent at the end of the meal and it took a solid 30 minutes to get the bill after we were done. I'm hoping that was just a waiter have an off day as opposed to a systemic issue. Graziano's - Argentinian steak restaurant. Definitely good. I went with work people after a happy hour... so don't remember a ton about it other than the steaks were cooked well and of good quality. * Crazy About You - The food is perfectly fine (even quite good). But the reason you go here is because its one of the few restaurants directly on the bay. The views are pretty awesome Truluck's - Steak and seafood. Its good, but it didn't strike me as 'Miami', whatever that means. Perfectly good option for an upscale place for those that live in Miami, wouldn't be my choice if I were visiting. Various La Carreta - Local chain of cuban food. Exactly what you'd think it is. Maybe not as good as some places, but I've quite enjoyed every time I've been and have tried a the chicken chicharrones, ropa vieja, meatloaf, and croquettes. Solid option. Other options (solid options, but not as good as those above, but still worth looking at potentially) Alter (Wynwood) - Only in the 'Other' section as I haven't personally been there. Heard really good things though! Melinda's (Wynwood) - Another place I haven't been but really want to. Have heard awesome reviews of the mezcal selection. They aren't open Mon-Wed though which are the nights I'm in town... Butcher Shop (Wynwood) SuViche (various) CVI.CHE 105 (various) American Social (Brickell) - Fine, just kinda not special
  3. I've been travelling to Miami for the last couple months, so figured I'd at least stop by and give some recommendations. All are listed in general order of 'goodness' within their group. Breweries Wynwood J Wakefield - The grand daddy of breweries in the area. The owner is renowed for being a bit of an ass, but I don't think I've ever seen him there and the bartenders are generally very nice. Pretty easily the best brewery in Miami proper. They'll have flights of most of their beers (they'll usually have a stout or two that are 10oz pours only, no flights). The inside is Star Wars themed and on Wednesday nights (when I tend to be there) they alternate between boardgame nights and arcade fighter nights. They'll almost always have a mix of sours, stouts, IPAs, and a mix of other styles. Concrete Beach - Fine alternative to J Wakefield if you want to go somewhere else but don't want to hit up an ABInBev brewery. They have a fairly wide range of beers, but don't remember seeing anyhing particularly dark on my visit. Doral M.I.A. - A pretty varied beer list, with multiple sour, IPA, stout, brown, and pale options with other styles as well. Solid all around brewery, definitely worth hitting up if you're in the Doral area. The food is really solid as well. Tripping Animals - Another brewery that's worth hitting if you're around Doral. Focuses mostly on Berliner Weisse (a light sour, typically fruity) and IPAs. Ft Lauderdale 3 Sons - On part with J Wakefield. Focuses mainly on IPAs, stouts, and sours. Puts out some really awesome beer (particularly if those are styles you prefer). Also has great pizza. Invasive Species - Wide range of beers including a couple lagers on my visit (including a Japanese rice lager) and a saison (a style not all that common in South Florida for some reason). Funky Buddha - They produce a number of 'off-the-wall' beers, like a maple bacon porter and a french toast stout. They also are distributed probably the most of anyone in Miami/Ft Lauderdale. Solid food options available as well. Other breweries Maybe visit these if you're looking for something to do and happen to be standing right next door? Wynwood (in Wynwood) Veza Sur (Wynwood) The Tank (Doral) Biscayne Bay (Doral) Beer Stores Boxelder - Great draft list in Wynwood that offers a number of hard-to-find beers typically and is well curated. Union - Another place with a great draft list in Little Havanna.
  4. Notwithstanding some of the brilliant alcohol laws around the country (in Texas, until 2012, anything over 4% had to be called an ale or a malt liquor. Regardless of whether or not it was actually a lager), a lager is a beer made utilizing the lagering process. The lagering process is where the beer is reduced to cold temperatures, typically around 36-42F, and left to condition for a period of time, typically a couple weeks to a couple months. This is while still in contact with the yeast and is after primary fermentation. This allows the yeast to basically go dormant, floculate out, and results in a very clear beer without the need for mechanical filtering processes. This is typically done with bottom-fermenting yeast with primary fermentation on the cooler side (50-55F or ). With a lager you typically have a fermentation schedule that has primary fermentation start at 50-55F for a couple weeks, work its way up to 65-70F over the course of another week or two, and then have the temperature dropped down to 36-42F for a period of weeks or months. This last step is the lagering process. This is basically what happened naturally in the lager-producing areas as it'd get brewed when it was 50ish degrees outside, the fermentation itself would generate heat causing it to go up to 65ish, and then the beer would get stored in cellars until it was needed to be consumed. All of that is what's 'typical' of a lager. The only actual requirement is the lagering process, that storage for a period of time at 36-42F. On the other hand, ale is defined as being warm fermented, where warm is defined at 60-75F. This is typically top-fermented but doesn't technically have to be. But bottom-fermented yeast at higher temperatures tends to have serious issues with off flavors. 'Steam' beer (i.e. California Common) does this, but on the lower end of the ale scale at closer to 60F, and it historically has a vary odd fermentation process to start with. So lagers are beers that are cold conditioned and ales are beers that are warm fermented. What about beers that are both? Or neither? There aren't a ton of them, which is why most people just stick with lager = bottom fermented, i.e. lager yeast, and ale = top fermented, i.e. ale yeast). Since there aren't that many people don't really bother with defining them all that much. The only three I can really think of are: Altbier and Kolsch - German beers made with top fermenting yeast that is then lagered. The German, in their style, call these top-fermented lagerbeers. You can get into a long conversation amongst beer nerds about whether these are ales or lagers. I'd personally call them lagers. California Common - Anchor originally brewed this beer in a facility that didn't really have a place to ferment, so they pumped them into vats on the roof of their brewery. As the beer cooled off, it put off quiet a bit of steam (where the Anchor Steam name comes from). This was fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast but at ambient temperatures. Because of the climate in San Francisco, this was typically somewhere at the bottom end of the typical ale temperature range, around 60F. Since this doesn't go through a lagering process, this should be (and typically is) considered an ale. Baltic Porter - Traditionally these are lagers. Bottom-fermented yeast, cold fermented, cold conditioned. No questions. However, some Baltic Porters are made with top-fermenting ale yeast, fermented at the bottom of the ale range, and then cold conditioned. These should still be considered lagers, but most people would assume they're ales since 'porters' are ales. tl;dr: By definition, lagers are cold conditioned and ales are warm fermented. There's some stuff that falls into both categories or neither category that is interesting to talk about. All you probably ever wanted to know about ales vs lagers
  5. There are two breweries in North Carolina that spring to mind. Green Man has been brewing English styles in Asheville for 21 years. They've played around with other styles (they actually had some really quality sours before their sour brewer left to start his own brewery in Weaverville, Zebulon), they focus primarily on English styles. Their porter is an English porter, most of their IPAs are English IPAs, and the ESB is... well, its English as well. Green Man built a new location (next to their original location) a couple years ago. Olde Mecklenburg in Charlotte brews German beer, and only German beer. Every beer they brew meets the German purity laws, the Reinheitsgebot, and are traditional German styles. Olde Meck is in the process of building out a new $10M brewery. Both breweries are decent-sized regional breweries. Olde Meck self-distributes as they strongly feel that they want to control the distribution process. I believe they only deliver in refrigerated vehicles, which they can't guarantee that a distributor would do. They've said that they would grow more, but the NC cap on self-distribution is 22,000 barrels, and they're getting close to that. Kind of. Though 'lager' has always referenced the lagering process, which is the cold storage of beer over weeks or months, mainly during fermentation, to allow it to smooth out. It just so happens that lagers typically use a bottom fermenting yeast. However, there are a number of traditional styles that bend those definitions. California common (i.e. Anchor Steam since Anchor didn't want to lose the name of their beer) uses lager yeast but ferments closer to ale temperatures. Kolsch is top-fermented with ale yeast (at typical ale temps), and then lagered to clear it up. Whereas Baltic Porters can be either lagers or ales, but either way are fermented closer to lager temps (around 50-55F).
  6. Agreed about Juniper and Ivy. Great food. My only concern was the pacing. Took us about 2.5 hours for a two-top, which is much longer than I was expecting. The Tuna Wellington was truly interesting, though I'm not sure spinach makes an adequate replacement for duxelles. Maybe it does for Tuna though as opposed to beef.
  7. Was in Chicago recently for the evening. A new standout for mew was Cruz Blanca, a newish Rick Bayless place with great tacos (shocker), and I really enjoyed the tlayudas, basically a large taco pizza(?). They also have a brewery in-house that put out some really good beer; I had the Freetown and Barleybomba, a Double IPA and a Barleywine.
  8. No idea if this will help you at this point or not... but airlines (who I assume you called rather than the airport) typically have a 'flat-tire rule' that isn't published that as long as you show up within 4 hours they'll get you on a flight at no charge, if there's a seat. Hell, I showed up 11 hours late (for a 5:15am flight that I booked instead of the 5:15pm flight, odd that they had flights with the same minute/hour but with different am/pm) and managed to get on the flight (though I likely fly more than you do so they were trying to make me happy).
  9. I hope they make it out the other side in one piece (or a close facsimile thereof). While they didn't have the best beer in the world the couple times I've been, it's been solid beer, brewed well to style, and with good food to boot. And every time I've been there its been busy (at different times of day, days of week, and times of year...)
  10. For beer, I can not stress strongly enough the qualities of in de Wildeman and Cafe Gollem (particularly the Proeflokaal on Overtoom). in De Wildeman has a solid draft beer list to start with, and then they have a beer menu... and then they have a black book that you have to ask for (possibly a time or two to show you really do want the thing) with aged Gueuze and all kinds of other goodies. Not particularly cheap (at least once you get to the reserve book), but its beer you'll never find in the US unless its been sitting in someone's cellar. Cafe Gollem Proeflokaal (haven't been to the other two Cafe Gollem's so they may be similar) also has a solid drat list and probably a wider selection in their menu than in de Wildeman, though without the reserve book (at least that I saw). Amsterdam isn't Brussels, but if you like Gueuze or Trappists (or even interested in the local breweries like t'IJ or Molen) you'll be able to drink your fill. Just like the US you'll need to do a little bit of searching to find the right place, but both in de Wildeman and Cafe Gollem's three locations are right near everything. Both times I've gone I've stayed in Marriott's (the value of playing the field and having status/points in almost every major program ) so can't offer much by way of suggestions for SPG/Hilton hotels.
  11. I don't think its higher acidity (though it'd be worth trying an experiment and drinking a sour beer to see if you get the same effect). Sour beers come in around pH 3.1-3.2, other ales 3.7-4.2 and lagers 4.1-4.3 or so. I'd be surprised though if lite lager is more than a couple hundredths of difference, or maybe even a tenth, from their non-lite counterpart and regardless pretty much all ale would be more acidic. The process of making lite beer is a bit more complicated than just watering down a beer. Basically you brew a beer, then convert all of its carbs (i.e. the thing that actually gives the beer flavor) into simpler sugars that yeast can convert to alcohol, and then since the beer you just produced is actually higher in alcohol than the original beer (since now ALL of the carbs are getting converted to alcohol), you water that beer down to where its lower ABV than the original beer. You've managed to lower the ABV and cut out a lot of the carbs that were in the beer. That carb splitting is down by an enzyme, either alpha amylase or amyloglucosidase (yes, I had to look up how to spell that). Alpha amylase is the enzyme in our saliva that breaks down comlex sugars into simple sugars. Its entirely possible that there is some enzyme left over in the beer and somehow that gives you heartburn? The odd thing is that the only linkage I could find to heartburn and alpha amylase was that amylase should actually help heartburn, not cause it. But everyone's body chemistry is slightly different, so who knows?
  12. Everything about the beer scene in Asheville (which is truly stunning [and has an "e" in it, which I didn't realize!]) can be traced directly back to Highland as they were the standard bearer for beer in Western NC and got other's thinking "hey, maybe we could do this craft beer thing in Asheville". Oscar (the dad) and Leah (the daughter) Wong are nice people, which certainly helps. That being said, they were never really created to be the trendy, try-something-new-every week kind of brewery that craft beer has mostly become. Everything they put out though is solid, and Gaelic Ale is no exception.
  13. So, had Oracle last night. I'd had it before a couple years ago and liked it. Last night... I thought it was pretty horrible. Huge alcohol tasty and just not a lot that redeemed it. I've heard similar things from others this year. Anyone else? This was draft, which might make a deference.
  14. I'd agree that most of the sampler just wasn't that great. Awesome breweries included, but the styles they were brewing were either styles tough to differentiate yourself in, or styles that brewery doesn't typically brew. Russian River - Belgian Golden, Cigar City - Helles Bock, New Glarus - English Bitter. I mean, really? The Ninkasa has been by far the standout for me (I think I only have one of the sampler left, can't remember which one). Some of the others were fine for their style, and a couple were just... meh. I give Sierra Nevada props for putting it together as brewing and packaging 12 collaborations into one sampler I'm sure was a complete logistical nightmare. I'm just not sure it was a great idea
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