When is a beer an ale?

Sometimes, especially in Texas. Follow me here.
Let’s start with the understanding of the definition of ale, lager and beer (all lower case) from those who brew them.

In general, all ales and lagers are forms of beer (fermented grain tea). Lagers are grain tea fermented by a member (or members) of the Saccharomyces Pastorianus yeast family. Ales are grain tea fermented by a member (or members) of the Saccharomyces Cerevisiae yeast family. These yeast differ in that lager yeast are happiest at colder temps and prefer to work near the bottom of the vessel (scuba divers), while ale yeast prefer warmer temps and working near the top of the vessel (snorkelers). There are additional differences, but this is a good starting point.

In Texas, fermented grain tea (what we’d call beer) is divided by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission into two groups: Those that are below 4% Alcohol by Weight (ABW) (which they called Beer) and those that are above 4% ABW (which they called Ale or Malt Liquor). Until very recently, if you saw “Ale” or “Malt Liquor” on a label, you could be sure that the alcohol level was above 4% ABV, regardless of how it was fermented. Brewers that made beer (even one known to be a lager) that was over 4% ABW were required to label it as either “Ale” or “Malt Liquor”.

Stay with me.

TABC has recently acknowledged the problem with their definitions, so they are now allowing breweries to tag their brew appropriately based on the fermentation style with one requirement: if the brew violated the legacy TABC definition (more or less than 4% ABW), then the alcohol content had to be listed on the bottle. A label listing “Ale, 5.5% ABV” means you are drinking snorkeler fermented grain tea that is 5.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Another listing “Ale” means you have fermented grain tea that is over 4% ABW, but may be snorkeler or scuba diver fermented. Yet another listing neither “Ale” nor the ABV/ABW means your beverage is below 4% ABW and may be snorkeler or scuba fermented.

For the record, Boerne Brewery brews are all snorkeler fermented and are all above 4% ABW, so they are both ales AND Ales.
Now go get your favorite ale or lager, find a comfy chair and enjoy.

How temperature affects your beer

With all the moaning and groaning about the cold weather (It’s winter, folks. It’s supposed to be cold. Besides, Al Gore says we’ll be sub-Saharan hot real soon, so enjoy the cold while you can.), here’s a tidbit about how temperature affects your beer enjoyment.
As all food approaches freezing, your taste buds are less and less able to taste it. Frozen chocolate isn’t as sweet as when it’s at room temperature. The colder it is, the less you taste it. As a cash strapped college kid, I bought the least expensive beer I could get. All I knew back then was that I wanted that swill to be as cold as possible because ice-cold swill tasted less bad than kinda-cold swill.

You say: But, but, but ALL of the big names in beer scream from the rooftops about drinking an ice-cold (fill in the blank).
I say: Yup. Ever had a room temp (fill in the blank)? mmm-mmm, yum.

There is always talk of the British drinking their beer at room temperature.

1. They start with a better beer than my college-day swill, so it can be warmer.

2. Their tap rooms are not in Boerne in July. They would not serve their beer at 100 degrees.

Before you run off and pour your craft beer into a tea pot to warm it up, there are obvious limits. Most beers are meant to be enjoyed at least chilled a bit. All I am saying is that there is no need to reach for the liquid nitrogen.

Now go get some of your favorite beer (big name, craft, or homebrew) and do your tastebuds a favor and try it 5 degrees warmer than what you are used to. Find a comfy chair and enjoy.

Filters? Carbonation?

1. Filters?  We don’t need no stinking filters!  That’s right, we don’t filter our ales.  We don’t pasteurize either.  You will find some sediment at the bottom of the Denim-Hosen.  That is from the wheat that we use in our recipe.  It’s supposed to be there.  As with a Hefeweizen (the big daddy of wheat beers), we invite you to swirl the bottle and enjoy the cloud.  If you prefer clear beer, then just leave it behind.

2.  Carbonation.  Most beer/ale available is carbonated to between 2.4 and 3.0 volumes.  What does that mean?  It means that if you could separate/remove/capture all of the Carbon Dioxide in the container, you would get a volume of CO2 equal to 2.4 to 3.0 times the volume of the beer/ale.  Some are more carbonated because the intent is for the carbonation to lend “bite” to the way the beer feels in your mouth.  Some are lightly carbonated so that the beer feels “smoother” in your mouth.