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Autumn Beer Style Guide

Some pumpkins (ales) are greater than others!

It is starting to get colder outside. The leaves will soon start to change colors. And a brisk breeze will be bringing in snow before we know it. Autumn is nearly upon us so I thought I would share with you some of the best beer styles to enjoy during this too-short season.

When I think of Autumn there are two main beer styles that come to mind: Oktoberfest and Pumpkin. But I’ll also mention a few others and why I think they make for good Autumn beer styles. But let’s start with the blue and white checkered beer of German awesomeness:

Oktoberfest:

A local Oktoberfest that’s awesome!

Description from BeerAdvocate.com (for Marzen/Oktoberfest):

Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.

The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies’n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.

My Favorite Oktoberfest: New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest

Other Enjoyable Oktoberfests:

  • Hofbrau
  • Spaten
  • Hacker-Pschorr
  • Samuel Adams

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Pumpkin:

Description from BeerAdvocate.com:

Often released as a fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ales are quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them in the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices, like: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild, with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, with some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. In our opinion, best versions use real pumpkin, while roasting the pumpkin can also add tremendous depth of character for even better results, though both methods are time-consuming and tend to drive brewmasters insane.

My Favorite Pumpkin-ish: Milwaukee Brewing Sasquash (Brewed with pumpkins and sweet potatoes)

Other Enjoyable Pumpkin brews:

  • Southern Tier Pumking
  • Southern Tier Warlock
  • New Belgium Pumpkick

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Bock / Doppel Bock:

Description (of doppelbocks) from BeerAdvocate.com:

Bocks–you know, those beers with goats on the label–are relatively strong German lagers. Doppelbocks–as the name might suggest–are typically even stronger and contain enough malty goodness that they’ve been considered a meal in a glass for centuries. Generally they have a very full-bodied flavor and are darker than their little Bock brothers and sisters and a higher level of alcohol too. They range in color from dark amber to nearly black, and dark versions often have slight chocolate or roasted characters.

My Favorite Doppel Bock: Capital Autumnal Fire

Other Enjoyable Dopple Bocks:

  • Spaten Optimator
  • Paulaner Salvator
  • Ayinger Celebrator

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Belgian Dubbel:

Description from BeerAdvocate.com:

The Belgian Dubbel is a rich malty beer with some spicy / phenolic and mild alcoholic characteristics. Not as much fruitiness as the Belgian Strong Dark Ale but some dark fruit aromas and flavors may be present. Mild hop bitterness with no lingering hop flavors. It may show traits of a steely caramel flavor from the use of crystal malt or dark candy sugar. Look for a medium to full body with an expressive carbonation.

Traditionally a Trappist Ale, many brew similar “Abbey Dubbels” to try and emulate the originals (Trappist Westvleteren 8, Westmalle Trappist Dubbel & Chimay Première).

My Favorite Belgian Dubbel: Vintage Dedication

Other Enjoyable Dubbels:

  • Trappistes Rochefort 6
  • Ommegang Abbey Ale
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8
  • Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

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What are your favorite Autumn beer styles? What are some of your specific favorite Autumn brews?

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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?

Monday Brews: 10-14-13

Welcome back to Boards & Barley! So glad to have you here. Last week I posted an article about using Inkscape to make icons for your game design prototypes. It appears that the article was pretty well received. If there are other things you’d like me to show how to do in Inkscape, just let me know!

Today is Monday, so I present to you the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed in the past week:

The Barley:

Freshly bottled awesomeness!

Freshly bottled awesomeness!

First some news: last night I bottled my third batch of homebrew. It is an Oatmeal Stout and will be named after Sir Isaac Newton. So in a few weeks I’ll be able to enjoy some Newton’s Oatmeal Stout. The picture shows the beautiful bottles of awesomeness. They will be waiting patiently in my basement.

New Glarus Spotted Cow: Yum.

Tyranena Rocky’s Revenge: This is a very good beer that comes from Lake Mills in Wisconsin. The upside is that it reminds me and my friends of the great Beer Run event that the brewery holds each November.

Hinterland Oktoberfest: Not good. This hoity toity beer was not a good Oktoberfest. It did not even taste like an Oktoberfest. Served in 16 ounce bottles at a high cost by a brewery that thinks it’s high end, I expected something better. Disappointed with this one.

New Holland Dragon’s Milk: Wow! Not necessarily a good “wow.” Just Wow. This beer is potent. I’ve been wanting to try it for a while and it lived up to expectations. This beer had a ton of character.

New Belgium 1554 Black Ale: New Belgium has some interesting beer styles that I don’t always enjoy. However, the 1554 Black Ale is definitely one that I do enjoy. I have to wonder, though, if that’s because it makes me think of Euro style games. This beer could have a theme based on the black plague. All it would need is some bored looking dude on the label!

Point Oktoberfest: This is a passable oktoberfest, which is saying quite a bit compared to the Hinterland oktoberfest listed above. It’s not my favorite oktoberfest, but I’d drink it again.

The Boards:

Camel tokens from Yspahan are awesome!

It was another down week for gaming. But this week we’ll be having a game night, so hopefully I get a few more games in this week.

Kingdom Builder: Somehow I sneaked out a win over my wife. With a final score of 84 to 81 it was a closer finish that I was expecting. I was surprised when I saw how close she was.

Yspahan: I got to play Yspahan for the first time this past week. And I snapped this awesome picture. The game is a really cool game design despite the possibility of dice results ruining it. I pulled off a big win and really enjoyed the game.

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So those are the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy?

Monday Brews: 9-23-13

Good Monday to all of you! I hope you had a great weekend. I had a very nice weekend. I got a few games in, attended a football game, and came up with a new game design that I’m pretty excited about and am hoping to get ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee, which is this coming weekend!

Let’s see what Boards & Barley I enjoyed this past week…

The Barley:

Barley and Boards are good on their own, but are unstoppable when combined!

Barley and Boards are good on their own, but are unstoppable when combined!

Leffe Bruin: I love Leffe. The Blond and the Brown are both really enjoyable. I think I prefer the blond during the spring and summer and the brown during autumn and winter. We were having a game night last week so I bought a 6 pack of this. Fortunately for me only one person took one, so I had plenty for myself! Side note: a friend of mine also likes Leffe and we once had fun making up Steampunk names. His chosen name: Leffe Steampunker.

New Glarus Staghorn: Yep, I enjoyed more of New Glarus’ Oktoberfest brew. It’s so good!

Lake Louie Dino’s Dark: I’ve had other beers from Lake Louie before, but never the Dino’s Dark. The other beers they offer have all been really enjoyable. This was no different. They have a pretty small operation, but they sure put out high quality beers! I’m hoping to tour their brewery some day.

Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest: I still had one on hand from the crate we bought a few weeks ago. I solved that problem by quickly downing this tasty beverage.

Paulaner Salvator Double Bock: Yum. I enjoyed this beer while on a date with my wife where we got three games to the table. Wife + Beer + Games = Great date night!

Tyranena Gemuctlichkeit Oktoberfest: Besides the goofy name, this was a pretty decent Oktoberfest brew. It should be noted that I will have to try another one since I drank this one from the bottle while I was also watching my kids, which ultimately lowered the overall experience with this beer. What a pity, having to re-try a beer.

The Boards:

X-Wing: Why did it take me so long to play this game? Maybe because I kept waiting to see if my local Target would drop the price to $12 like other people have mentioned. You lucky people. Fortunately my friend bought a copy (and has subsequently bought a bunch of add-ons). So I was able to get my first taste of the game. AHHH-mazing! It helps that I rolled hits on 90 percent of my rolls. It was total domination!

My first ever Galaxy Truck!

My first ever Galaxy Truck!

Galaxy Trucker: I received this game in a trade over a year ago. This past Wednesday I finally got to play it. That is unacceptable and I have offered my sincerest apologies to my copy of Galaxy Trucker. I may have to send a personal apology to Vlaada Chvatil. When we played it we realized that it was completely awesome! This is a really excellent game that I should not have waited so long to play.

Libertalia: Arrr Matey. We got Libertalia to the table on Wednesday and, as usual, thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed the first two rounds. I was playing my best game of Libertalia ever. Then I got Monkeyed. And the Monkey passed me 4 curses. And to add insult to injury, during dusk I had to take another curse token. Needless to say I did not win.

Tsuro: My friend’s $1.20 thrift find of Tsuro keeps making it to the table. We played a pretty fun game of it where nearly everyone was left until the last four tiles. This is such a good filler game, but I don’t think I’d pay $40 for it.

CoinAge: I got a free copy of CoinAge from the designer, Adam McIver, at GenCon. I hadn’t been able to play it until last Friday, when I taught it to my wife. For being a game of three cards, where two of them are rules, I’ve never realized how much strategy you can pack into a game that requires pocket change. This was really enjoyable and I’m looking forward to playing it with someone who likes games more than my wife.

Morels: This is a game that my wife really enjoys. I enjoy it for that fact. You can check out my review of Morels to see what I thought. But the fact that my wife will play it with me means it gets a shiny little star.

The Little Prince: This is another game that my wife enjoys. So with Morels from GenCon 2012 and The Little Prince from GenCon 2013 I’ve been able to prove to my wife that my visiting of GenCon has been worth it both years. While I don’t enjoy the 2 player version of The Little Prince as much, it is still a really fun game.

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So those are the Boards and Barley I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy???

Monday Brews: 9-9-13

It’s another Monday. Bummer. But I’m here to help. If you didn’t get to play any games or drink any beer this past weekend, then please feel free to live vicariously through me. Not only did our group have the first board game night of the season, but my wife and I also had company over that love to play games and enjoy beer.

So here’s the list of the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed this past week:

The Barley:

Vintage Oktoberfest: During our softball team’s banquet I enjoyed this Oktoberfest. Our team won our league and we were able to hand out some very cheap t-shirts from the league as a prize. They didn’t even mention what sport we won or what year we won it. For all we know the league bought a thousand t-shirts back in 1986.  But I digress… This was an enjoyable beer on a night of celebration. I’d drink it again!

Vintage Cat’s Pajamas: After I had the Oktoberfest I followed it up with the Cat’s Pajamas. This is a nitrogen conditioned North English Style Brown Ale. And it was quite delicious. Plus, I love the name! So I’d probably get this beer again as well.

Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA: My first selection at our group’s game night was the Flipside Red IPA. I’m not normally an IPA kind of guy since I feel like brewers often just throw a bunch of hops in and label it as “special.” I’d rather have a different beer style where a brewer actually has to work for something special. Never-the-less, this was a decently enjoyable beer. It didn’t possess an overabundance of hops, which left room for some real flavor.

"I'm only gonna have one beer... I promise!"

“I’m only gonna have one beer… I promise!”

Hofbrau Oktoberfest: I only bought one beer for game night. But fortunately it was the big beast you see on the right. This 5 liter behemoth was enough to treat everyone accordingly at game night. And it was delicious. And it was only $20. That’s a way better deal than throwing $15 at 30 PBRs. Just sayin’.

Potosi Gandy Dancer Porter: This is a beer that I’ve wanted to try for a while and never had the opportunity because I haven’t been buying a lot of beer. Fortunately my game playing compadres for the weekend threw down and snagged a sixer. So I was able to have one of these funnily named brews. For those unawares, a Gandy Dancer was someone who laid and maintained railways before the work was done by machines. And for those interested, I may or may not choose to design a game of the same name and thus try to earn a part of the train game market. Oh, and the beer was okay. I probably wouldn’t go out and buy it myself, but I’d enjoy it if someone else bought it. An interesting fact about Potosi Brewing Co.: It is home to the National Brewery Museum.

Title Town Jolly Roger: This was my second IPA of the weekend. Can someone check my temp? Well, this is about the least IPA-ish IPA that I’ve ever had, so it wasn’t too obtrusive for my palate. My friend brought some in his growler and I enjoyed Title Town beer during the Packer’s disappointing game. Oh well.

The Boards:

The Little Prince: I almost had the victory in our four player game. But the Baobabs caused me to fail. Beware of the Baobabs!

Rialto x2: It turns out that the demo we did at GenCon was taught to us incorrectly. That’s annoying. We were not taught the correct use of the Gondola cards. We were taught the highest bid puts out the gondola tile, and no one else did anything. The correct rule is that when you play a gondola card you take councilman from the general supply and place them into your personal supply. This changes things a lot and makes the game more enjoyable. So I got to play it twice over the weekend and despite losing both times, thoroughly enjoyed it.

7 Wonders x2: (Once base only and once with Leaders & Cities): Our group loves 7 Wonders. The first time I played it over the weekend I scored an absolutely miserable 35. That was with the base game only. The second time I played it we included the Leaders and Cities expansions, which makes the game quite a bit deeper. Unfortunately I had some bad leaders that only netted me 4 points.

I had almost as much fun trying to pronounce the city names as I did playing the game.

I had almost as much fun trying to pronounce the city names as I did playing the game.

Trains x2: My friend Jeremy picked this up at GenCon and I was finally able to play it. First things first: I’d now rather play this than Dominion. I thought the game was really enjoyable. While basically being a Dominion type game I thought it offered enough interesting new stuff to make it enjoyable. I would probably buy this if I had any sort of budget for buying new games right now. My only question about the game is how can they trademark the very basic common word “Trains”?

Kingdom Builder x2: (With Nomads & Crossroads): I love Kingdom Builder. I love how simple it is in terms of mechanics and how deep it is in terms of strategy. So I jumped at the chance to pick up the Crossroads expansion at GenCon despite the Queen Games booth never offering discount pricing. This is another GenCon purchase within our group that I finally got to play over the weekend. (Note: I still have yet to play Targi.) I thought the Crossroads expansion added quite a bit to the game without changing the overall concept of the game. I’m looking forward to playing again!

Castles of Burgundy: Since this is one of my favorite games I was happy when it was selected over the weekend. I was unable to claim victory but I sure had a lot of fun trying. This game, once you get over the learning curve, is a truly excellent design. My only problem with the game is that they chose the Papyrus font.

Dominion: While I’ve lost a little of my love for the game, it’s still enjoyable every once in a while. We played with a mix of cards from the Dark Ages, Prosperity, and Intrigue expansions. It was a strange mix of cards though. After playing Trains a couple times over the weekend I realized that I enjoyed the lack of “Attack” cards in Trains, and disliked them in Dominion.

Cave Troll: I hadn’t even heard of this 2002 Fantasy Flight game until I saw it in the bag of games that my friends brought over. I played a two player game of Cave Troll and was able to win the game. It seemed to me like an interesting take on chess with a fantasy theme. While it was interesting I probably wouldn’t suggest the game above others like Trains or Kingdom Builder.

Hanabi: I also had the opportunity to teach the recent SdJ winner to the visiting friends. We scored 19 out of 25, which is pretty decent for having two new players. We were hindered by discarding both white number 3 cards without realizing it. That cost us a few points. This game is pretty fun and I’ll play it again if for no other reason than it is simple to teach but deep to strategize about.

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So those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed this past week. You can see that it was a pretty good week of games and beer! What did you play or drink that you enjoyed this past week?

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