Monthly Archives: October 2013

Brewology 101: Ales vs. Lagers

Ready for your lesson?

Ready for your lesson?

One thing that a lot of people overlook when enjoying a nice brew is whether that beer is an Ale or a Lager. Do you know the difference? Is the difference something you can tell just by tasting? In this first Brewology article, of what I plan to become a series, I will examine the differences between ales and lagers and what it means for you. So grab a cold one, put your feet up, and enjoy the basics of Ales versus Lagers.

Ales versus Lagers

Here’s the most basic thing you need to know about the difference between ales and lagers:

Image from

Fermentation Temperature and Time

One of the differences between ales and lagers is the temperature at which fermentation takes place. Ales are fermented in the 60-72 F range while lagers are fermented in the 40-50 F range.

The yeast at higher temperatures for the ales will be “busier” than its cold temperature counterparts. For this reason ales do not require much time for the fermentation process. For most homebrewed ales the fermentation time is typically less than a month.

For the lagers, well, they like to takes things slow. If ales are the ones on the dance floor, the lagers are definitely the wallflowers. The lower fermentation temperature means that it takes longer for all the yeast to do its thing. Some lagers take a couple months to ferment. It also means that lagers will have milder, crisper flavor.

Yeast – Saccharomyces Whatsit?

Ales are made with top-fermenting yeasts. Lagers are made with bottom fermenting yeasts. So what?

One of the main differences here is that ale yeasts produce chemicals called esters. According to the awesome esters are volatile flavor compounds naturally created in fermentation and are often fruity, flowery or spicy. These are what add a lot to the character of the ales that cannot be found in the lagers. For lagers the contribution from the yeast is little more than digesting the sugar and turning it into alcohol. Lager yeasts don’t add much for flavor.

Additives – Thanks Reinheitsgebot

An old Bavarian purity law from the year 1516, known as Reinheitsgebot, required that only three ingredients be used in the brewing of beer: water, hops, and barley. Later on yeast was added as an acceptable ingredient. And since at the time only lagers were brewed in Bavaria, this law was applied to lagers.

What that means is that lagers could not be experimented with by adding other things like different types of malts.  So that role fell onto ales outside of Bavaria. Nearly all ales these days are brewed with extra, or adjunct, ingredients. I have brewed with honey as an extra ingredient, for example. The additives are a main reason that ales have so many more styles than lagers.


Alright, that was a very brief crash course in the differences between an ale and a lager. I still don’t know how to taste the difference, so I can’t speak on that. However, here is a handy graphic that shows whether a certain style is typically an ale or a lager:

Try and stay away from those American Lagers!


Monday Brews: 10-28-13

Happy Monday everyone! Well, Spiel at Essen is over and from what I’ve seen it looked pretty awesome. Some day I’ll make it over there. Some day. But since I didn’t attend I can’t provide you with an awesome recap about the convention. So it’s another typical Monday Brews article today.

However, I am adding a new section to the Monday Brews articles called The Designer’s Corner. This is a small area where I can discuss the design efforts I’ve made in the past week. Often there won’t be much in this section and I often work piecemeal on design. But it will at least give you a chance to see what I’ve been up to.

So without further adieu I present to you the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed last week…

The Barley:

Point Oktoberfest: Sadly this is likely my last Oktoberfest of the year. It’s been a good run as I had numerous varieties of Oktoberfests and even attended an Oktoberfest festival with three fellow game designers. Until next year, Oktoberfest!

Lake Louie Reserve Scotch Ale: I love Lake Louie’s Warped Speed scotch ale so I figured I’d try their reserve scotch ale that is only seasonally available. I wasn’t disappointed. This was stronger and more full of body than the Warped Speed and was highly enjoyable. Nicely done Lake Louie!

Homebrew Black Ale: I was also able to enjoy a fellow homebrewer’s Black Ale. It was delicious.

Tyranena Rocky’s Revenge: This is a bourbon barrel aged beer, but unlike last week’s episode with the Kentucky Ale, this one was actually enjoyable. The bourbon effect on this beer is pretty mild and doesn’t overwhelm the beer. The Rocky’s Revenge is a beer with a hint of bourbon, rather than the Kentucky which is more like bourbon with a hint of beer.

Newton’s Oatmeal Stout: This is my third homebrew and I was finally able to have one last night. And I was not disappointed. It had excellent character. It was mildly smooth and malty. It was not overly bitter. And coming in at 4.2% ABV I know I can enjoy a few without feeling the effects. I’m looking forward to more.

The Boards:

Settlers of Catan: I finally got to put my Catan Board to use. The verdict: it was nice. The reality: It’s not necessary. Sure, it keeps the board nicely in place. It lets you move the board if you need to. It helps prevent roads from being moved. But I wish I hadn’t spent $35 on it. Oh well. That’s partially due to the fact that I have an older version of the game and the ports in my version are still the hex tiles rather than the little chits that drop nicely into the Catan Board.

Keyflower: I was pretty excited to play Keyflower since it sounded like a game right up my alley. There is worker placement in the game, but it’s not used in the usual way. It’s more of a placement auction mechanic where players are placing workers as bids for buildings. Unfortunately we had a long gap in our play where we were having a discussion about awesome stuff. So when we got back to the game we had sort of lost track of where we were. I suppose that means I’ll just have to play it again 🙂

The Designer’s Corner:

I had a pretty good design week for two games: Quantum Orcas and Brooklyn Bridge.

QUANTUM ORCAS: On the QO front it was less about the game and more about the artwork and, potentially, how I might post it on The Game Crafter. I knew that the logo needed revising and so I sat down for a while and threw this together:

I might add a warp hole through which the orca is exiting.

I might add a warp hole through which the orca is exiting.

I’m pretty happy with that, especially compared to the previous version, which can be seen in my Twitter photo roll. The game is coming along. There just seems to be something missing. When I have the breakthrough it requires I’ll be sure to let you all know.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE: I decided to change my approach slightly, to great results. I was pondering creating a quad-fold board for the playtesting. That would have been pointless. Instead I utilized some blank jumbo cards that I got from The Game Crafter at Protospiel-Milwaukee and turned each card into one round in the game. Each card then shows all of the worker placement locations available during that round. I think this will make playtesting much more accessible and I’m excited to get it to the table. I want to add another resource to the game so that I can make some interesting interaction between the goods and then it’ll be hitting the table!

So those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed this past week, and the game design progress I made. What did you enjoy last week?

Brew Crafters on Kickstarter!

True Boards & Barley!

Every once in a while a really awesome game goes up on Kickstarter that I just have to talk about. This time it’s a game that aligns perfectly with what this website is all about – beer and board games!

Dice Hate Me Games is currently Kickstarting their newest game, Brew Crafters. This is a game design by Ben Rosset, whom you may know from the awesome game Mars Needs Mechanics. I had the privilege of meeting Ben at GenCon this past August and I can safely say he’s an awesome guy.

And if you are aware of previous Dice Hate Me games, then you know you can expect quality and fun in every box! (Compounded, VivaJava, etc.)

Let’s Brew some Beer!

In Brew Crafters you are a craft brewer looking to make it big. Unfortunately you’ve opened your craft brewery at the same time as the other players. You all are starting small with limited equipment. Through a worker placement mechanic you can send your workers to obtain ingredients, perform research, obtain better equipment, and do all the awesome things a brewer would do.

Over the course of the game you will be upgrading and expanding your facility. Here’s what a starting and fully upgraded facility looks like in Brew Crafters:

There is a great amount of competition in the game as brewers try to be the first to brew each different style of beer, or have the best tasting room to lure in customers, or upgrade to the finest facility.

If you like beer or board games or both, then you should consider backing Brew Crafters by Dice Hate Me Games!

My Essen Top Seven

Greetings gamers! As you are most likely aware, the world’s biggest board game festival is currently running in Essen, Germany. There are hundreds of newly released games that make their debut each year at Essen. While I have never attended Essen myself, this is the first year that I will be able to get a game directly from Essen. How? My close friend Jeremy will be attending on Saturday (and maybe Sunday). So I am going to have him pick up a game for me. The problem is I still cannot decide which game to get.

So here are my top 7 games debuting at Essen this year in no particular order:

Glass Road:

BGG Link:

# of Players: 1-4

Playtime: 75 minutes

Mechanics: Hand Management, Simultaneous Action Selection, Tile Placement

What looks cool: First, it’s by Uwe Rosenberg. Those games always seem good. Also, I love the look of the artwork. Finally, I think the tension of playing the same employee/worker card as someone else will make the game fun to play.

Coal Baron:

BGG Link:

# of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 70 minutes

Mechanics: Action Point Allowance System, Pick-up and Deliver, Set Collection, Tile Placement, Worker Placement

What looks cool: The artwork looks amazing and I’m a sucker for good art. The other thing that gets me is the combination of mechanics. The five mechanics listed could possibly be my five favorite mechanics.

Expedition: Northwest Passage:

BGG Link:

# of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 45 minutes

Mechanics: Action Point Allowance System, Tile Placement

What looks cool: Again, the artwork is drawing me in. I think this is a very clever game design in how the isomorphism of the tiles works. Also, it seems like a nice take on the tile placement mechanic where you need to work within the land/ice system that the tile combinations present.


BGG Link:

# of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 90 minutes

Mechanics: Not listed, but there is a rondel and ship building, which is usually enough for me (Shipyard, Navegador)

What looks cool: I think that the way ships are built and the way the rondel works seems nice and fresh. The artwork looks good. And this seems like a cool take on shipbuilding.

Russian Railroads:

BGG Link:

# of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 120 minutes

Mechanics: Worker Placement

What looks cool: A railroad game with great artwork? A railroad game with worker placement? Either of those would lure me in. Together they make this game one of my Essen Top 7. I know that another Madisonite will be having a copy of this so I may not choose this one, but it sure looks awesome!


BGG Link:

# of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 30 minutes

Mechanics: Area Control / Area Influence, Dice Rolling, Grid Movement, Modular Board, Variable Player Powers

What looks cool: Everything about this looks cool. The designer diary was awesome to read. The artwork looks exceptional! I love that there are variable player powers. I love that the core of the game seems to be a simple system on which the designer added a few layers of awesomeness. And I love the idea of balance between the ship characteristics. Plus, 30 minutes is a great play time for my game group.


BGG Link:

# of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 120 minutes

Mechanics: Area Movement, Dice Rolling, Worker Placement

What looks cool: As with all the other entries I love the artwork for this game. I don’t really know much about this particular game, but with that combination of mechanics I know that this game is interesting to me. The playtime is a little long, but it still looks cool.

Honorable Mention:

So this list is a little long, but there are just so many games debuting at Essen that I would love to own!

  • Cornish Smuggler – Which Jeremy pre-ordered
  • Caverna – But I don’t think I would get such a game to the table often enough.
  • Piwne Imperium – Not available for purchasing, but it looks totally awesome!
  • Canalis – A very nice looking tile placement game.
  • L’Aeropostale
  • Les Bâtisseurs – Moyen-Âge – Not available in English, but this game looks really sweet.
  • Dig Mars – I’m a big fan of Undermining and this looks similar.
  • Craftsmen
  • Francis Drake – This game is awesome. We got to demo it at GenCon and it was a ton of fun!
  • Bremerhaven
  • Lewis & Clark – I love the theme and I hope that the designers did the great journey correctly.
  • SOS Titanic – The way they sink the boat with the binder seems interesting.
  • Amerigo – Another Feld game? Of course I had to list it.
  • Canterbury – I was very close to backing this on KS, but didn’t. I wish I had!
  • New Haven – This game looks pretty good as well!


What games are you looking forward to? Isn’t Essen Spiel awesome?!?

Monday Brews: 10-21-13

Though over half of Monday is gone already, I’m finally able to post my Monday Brews article. I hope your Monday is going well. As per my usual approach I present to you the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this past week:

The Barley:


New Belgium Fat Tire: A classic, solid choice for a beer. Enjoyable.

Ale Asylum Madtown Nut Brown: I enjoyed this with my boss and several colleagues as we greeted a former student who has returned to town. On tap it’s a pretty decent brew.

Rathskellar Red: This beer is produced by the UW Union and was very enjoyable as well.

Abita Fall Fest: I’ve had better beers and I’ve come to realize I don’t care for any from Abita. But if you’re in the mood for some New Orleans style, then Abita is for you!

Tyranena Painted Ladies: I’m a sucker for pumpkin beers and this one did not disappoint. Unfortunately it appears the season for Oktoberfests and Pumpkin beers is waning despite Halloween still over a week away.

Left Hand Brewing Nitro Stout: This milk stout was more enjoyable than the MKE Brewing Polish Moon Milk Stout that I wrote about previously. This was was much less “Earthy” tasting, thankfully!

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale: I’ve decided that I do not care for strongly aged bourbon barrel beers. If I want bourbon I’ll just drink bourbon. This beer was overwhelmingly bourbon-y. I hate to say this, but I would have rather had a PBR.

North Coast Brother Thelonius: I enjoyed this while being a guest on the Building the Game Something from Nothing podcast that aired last night. It was a mighty fine brew in a delicious Belgian style that I will likely drink again!

The Boards:

Amazing artwork and awesome gameplay make Farm Aged Don a great game!

Amazing artwork and awesome gameplay make Farmageddon a great game!

Farmageddon: I broke this out at Board Game Night and it was thoroughly enjoyed for its cut-throatty awesomeness. We played a tight game that ended up being not so tight as the winner had 46 points and last place had 16. This was a very fun game and I highly recommend it!

Scoville: I got to play my game again! I taught two new players and they both enjoyed the game. Scoville will be up on Kickstarter to coincide with BGG.con in November! I don’t think I could be more excited! Here’s another exclamation point just because!

Long Shot: We played with 8 players and utilized a few house rules to speed things up. The result was that we played the game in 35 minutes! The house rules included being able to bet $10 at a time and rolling both dice twice on your turn so horses move faster. It’s such a fun game and these rules made it more enjoyable since it didn’t take an hour and a half.


So those are the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this past week, What did you enjoy?

Also, is there any interest in having a “Designer’s Corner” section in these articles where I discuss the designing work I’ve done each week??

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