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  1. 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
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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...)
  7. 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.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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
  12. Agreed. Also, I've had it on draft now a couple times. The cans are actually quite a bit better oddly enough.
  13. I definitely got almonds in the Imperial Biscotti Break, though my wife didn't get that at all. Also, I thought the Imperial Doughnut Break was slightly sweeter than the Biscotti. ETA: I've tried both on tap, not in the bottle. Have a bottle of Imperial Biscotti Break at home to try, but haven't cracked it open yet.
  14. In general I'd include Gose with 'sours'. 'Sour' is a very wide range, especially if you include, as many do, brett-only fermented beers (i.e. no lacto, no pedo). But yeah, the primary characteristic of a Gose is its lactic acid (along with the salt or salt water that its brewed with), so I'd include it with the sours. Got lucky in an in-person trade a couple weeks ago with a guy from Charleston in that we were trading just a week or so after Mexican Cake came out, so I ended up with a couple bottles of Mexican Cake, couple bottles of Coast Boy King, and a six pack of Westbrook Gose. Was pretty happy about that overall
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