Category Archives: Craft Beer Advent Calendar 2015

Day 3 – Aspen Brewing Company – Independence Pass Ale

Beer 3 - Aspen Brewing Company - Independence Pass Ale

Every morning when I wake up I am hit with a little twinge of excitement to see what new brew I will find today. This calendar is really something that brings a lot of joy to this craft beer lover’s morning.  This morning was a little bit more frustrating given that the particular beer had shifted and was rather stuck.  After about 10 minutes of shifting, opening the top of the box (my wife did so I wouldn’t peek) and shifting things around, we managed to remove the beer from it’s precarious position.

The third beer of the craft beer advent calendar is Aspen Brewing Company’s Independence Pass Ale.

Aspen Brewing Company was founded in 2008 by Duncan Clauss.  He had recently graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder and wanted to bring craft beer back to Aspen.  Previously Aspen had been home to Flying Dog Brewing Co. When Flying Dog moved all of it’s production to Frederick Maryland in 2006, it left a gap in the craft beer market in Aspen. Duncan and his crew of five, including head brewer PJ Goudreault, filled this gap and has been producing beers that represent the outdoor lifestyle of Aspen for the past 7 years.

Aspen Brewing Company focuses a lot of it’s profits and beer on the local community putting philanthropy and community support as one of it’s primary tasks.  They’ve supported dozens of local community ventures and take applications every year from those non-profits seeking support.  Aspen is also committed to the environment being one of three breweries to sign the Clean Water Act with environment Colorado and the US Environmental protection agency.  They’ve also signed onto the Brewers for climate change declaration.  They also practice a number of efficiency measures to keep their carbon foot print as low as possible.  Check out what they do for the environment here.

Aspen brews a number of beers divided into three “series” of beers.  The first is their Silver Queen Series.  The beer we have today comes from this series and it is their year round series of beers.  They also have a series of Seasonal beers as well as a Temerity Series of barrel aged beers.   The beer we have from them, the Independence Pass Ale, is a super-hopped IPA.  The beer is named Aspen’s eastern boundary and 12,095ft high elevation pass.  It comes in a 7% abv (alcohol by volume) and 62 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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 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. Now, onto this specific beer.

Appearance – Pours hazy, medium copper colour with about an inch of white head.
Smell – Passionfruit and blood orange on the nose.  Very fruity nose.
Taste – Very sweet for an IPA. Passionfruit comes through on the taste and is really balanced with a subtle bitterness that doesn’t denote the 62 IBUs this beer contains.
Mouth feel – smooth mouthfeel that lingers slightly with sweetness.
Overall – Pretty good IPA.  Not over the moon about it. The balance of the sweetness and the bitterness makes it a good IPA for someone who isn’t really into bitter IPAs and might be a good launching pad for those folks.
Do I like it?
– I think it is okay. I’m not going to go out and seek this particular IPA, there are so many really strong ones, but if I was at a friends and they had it I’d be happy to drink it.

76/100

Day 2 – Lighthouse Brewing Co – Black Sam Licorice Stout

Beer 2 - Lighthouse Brewing - Black Sam Licorice Stout

Yesterday was an excellent start to this year’s advent calendar.  I really enjoyed the Anderson Valley Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale and I hope that it’s going to be the tone for the entire calendar.  This morning I got out of bed early and went right to the calendar to grab my beer.  The tabs are a little small and my hands don’t really fit, so I asked my wife to assist.  Lo and Behold the second beer of the 2015 Calendar is a Lighthouse Brewing Co.’s Black Sam Licorice Stout.  For full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of black licorice.  I’ll give this beer the benefit of the doubt but I may end up not liking it just because of that.

First off let me say that Lighthouse Brewing has a really fun website.  I am really impressed with the design if not the content.  So, I’d suggest you check it out.  Also, they posted a video of one of the crew talking a bit about the beer.  Check it out here.

Now, Lighthouse was founded in 1998 and is located on Devonshire Road in Victoria BC.  When founded, the demand for small batch craft beer was not really where it is today.  Brewing a Race Rocks Ale in the early days and delivering them to local pubs, Lighthouse quickly garnered a name for quality, local beer in a time when generic brands were king.

Lighthouse is made up of a crew of passionate people of which they don’t really provide much information.  Passion is a trademark behind the brewing at Lighthouse and they have a number of really interesting beers.  Besides their house series of beers, they also have an explorer series (of which the Licorice Stout is a member) as well as an uncharted series (currently just an Imperial IPA). Check out their full beer line-up here.

The beer that we have from Lighthouse today is one that has only recently been released in BC.  It’s also only available are certain private beer stores.  So, it’s one that I may not have a chance to try again for quite a while.  I’m excited.

Stouts are a dark beer made using roasted malts or roasted barley, hops, water and yeast.  Traditionally the term stout was used to describe the strongest (most alcoholic) porters, typically around 7-8%, produced by a brewery.  The reason for the name ‘stout’ was because these strong porters were often sold in stouter bottles than the standard porters.  This gave them the nickname ‘stout’ which eventually became the term used to describe the style of beer.

There are numerous styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite Imperial Stouts.  While they had lost popularity in the early 20th century after the First World War, they have started to have a bit of an upswing due to the growing popularity in craft beer and breweries.  Stouts are very versatile allowing for a lot of creativity in adjuncts and flavouring and you can see a number of craft breweries doing stouts quite regularly.  Stouts also often age well making them a wonderful cellaring beer.  Without any further ado, my impression of Lighthouse’s Licorice Stout.

Appearance – Abysmal Black with no head (May just be my bottle).
Smell – Smells like licorice allsorts with a hint of chocolate.
Taste – Coffee and chocolate malt on the front with a sweet candy flavour finish.
Mouth feel – Coats the tongue, soft mouthfeel, low carbonation,
Overall – Flavourful stout with strong malt flavours and a good sweet finish. Not overly sweet. A good stout for someone who maybe doesn’t drink stouts often or is new to stouts. Not an overly heavy stout.
Do I like it?
– I did like it. It was an all-around good stout that I would enjoy drinking on a cold Winnipeg winter day/evening.  I’d definitely buy this, but I wasn’t blown out of the water.

81/100

Day 1 – Anderson Valley – Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale

Beer 1 - Anderson Valley Hornin' Ale
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 Anderson Valley’s Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale.

Pumpkin Ales are typically fall seasonal beers, though Anderson Valley’s is available from August-October.  They are really quite varied.  Some of the style use actual pumpkin, others use yams, and some still don’t use either but just use pumpkin spices.  Some breweries drop hand cut pumpkins into the mash while others use pumpkin puree or flavoring at different points in the brew.  However you cut it, pumpkin beers are meant to represent fall by bringing forward those delicious pumpkin pie spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ground ginger.

Pumpkin Ales are typically mild with little to no bitterness, quite a malty backbone with the spices usually the most prominent flavor on the front.  Many will also have a slightly thick mouthfeel to them.  These types of beers are a trend that seems to have been quite popular here in Manitoba this past October with a huge number of pumpkin ales being available on the shelves.

The one we have today is from Anderson Valley, located in Boonvile, California.  I’ve had a number of Anderson Valley’s beers and many of them are available at Barley Brothers.  They make a fantastic Blood Orange Gose as well as a really nice Turkey Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout.  Both of these are quite tasty, especially fresh.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company was founded on December 26th, 1987.  Originally they brewed with a 10-barrel brewhouse located on the lower level of their original brewpub, the Buckhorn Saloon.  At the time, they were one of only 20 craft breweries in the country and they are considered to be one of the pioneers of the craft beer industry.  In 1996 they expanded to a 30-barel facility at the corner of highways 128 and 253 (Why they have a 128 series of beer).  They were able to double their production to 15’000 barrels and began bottling as well.  In 1998 they built a three-story Bavarian style brewhouse with beautiful copper kettles.

What is really unique about Anderson Valley is that in 2006 they installed an array of 768 solar panels on top of their brewhouse and employee parking structure.  Since then, they’ve relied on the Sun to provide 40% of the energy they need to run the brewery.  Along with this, they have a strong ecological commitment which they outline here.

Brew Master Fal Allen came to the brewery through a circuitous route starting in Hawaii before brewing at Red Hook and Pike Place in Seattle followed short stints at other breweries along the way including Anderson Valley twice (he left to brew in Singapore for a bit).  They have quite a large team and their website has little interviews with the members. I’d suggest checking it out.

I’d also suggest you take a look at the part of their website that outlines the language “Boontling”. It’s pretty interesting.  With that said, I’m going to rate the beer.

Appearance – Nut brown with very minimal head.

Smell – Caramel and malt, spices very present (nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon). Smells quite a lot like pumpkin pie.  What you’d expect.

Taste – Spices come through right on the front and are quite present. This moves into a malty smooth flavor that is really quite pleasant.

Mouth feel – Good carbonation with a slightly thick mouthfeel.

Overall – Very good pumpkin ale.  Well-spiced with a really solid malt backbone

Do I like it? – Yes, I do like it.  I am not a fan of all the pumpkin ales that are available.  There are some that I find really nice and pleasant and this happens to be one of them.  I enjoyed this beer and felt that it had a lot of nice spice notes to it combined with a smooth malty backbone.  Overall it was really quite nice.  I’d certainly buy this if I had the opportunity to do so.

85/100

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – 2015

My wife gifted me the Craft Beer Advent calendar again this year.  24 different beers from North America.  As I did last year, I plan to blog about these beers again.  Every day.  That means 24 posts, hopefully.  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:
    • Appearance (Body, Colour, Head, Retention) (%5)
    • Smell (20%)
    • Taste (45%)
    • Mouth feel (Light, Medium, Heavy, Smooth, Coarse)(10%)
    • Overall (20%)
    • Do I like it (Yes or No) and why.

I want to make a note on the ratings.  I’m not a beer judge, and even if I was, I don’t always take stock in what people rate beers at.  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 do plan on rating these beers, it is more for my own personal reasons to keep track of which ones I liked the best throughout the process.  You can take my ratings as you like, either listen or don’t.  Ultimately, I want people to try new beers and take chances.

There is one hitch.  I will be travelling from the 22nd of December until the 7th of January.  I will be doing my darndest to try these last two beers before I go, cheating slightly, but giving myself the opportunity to write the posts and have them get posted on the 23rd and 24th.

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