Day 5 – Inveralmond – De Mons Belgian Abbey

Yesterday was a fun day. The beer was quite delicious and my daughter got her first picture taken with Santa Claus. Being only one month old, she doesn’t really understand what or who he is. Still, she looked at him with an interest and intent that assures me she’s already considering what she might ask him for when she is ready to talk.

I’m looking forward to trying Day 5’s beer. It’s a Belgian Abbey style beer called De Mons from Inveralmond Brewery in Perth, Scotland, UK. It’s not even the first time I’ve had a beer from them. Last year, Day 13 was a beer from this same brewery.

The name Inveralmond may sound familiar to some folks. In 2016, Inveralmond was purchased by Innis and Gunn in 2016. Innis and Gunn had been considering building a brand-new brewery in Southeast Scotland, but with this purchase they decided to invest the money into this existing brewery. Let’s get into this in a minute.

Let’s go back to its founding in 1997 by Fergus Clark had a grand opening in Perth including the gates of the brewery being drawn open by a pair of Clysdale horses, the traditional draught horses used for transporting beer in the olden days. In November 1999 the brewery hired it’s first master brewer, Ken Duncan who brought with him a penchant for signing opera and smuggling yeast from the Czech republic.  By 2002 they had won their first gold for their beer Ossian, and over the next two years continued to grow adding new staff as their beer became more in demand.

By 2009 they had outgrown their original location and broke ground on the construction of a brand-new brewery. This allowed them to increase their capacity and to do their very first 30-barrel brew, Lia Fail,  on their new 30 barrel brew house. They continued to grow over the years increasing their fermentation capacity to 120 barrels and adding new brewers and tanks. By the time, Innis and Gunn purchased them they had added several new beers and started the “inspiration series” of which we are tasting the second brew.

When purchased by Innis and Gunn it had been touted as a move of mutual respect. The two breweries had been long time friends and the team at Inveralmond was not in any way impacted. While I’m not a huge fan of all of Innis and Gunn’s beers, this is a bit of a different situation from Anheuser Busch. Innis and Gunn is an independent brewery who has acquired another brewery to expand their beer line. Whatever you may think of the move, you can read more about it here or here.

The style of beer we have today requires a bit of an explanation as well. It is called a Belgian Abbey which is the term used for a Trappist beer that is not brewed under the supervision of a Trappist monk. Trappist products are protected in the same was as Champagne or Port in that to use the name they must meet certain criteria.

The most important criteria to be met is that the beers must be brewed under the supervision of a Trappist Monk. When this is not possible, the beers are not able to carry this moniker. As such, many breweries adopted using the term “Abbey beers” to describe a beer brewed in this style but not under the required supervision. You can read more about Trappist beers, and see the list of official Trappist breweries, here.

This beer is brewed in the style of a Belgian Blond Ale. These beers are moderate strength golden ales with a mild fruit and spice note from the Belgian yeast with a slightly sweet malty flavour and a dry finish. These are a relatively recent beer style that was made to further appeal to European Pilsner drinkers and has become much more popular.  These beers are similar in strength as a Dubbel, similar character as a Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Tripel, although a bit sweeter and not as bitter.

Appearance – Pale Golden and clear. Very thin white head that fades quickly leaving only slight bubbling on edge of glass.
Smell –  Mildly sweet fruity aroma of figs, raisins, plums, a spicy peppery note, and some candied sugar.
Taste –  Belgian yeast, spicy with hints of fig and raisins, bready malt, with a good helping of malty sweetness.
Mouth feel
– Good medium body and carbonation with a semi-sweet fruity finish that lingers well after swallowing.
Overall – An easy drinking flavourful Belgian blond ale. With the light hop bitterness and subtle yeast characteristics it still provides a nice spiciness to it along with a good malty sweetness that is reminiscent of honey or candied sugar.
Do I like it?
– Yes, I did. I quite like these beers. I find the malt component with the hop and spice from the yeast bring a nice balance. They are easy to drink and flavourful.

 

Day 4 – Ticketybrew – Rose Wheat Beer

Four days in and I’m impressed. One of the things that is always concerning is the freshness of the beers in this calendar. Since it takes so long to get all the beers, organize them, and then ship them you are often left wondering how fresh they might be. This year all the beers have had best before dates on them, and, all the best before dates are a still at least a few months out.

Yesterday’s dark lager from Finland wasn’t that bad and it was nice to move to something a little more malt rich. Today we move off in another direction and get a Rose Ginger Wheat Beer from Ticketybrew out of Manchester, or more specifically Stalybridge,  in the UK.

Ticketybrew was founded on February 14th, 2013 during the day. That evening they brewed their first beer throughout the night. Founded by husband and wife team of Keri and Duncan. Since a young age, Duncan had been interested in acting and over time found that this wasn’t for him. Keri had been working in career that she didn’t really enjoy and wanted more flexibility to spend more time with her kids. So, they brainstormed and as beer had been a great passion of both of theirs, they decided to open a brewery.

Ticketybrew was founded on a base of commitment and love. They love to try new things and to brew different beers. They have continued to grow since their founding but are still a relatively small brewery. They brew a wide range of beers from the Rose Ginger Wheat Beer we will be trying today to a Salted Caramel Coffee Stout. Their beers try to highlight different variations on styles and unique ingredients. They also label all their bottle by hand. The beer from them today is available in bottle or cask and is bottle conditioned still containing leftover yeast sediment in the bottle.

Wheat beers are different from the German weissbier style. These beers can typically display more hop character and less yeast character than their German counterparts. Clean fermentation allows for there to be more graininess from the wheat that is complimented by the hop bitterness rather than the flavours that may be imparted by the yeast. This beer contains hops, rose water and some ginger spice as well that will certainly provide a different and interesting twist on the standard wheat beer flavours.

Historically this beer is an American craft beer variation of the German weissbier using cleaner yeast. Certain yeast strains can provide esters which impart some flavours of their own to the beer. This style would use yeast where the esters can be moderate to none. These yeasts, unlike those typically used in the German weissbier, present with no banana notes and no clove phenols but may have a slightly crisp finish.

These styles of beer can be in the same range of flavor and balance as the blonde ales but, as wheat is the primary malt ingredient, with a greater wheat malt characteristic that may present as bready, doughy, or grainy. With the variation on this style including both the use of rose water and ginger, I’m really excited to see how this one comes across.

Appearance – Hazy golden in color as I poured in the yeast sediment that was at the bottom of the bottle. It was a clear golden yellow color before pouring that in, but hey, that’s part of the fun of these beers.
Smell –  Smells of rose water, ginger, and cardamom with some hints of a sweet fruit, possibly plum.
Taste –  Tastes sweet right off the front and that rose water flavor comes through beautifully with hints of cardamom. The ginger is subtle but provides a bit of a peppery spice. The wheat malt isn’t overly noticeable but comes through on the finish.
Mouth feel
– Medium body, medium carbonation. Sweet with a subtle crispness on finish.
Overall – A very delicious beer. The wheat characteristics aren’t overly noticeable but they are present and provide an overall good base for this beer. Really a showcase of the flavours of rosewater and ginger.
Do I like it?
– I very much liked this beer. I felt that the use of rosewater really provided an interesting and flavorful beer. The ginger gave a nice peppery spice to it. Overall the beer really came through for me and I rather enjoyed it.

 

Day 3 – Teerenpeli -Laiska Jaakko Dark Lager

So far, the craft beer advent calendar has been rather impressive this year. The first two beers have been quite good and I’ve been really enjoying learning about the breweries from which they come. Having traveled a lot in Europe it’s neat to see beers from those regions and think back to myself at that time.

Yesterday’s IPA was quite interesting and, while I don’t really seek out IPAs that much anymore, I did enjoy it. My father sent me a few IPAs from the Maritimes, so I am looking forward to trying those out as well. Today though we have a beer that comes to use from Lahti, Finland. The third beer is Teerenpeli’s Laiska Jaakko (Lazy Jacob) Organic Dark Lager.

Established in 1995 as one of Finland’s first microbreweries, Teerenpeli is today one of the few original microbreweries still in operation. This is a testament to their focus on using locally sourced Finnish malt and fresh Salpausselkä ground water. With a mission to use these fresh raw materials and never add any adjuncts to their beers, Teerenpeli’s mission is create real and exciting experiences for their customers.

The original brewery was located inside Teerenpeli restaurant in Lahti. Originally brewing on a 60 litre brew house, they were able to upgrade to 250 litres in 1997. Now, they began to produce ciders as well as beers. In 2002 they moved to the Restaurant Taivaanranta in Lahti. They purchased a new 1,500 litre brew house that was in the dining room of the restaurant. They constructed an area for fermentation together with a brand-new visitors’ center was built in the cellar of the restaurant. The old 250 litre brewhouse was relocated to Restaurant Teerenpeli Kamppi in Helsinki and is used to brew specialty beers.

In 2009, answering the demand for their products, Teerenpeli built a brand-new brewery building in the Lotila industrial area in Lahti. The fermentation capacity was increased and a bottling line was added. This enabled them to increase sales to the retail market and also to other restaurants. Today, they produce around 500,000 l of beers and ciders for customers around Finland.

So, dark lagers are really separated into multiple categories. While there are two “Dark Lager” categories in the BJCP guidelines, there are also Schwarzbiers and Dunkels that can fall into this category as well.  This beer is classified on sites like “ratebeer” and “beeradvocate” as a “dunkel” and so I’ll explain that style. I also want to go over the “dark lager” styles as well. You can read about Schwarzbier here.

There are really two varieties of Dark lagers. International dark lagers are darker and somewhat sweeter versions of a pale lager with a little more body and flavor. Like their pale cousins, they have restrained bitterness which leaves the malt as the primary flavor element of the beer. This gives the opportunity for a brewery to really highlight some of the malts they might choose to use and in this case, gives us a chance to taste some of those Finnish malts.

Historically International dark lagers are darker versions of a breweries standard pale lager. They are designed to appeal to a broader audience and are usually subdued in their flavor profiles to be more widely appealing. Typically, with less flavor and richness when compared to a Munich Dunkel or a Schwarzbier. These types typically use adjuncts which leads me to believe the beer we have today is more likely in the style of the second type of dark lager.

Czech Dark Lagers are a rich, dark, and malty version of a Czech lager with a roast characteristic that can vary depending on the brewer. Malty with a complex flavor profile and varying ranges of hoppiness, this provides a lot of variation in interpretation. Originally brewed by U Fleků brewery as far back as 1499, other small and new breweries are more often now brewing this style of beer.

This style of beer is the Czech equivalent of a dark lager ranging in flavor from a Munich Dunkel to a Schwarzbier, but typically with greater malt richness and hop character when compared to these other two styles.

A Munich Dunkel is represented by depth and richness of the malts that are used. Deeply toasty and bready, often with chocolate flavors but never harsh, astringent or roasty. Dunkels are very well balanced malty beers that are easily drinkable but still carry good flavor. Some unfiltered versions of this beer from Germany can taste like liquid bread. This is typically not found in the exported filtered versions of this beer.

The classic brown lager style of Munich which developed as a darker, more malt-accented beer than other regional lagers. While originating in Munich, the style became popular throughout Bavaria (especially Franconia). Franconian versions are often darker and more bitter.

I’m interested to see what this beer tastes like, so let’s get to it.

Appearance – Dark reddish brown with a quickly fading off-white head.
Smell –  Smells of toasted bread, slightly nutty with subtle chocolate and a little bit of smokiness in the mix as well.
Taste –  Tastes slightly smokey with some mild bitterness, chocolate, and roasted malt.
Mouth feel
– Coarse medium body with an almost effervescent carbonation. Subtle bitterness on finish and a slightly metallic after taste.
Overall – Overall this beer is a decent dark lager. It has some subtle bitterness and a good malt flavor profile that includes smoke, chocolate, and roasted malt. Falls more into the Dunkel category.
Do I like it?
– This wasn’t bad. It had more going on for it than I would have expected. Certainly, an easy drinking beer that brings some good flavours to it as well.

Day 2 – Camba Bavaria – Bavarian Winter IPA

day-2-camba-bavaria-bavarian-winter

The craft beer advent calendar is a tradition for me now. It is my third year writing about each of the beers contained within and it’s also a reminder of how far I’ve managed to come with my beer education and this blog. I am a long stretch from where I was when I first began.

It was really fun trying yesterday’s beer from Italy. I found myself reminiscing of searching for craft breweries while I was there. Today I opened the second tab to see what might be in store. From one of my favorite places to visit, Bavaria (Germany) was their Bavarian Winter IPA from Camba Bavaria Brewery.

Camba Bavaria has only been brewing since 2008 and already they have produced over 50 beers ranging from Pale ales, to Helles, to Russian Imperial Stouts aged in cognac barrels. Making use of a large variety of raw materials, they are always working to be innovative. This young brewery has been working to introduce new beers practically every week.

Located in an old mill in Truchtlaching on the river Alz, Camba was originally built as a brewery pilot plant by the brewing plant manufacturer BrauKon GmbH, regarded worldwide as one of the top suppliers of brewery equipment for small- and medium-sized breweries. This means that when Camba started they were already beginning with the ideal conditions for brewing beer giving them a head start in their journey. Currently Camba employs 3 master brewers, 5 brewers, and 5 beer sommeliers and work hard to communicate and exchange with other brewers around the world.

The name Camba Bavaria is actually pretty interesting as well. Truchtlaching was originally a celtic settlement in Bavaria. The word “Camba” means “brew kettle” in old Celtic language and thus pays tribute to that heritage. The second part, obviously, comes from the region in which they are located. The village of Truchtlaching is located in Chiemgau, one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in Bavaria.

IPAs or India Pale Ale, have a storied history. The first known use of the term comes from the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser in 1829.  At this time, they were also referred to as a “pale ale as prepared for India”, “East India pale ale”, and “Export India Pale Ale”.  These types of IPAs were widely popular amongst the East India company and, while considered very hoppy, they were not much stronger than other beers brewed at this time. If you’re curious about IPAs check out Wikipedia, the BJCP Guidelines (Page 37) or IPA Beer.

While these beers are part of the pale ale family, they are strongly hopped and often showcase the variety of flavours and complexities that can come from the simple ingredients used to brew beer.  Many will say the IPAs are an acquired taste, and they are rather unique, the bitterness brought by the use of a large quantity of hops is not for everyone. Whether there is anything special about this in being a “Bavarian Winter” IPA is unknown, but I’m certainly excited to see. Now, onto this specific beer.

Appearance – Pale golden, almost amber with a good 3” of head that retains well and leaves lacing as it fades.
Smell –  Resinous hop notes that come through strong. Grapefruit citrus and a sweet tropical fruit note that is likely the lychee (I’ve never had one but my wife says that’s what it smells like.)
Taste –  Good bitterness on the front, not overpowering, with a sweet candy like taste and some grapefruit tartness. Finishes with a subtle lingering bitterness and citrus notes.
Mouth feel
– Medium body with an upfront resinous bitterness, candy sweetness in the middle and a subtle lingering bitterness on finish.
Overall – A well hopped, but not overpowering, IPA that offers a good combinations of resinous hop notes combined with subtle citrus and candy sweetness.
Do I like it?
– I found it to be fine. With the plethora of IPAs out there and the number that I’ve had, I find myself craving different beers than IPAs these days. I wasn’t a huge fan of the candied sweetness, but other than that I found it to be enjoyable.

 

Day 1 – Birrifico Del Doge – APA

day-1-birrifico-del-doge-apa

As with every year, opening up that first advent calendar tab is incredibly exciting.  It brings me back to when I was a kid and my mom would buy us an advent calendar with little chocolates inside. Every day was a different chocolate and every day was a little bit of excitement.  Translate that to an adult version with beer instead of chocolate, I’m a happy camper. Nostalgic.

So, like I did last year, with sincere anticipation I opened the first tab and lo and behold, it was Birrifico Del Doge’s APA. I had the opportunity to visit some craft breweries in Italy. While not typically known for beer, being the largest producer in the world of wine, what I tasted was quite good. So I’m interested to see what this one is like.

Birrifico Del Doge (Doge’s Brewery) is located in Zero Branco (Treviso) Italy and is self-described as an “Italian crafted German beer”.  Zero Branco is located on the expanse of the Paduan plain between the cities of Venice and Treviso. The local landscape is characterized by its beauty and network of waterways including the river for which the town is named, River Zero.

Doge’s Brewery takes great pride in their brewing and selects only the highest quality ingredients to use in its beer. Brewing was originally a hobby for the brothers who founded Doge’s Brewery, but once they got a taste for brewing they knew they needed to take it further. In 2012 the Guiman brothers partnered with brewer Federico Casarin to create Doge’s Brewery. ‘Doge’ brewery’s main values include attention to quality, meticulous selection of raw materials, use of source water, deep passion and a desire to impress.

Birrificio del Doge produces eight types of craft beers as well as the occasional specialty brew.  They take pride in attention to detail and quality and say on their website that “We do not bottle-condition our beer, but decant the yeast, which affords Doge’s Brewery beer its hallmark clarity.”

American Pale Ales (APA) are, obviously, pale, refreshing and well hopped but with the right amount of malt backbone to balance the beer. The opportunity to select from hops can give this beer a range and either reflect classic hops or new world hops. Generally, an APA is more accessible than an IPA while still providing a hop forward flavour.

The APA is a modern American craft beer adaptation of the English pale ale. These beers tend to reflect ingredients that can be sourced by the brewery locally. While these beers are an American craft beer invention, the desire to source locally means that this Italian version will hopefully have a little bit of that old world flare.

Prior to the explosion of popularity of the IPA, the American Pale Ale was the most well-known and popular of the American craft beer styles. Without further ado, time to taste the beer.

Appearance – Pours golden blonde with a thin ½” white head that retains well.
Smell –  Citrus notes reminiscent of lemon and grapefruit with a soft floral hop aroma.
Taste –  Mild hop bitterness that is compliment by a very subtle malty sweetness with notes of lemon, grapefruit.
Mouth feel
– Light mouth feel with soft bitterness on the start and mild carbonation. Finishes with a light lingering bitterness.
Overall – Subtle hop complimented with malt sweetness that balances well and presents an approachable mildly hoppy beer.
Do I like it?
– I did like it. This beer was light, floral, and had some good hop notes to it. These days I find myself leaning towards bolder beers and so, while this one was good, and I did like it, it’s not one I’d be clamoring to grab.

 

Craft Beer Advent Calendar 2016

My wife gifted me the Beer Advent calendar again this year.  24 different “New World” beers from “Old World Countries”.  As I did last year, I plan to blog about these beers again.  Every day.  That means 24 posts, hopefully.  The goal of these posts is education. Mine and, hopefully, yours. It’s about learning more about beer and the breweries who make them. Here is how the post will be organized:

  • Beer name, location, and style of beer.
  • Description of the style, origins and information about the brewery.
  • Rating of the beer based on the following:
    • The appearance of the beer
      • What’s the colour, the head and the retention of the foam?
    • The smell of the beer
      • What notes are present and are there any off notes that shouldn’t be there?
    • The big one
      • How do the smells come through in the taste, is it pleasant, are there any off-flavours or things that just aren’t quite right?
    • Mouth Feel
      • What’s the body of the beer, is it light, or heavy? Is there a good carbonation level for the style?
    • Overall thoughts on the beer in relation to the style
    • Whether I actually like the beer or not and why

I want to make a note on the reviewing system I use.  I’m not a beer judge. Those who have been trained to be able to smell and taste what is off in a beer are very good and I respect their opinions.  With that exception, I don’t always take stock in how people rate beers.  Perhaps someone doesn’t like a particular style, or they don’t think the beer is good.  It doesn’t mean I, or someone else, won’t like it.

So, while I will be reviewing these beers, it is more for my own personal education and to keep track of which ones I liked the best throughout the process.  You can take my reviews as you like, either listen or don’t.  Ultimately, I want people to try new beers and take chances.

The first post will be coming later today.  In the meantime, here is my round up of last year’s Craft Beer Advent Calendar.

Little Brown Jug – Follow-Up

I stopped in to visit with Little Brown Jug this past week and catch up on their progress. I have to say that the space is looking both fantastic as well as pretty much complete. They have been working hard on getting their beer ready and they are ready to go. It’s an exciting time for beer in the city of Winnipeg.

Last week was spent really dialing in on the brew house system. It’s actually a pretty incredible setup that focuses on efficiency (both in brewing and environmentally) and recovers much of the heat from the brewing process. The kettle actually uses steam through an external calandria which allows for an incredibly quick rolling boil and a much more efficient process. They have also installed an auger from their grain room directly into the mash tun. In fact, they are able to grind into a sealed auger so that they can prepare the day before and be ready to brew. Overall the brew system is really cool and I encourage anyone interested in these things to go check it out.

All of this hard work has resulted in them being ready to send out kegs this week.  Kevin indicated that they would be sending out kegs to beer spots in the city – Quality Craft Beer Store, King’s Head, Good Will, Barley Brothers – Polo; Carbone – 260 St. Mary; and Pineridge Hollow. All of these places will have beer on tap this week with Pineridge Hollow coming next week.

They are open as of today: Wed-Fri 3-9PM and Saturday noon – 8 PM, with these limited hours to allow for people to come in and pick up the beers. As well as the opportunity to try the beer in their tap room, they are doing growler and howler fills as well as offering pre-filled 750ml little brown jugs.

The really cool thing they are doing with these little brown jugs is offering an exchange program on them. Essentially you don’t own the jug. You put a deposit down and when you come back you can either exchange it for another pre-filled one or get your deposit back, your choice. I think this is an excellent idea and it’s actually how I feel the growler system in the city should be working.

Little Brown Jug is really trying to be efficient with peoples’ time and recognize that people may not always have the opportunity to wait around for a growler to be filled. By offering these jugs, pre-filled, people can pop in, grab some beer, and head on their way. While they do have a small tap-room space at LBJ, they are first and foremost a production brewery.

Little Brown Jug is launching with one beer, a Belgian Pale Ale that is brewed with brewers’ gold (a derivative of a local hop). I for one am excited to get a chance to try another new beer to the market and I really look forward to seeing what they may come up with next down the road.

So, follow Little Brown Jug on twitter (@LBJBrewing) and while you’re at it, follow me too (@beerwinnipeg).

Tomorrow is the first day of the craft beer advent Calendar. I’ll be posting in the morning to give you an idea of what to expect but I won’t be posting about the beers until later in the afternoon/evening. Last year I inadvertently spoiled the surprise for others and I want to do my best to avoid this. So, get ready for a 24 daily posts about “New World Beers from Old World Breweries”.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

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