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The Cleveland Craft Beer Report 

National Lager Day was Dec. 10. Like every other made-up beer holiday, the celebration was largely a marketing ploy masquerading in a party hat. What set Lager Day apart, however, is the depth of the pockets of the sponsorship; while grassroots holidays like IPA Day and International Stout Day were started by craft beer aficionados to raise awareness, National Lager Day is the brainchild of Budweiser brewers AB Inbev. While the beverage behemoth took the opportunity to promote their product line and bolster its brand, several of craft beer's biggest advocates seized the chance to steal a bit of the limelight.

While many beer drinkers solely equate lager with fizzy, yellow beers that lack intense flavor, this misconception couldn't be farther from the truth. Boston Beer Co., the nation's biggest craft brewery and brewer of the Sam Adams line, happily jumped on the coattails of National Lager Day by releasing information about the intersection of lager and craft beer. Lagers are, in fact, a newer method of brewing than ales (ales are more than 700 years old while lagers debuted in the 1500s in Bavaria and weren't brewed in American until around 1840). The basic difference is the temperature and length of fermentation; lagers ferment colder and take longer to complete. The reward for all that waiting is a beer with cleaner flavors that, in turn, showcase the grain and hops.

From seasonal styles like Oktoberfest to flavorful and complex styles like baltic porter, double bock and rauchbier, there is indeed a lager for every taste. Plus, there is little doubt that craft brewers will pioneer new styles, including India pale lagers that feature all the hop-forward aspects of the India pale ale in a smoother package. Several local breweries make excellent lagers. Great Lakes brews flagships like Dortmunder and Eliott Ness, but also features beers like dopplebocks and baltic porters as pub-only seasonals. Fat Heads has won national awards for its Battleaxe Baltic Porter and even ages the beer in bourbon barrels. Market Garden just won its first Great American Beer Festival medal for its Progress Pilsner.

Brewers Association president Charlie Papazian also took the opportunity to spin the numbers. While Inbev touted marketing survey results like "beer drinkers prefer lagers 2-to-1 over pale ales and 3-to-1 over IPAs and stouts" as a victory, Papazian cited the figures as a triumph for craft. He pointed out Inbev's eroding market share and emphasized the growing minority. When flipped around, the numbers show 33 percent of beer drinkers prefer pale ales over lagers, and 25 percent prefer IPAs or stouts. However, these results aren't the most scientifically sound considering that another survey confirmed that 63 percent of people aged 21 and over didn't know the difference between a lager and ale.

Regardless of love of lager or affinity for ale, Ohio beer drinkers have been breathlessly awaiting the Ohio entry of Colorado's New Belgium for months. The nation's third-largest craft brewery finally made it onto Ohio shelves this week. The entire product line-up features brand-new labels, and a limited number of 22-ounce bottles of the flagship Fat Tire feature the tag line "Cruising into Ohio in 2013." Fat Tire, Ranger IPA and Trippel are the first year-round bottles to launch in the Buckeye State.

Additionally, new winter seasonal Accumulation White IPA is available on draft for a very limited time, and a few of the brand's Lips of Faith experimental beers will land in Ohio in time for Christmas. A strong ale with chiles brewed with Florida's Cigar City dubbed simply "Cigar City Collaboration," Paardebloem Belgian Strong Ale with peaches, and Heavenly Feijoa Tripel all are on the way. With tasty choices like these, no one needs a made-up holiday to drink craft beer!

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