Category Archives: Craft Beer Advent Calendar 2016

Day 24 – White Pony – December Flower


So, I want to apologize for the formatting of these write-ups. Being away for holidays means I’m writing on my phone. Transferring from Word to WordPress apparently leaves behind all the formatting. So, I’ll add hyperlinks when I get home. I’ll also be doing the wrap-up once I get back so look for that.
I can’t believe we are on the last beer. It’s been a great calendar this year. What’s been fun is looking back at old posts and realizing how much I’ve learned about beer and beer styles. My old posts seem a bit goofy. Our last beer comes to us from White Pony Microbrewery located in Padova, Italy.

White Pony was founded as an experiment for an Italian son of an Italian-Belgian family. Unable to find a job that would meet his need for experimentation, creativity and knowledge, he decided to create on for himself. They entered their first beer, prophet bourbon réserva, into the Kerst Bier festival in 2013 and placed in the top 10. In 2014 they entered the beer we have today, December Flower, and three others into the same competition that were all rated in the top 50 Italian beers. They’ve continued to win medals and awards for their beers and have continued experimenting and growing their styles.

Now producing 18 beers they continue to experiment with limited release beers and seasonal trying to push their creativity and build their brewing knowledge.

December flower is a Belgian golden strong ale brewed with a lot of candies sugar, orange peel, and two strains of yeast. It is then dry-hopped and a second addition of orange peel and coriander is added. Combined with the yeast waters this beer is meant to bring big fruity flavours and a nice warming quality for the cold winter nights.

Belgian Golden Strong Ales are pale, complex, effervescent and highly attenuated Belgian styles of beer. They bring big fruity notes along with hoppy notes and phenolic from the yeast. Interestingly, there are many references to the devil in he naming of this style of beer. This is due to the high alcohol content and a tribute to the original example of this style (Duvel). The best examples are highly complex and delicate with the carbonation bringing out the flavours. I’m excited as it’s the last beer and I’m hoping it’s a delicious one.

Appearance – Pours a golden effervescent colour with no head.

Smell – Floral notes, orange, yeast, candy sugar and subtle coriander.

Taste – sweet candy, orange, subtle coriander and pepper note with an alcohol warmth.

Mouth feel – effervescent, light bodied with an alcohol warmth on finish.

Overall – Good Belgian style strong ale. Flavours are nice and fruity with a good alcohol warmth. The champagne yeast brings an effervescence which makes some of those fruit notes pop.

Do I like it? – I did. It was nice and fruity and crisp. Good alcohol warmth and nice candied notes. Overall a good finish to the calendar.

Day 22 – Evil Twin – Sauerkirsche

It’s that time of year. We are down to the last few beers and we are working on getting through them while also planning/partying. It’s a busy time of year and I hope that people are making the most of the season. Whatever you celebrate, it’s a beautiful time of year, and it presents some great opportunities and sees people doing some good.

Today we have a beer coming to us from Evil Twin Brewing and it is a really interesting one. It’s a Russian Imperial Stout made with sour cherries and it’s called Sauerkirsche Stout.

Evil Twin was Founded by Jeppe Jarnit–Bjergsø in 2010, Evil Twin isn’t really a brewery.  Jeppe is known as the “gypsy brewer” in that he brews all over the place.  He develops recipe after recipe of unique styles and plays on styles that are brewed out of other breweries and exported around the world.  At the moment, he brews out of 10 different breweries in 6 different countries around the world.  This means that Evil Twin doesn’t really have any year-round beers but rather a huge number of different and interesting one-off brews. To put it in perspective, Evil Twin launched more than 40 beers in 2012.

Jeppe was born in Denmark and began his adult life as a school teacher.  In 2012 he moved his family to Brooklyn, NY so that he could be closer to where it all happens and to grow his brand.  His goal is to make New York the beer capital of the world.  While many of the beers that he makes are experimental, they are also in many cases critically acclaimed.  Brewing in small batches, usually no more than 2500-3000 barrels (~3500 hectoliters), the beers tend to be a bit more on the expensive side and very difficult to find. This particular beer was brewed in Spain.

Russian Imperial Stouts are a style that I’ve really started to enjoy and appreciate.  These beers age incredibly well and change over time.  This style of beer was originally brewed in the 1800s by Thrale’s brewery in London England for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. This same beer is brewed today now under the Courage brewery name and is called Courage Russian Imperial Stout (RIS).   Ranging between 8%-12% alcohol with strong malt notes of coffee, caramel, chocolate and dark fruit (plums, prunes or raisins for example), it is a perfect beer for a winter night.

Appearance – Pours a viscous black with a short lived fluffy beige head.
Smell – Roasted malt, sour cherry, chocolate, and sweet malt.
Taste – Roasted malt, subtle tartness, sour cherry notes, chocolate, coffee and some bitterness on the finish.
Mouth feel – Full bodied, oily, slight astringent mouth feel.
Overall – Bringing some bold flavours to the already bold Russian Imperial Stout style, this really represents the style fairly well. It’s roasty, matly, full bodied and brings a bit of a punch. The sour cherry notes are interesting addition but they don’t take away from the “chewiness” of this stout.
Do I like it?
– I did like it. It had a really bold profile and was certainly a bit forward. That said, I didn’t find it too in your face. I like strong beers and I love good Russian imperial stouts. The sour cherry added a bit of complexity to the flavours of this one that I really enjoyed. A bit tarter and sour than I would have expected given the sweetness of a RIS, but I found myself enjoying the sips.

Busy day in the beer community in the city today. First, some bad news. The PC government has cancelled the Craft Beer Loan program that had been announced under the NDP. While not part of their mandate, it was certainly something looked to as a boon to already existing and developing breweries. Its cancellation will have an impact, sadly, but to what extent is yet to be seen.

On a positive note, Half Pints is having their 12 beers of Christmas, Torque has a couple of new beers on at their taproom, Barn Hammer is doing another night of Barn Raising and PEG has a new beer being launched. So, while there is certainly a hit to the craft beer community through the cancellation of the loan program, the current craft breweries are alive and doing their best to engage the community.

Today we have a beer coming to us from La Debauche Brewery located in Angoulême, France. The beer is a Amber Ale that has been aged in Cognac Barrels.

The brewery was founded in 2013 by a couple of beer lovers and amateur brewers. Wanting to bring their beers and a love for the craft to the people in their region, they decided to make a go professionally. They are one of the new development of breweries that seem to be popping up in France. The brewery is located close to the town centre so as to reintroduce the brewing industry to the urban environment.

They produce a wide range of beers ranging from an Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon to a Saison, to the amber we are trying aged in Cognac Barrels. What’s even more interesting about their beers is that they partner with local artists and tattooists to develop designs for their labels. This creates some really neat artwork and makes for a unique experience when drinking their beer.

Amber Ales are, obviously, amber in colour, hoppy, and moderate strength. Balance between these two components can vary quite a bit depending on the brewer. In the versions that are hopped this component shouldn’t clash with the caramel malty notes. The style is darker and more caramelly than a typical pale ale with less bitterness than an APA. This one has been aged in Cognac Barrels and I’m looking forward to that aspect of it.

Appearance – Pours a hazy amber with a good 1” head.
Smell – Smell is of caramel, oak, cognac, plums and an alcohol note on nose.
Taste – Tastes of oak, cognac, dark fruit, caramel malty sweetness that is almost like candied sugar. Alcohol warmth is noticeable all the way through.
Mouth feel – Medium-full bodied with an oily mouthfeel and soft carbonation. Alcohol warmth is present throughout.
Overall – The cognac and oak aging of this beer are really front and centre. The amber ale base brings some nice malt components to it but are overpowered by the alcohol warmth and cognac notes. If there are any hops in here, they are lost.
Do I like it?
– I’m a pretty big fan of oak aged beers. The use of Cognac barrels was really quite nice and brought some of that complexity found in cognac to the beer. It’s strong and noticeably so, so it was more of a sipping beer, but I enjoyed it.

 

 

Day 20 – Brouwers Verzet – Oud Bruin

 

To begin, I’d like to note that tomorrow, December 21st, starting at 4pm Half Pints will be having it’s 12 beers of Christmas event at their taproom. This looks like it’ll be a lot of fun, so go check it out. They have details on their Facebook page.

Today, we have a beer coming to us from Brouwers Verzet in Anzegem, Belgium. It’s a traditional style of beer called an Oud Bruin. The name of this beer is Hip Hops Oud Bruin.

In 2008 three friends, Alex, Joran and Koen, made their way to the brewery school located in Ghent. After training in the craft and learning what it meant to be a brewer and to run a brewery, all found jobs at professional breweries and began honing their craft. After some time, they developed an itch to do their own thing and try their own recipes. They began experimenting in their own time and brewing interesting beers as a diversion. This is where the name “Brewers Resistance” comes from.

After getting rave reviews from friends and family, and seeing the demand for the beers they were making grown, the three friends decided to take the leap and go head first into the business. So, in 2011 the brewery was born. While they do not have a space of their own, they brew their beers out of other local breweries under the watchful eye of experienced brewmasters. They are left to experiment and create their own beers, but they are given guidance and assistance in doing so.

Oud Bruins (Old Brown) are a traditional Belgian style of beer that are malty, fruity, aged and somewhat sour. The beer is produced through the blending of a young and an aged (at least 1 year) beer which adds smoothness and complexity and balances out any harsh sour character. Oud Bruin can be used as a base for fruit-flavored beers such as kriek (cheeries) or frambozen (raspberries).

This beer takes an aged old beer and young beer and blends them together before further aging them for 6 months in oak barrels. The style is maltier in character than a Flanders Red Ale and less acetic. Historically this style was more sour than commercial examples today and traces its origins back to the Liefman brewery in the 1600s. Historically brewed as a “provision beer” that would develop some sourness as it aged. While Flanders Red Beers are aged in oak, Oud Bruins are typically warm aged in stainless steel. I’m curious, time to give this beer a try.

Appearance – Pours a hazy reddish brown with an effervescent head that is gone quickly.
Smell – Smell is of malt, oak, red fruit, and apples. It has an almost wine character to it.
Taste – Moderate sweetness up front with a crisp tartness. The oak notes come through subtly here as does the green apple and red fruit. The crisp tartness of this beer is refreshing.
Mouth feel – Medium-light body with an effervescent carbonation and a tart crisp finish.
Overall – Nice beer. Given this beer was aged in Oak barrels, a lot of notes were similar to Flanders Red Ales I’ve had. Given the name of this beer “Hip Hops” I had expected there to be some more hop aroma/bitterness in this beer. Whatever hop notes there may have been were overpowered.
Do I like it?
– I did. What’s interesting in researching this style is that Oud Bruins are normally aged in stainless steel. Given this was aged in oak, similar to a Flanders Red Ale, I found some of the characteristics to be similar to that style more than an Oud Bruin. Still, it was tasty and I rather enjoyed it.

 

Day 19 – Wold Top – Shepherds Watch

It’s been a pretty darn good year for beer here in Winnipeg this past year. We’ve seen a number of breweries open, the types of beers we are getting in the Liquor marts continue to expand, and we’ve got a lot more to look forward to in the next year. To top it off, this Advent Calendar has been the best one I’ve had.

Today we have a Winter Warmer from the UK. It’s Shepherd’s Watch brewed by farm based brewery Wold Top in Driffield, UK.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had a beer from Wold Top, but that isn’t any less exciting. Wold Top was founded in 2003 by farmers Tom and Gill Mellor. The brewery and farm are a family run business and is currently being run by the third and fourth generation of Mellors. Sitting on 600 acres of farmland, Wold Top focuses on brewing real ales and using tradition methods and quality ingredients. Being on a farm they have access to fresh ingredients that they are able to grow themselves. Those they can’t are only the highest quality.

They won best new brewery in 2003 and have continued to win awards for there beers over the years. Currently they have 21 beers that they brew and a solid team behind the brewing.

The style today is a Winter Warmer. While not really a “style” Winter Warmers tend to fall under the British Strong Ale style. Even so, Winter Warmers are malty sweet offerings and tend to be a favorite winter seasonal. Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.

Many English versions contain no spices, though some brewers of spiced winter seasonal ales will slap “Winter Warmer” on the label. Those that are spiced, tend to follow the “wassail” tradition of blending robust ales with mixed spices, before hops became the chief “spice” in beer. The “American” varieties have a larger presences of hops both in bitterness and flavor. This Winter Warmer is their “Canadian Edition” and so it could likely have a different approach.

Appearance – Pours dark brown with a 1” off-white head that fades quickly leaving slight lacing on glass.
Smell – Aroma is chocolate, caramel, and roasted malt.
Taste – Taste is sweet with subtle bitterness from roasted malt. There is a creamy caramel flavor to this as well as some subtle spice.
Mouth feel – Medium-full bodied with a slightly oily mouthfeel and soft carbonation.
Overall – Quite nice. There is no alcohol warmth to this beer but the spice and malt combination is very nice. The malty notes come through very nicely and this beer also seems to have a creamy note to it that suggests possible lactose or unfermentable sugar.
Do I like it?
– Very nice. I like this style and I enjoyed this beer. I will note here that Barn Hammer has a Winter Ale out presently (Fur Trader) and Torque will have one out in January (Bumper Shine). So if you liked this, look for those.

 

 

Day 18 – Birrificio Del Ducato – Molotov

Sunday funday. It’s a pretty cold one out there today and, it’s the last week of the advent calendar. Pretty darn sad that once again we are winding our way down to the end. It’s always a really nice treat to have these beers each day. Luckily, I’ve recruited my brother-in-law from Calgary to bring me some treats when he comes for the holidays. So, even though the calendar will be done, I’ll hopefully have some fun beers to try.

Today’s beer comes to us from another repeat brewery, Birrifico Del Ducato and it is a Spicy Strong Ale called Molotov.

Italy is not typically thought of for its beers.  As one of the most prolific wine producers in the world it is understandable why.  I had the opportunity to visit Italy last summer and found that there are quite a number of craft breweries around the country.  I tried all the ones I came across and was rather impressed.  I told my wife that I was likely one of the few people who is in Italy and seeks out craft beer.

Birrifico Del Ducato is located in a small village called Roncole Verdi which is located in the Parma region of Italy. Parma is famous for its “parma ham” (prosciutto) as well as fizzy wines such as Lambrusco and Malvasia. Roncole Verdi is also the birthplace of composer Giuseppe Verdi from which this brewery draws some inspiration.

The brewery is run by Giovanni Campari, brewmaster, and Manuel Piccoli, entrepreneurial mind.  They harvest their ingredients as often as possible by visiting the farms and selecting the hops, malts and barleys that they will use in their beers. The produce a number of beers all year round as well as seasonal beers released only at specific times of year.

The style we have today is a Strong Ale brewed with Wasabi. I had a challenging time determining exactly what style of beer was used as the base for this. It would be classified as an Herb/Spice/Vegetable beer. While a lot of the characteristics depend on the base, this is a catch all category for beers that use additions like spices, pumpkin, etc.… With a name like Strong Ale it is likely brewed in the style of either a Belgian Strong Ale or an English Strong Ale. It’ll be interesting to see.

It’s the wasabi that gives this beer the spice to call it spicy. It’s also what’s behind the name, Molotov. Wasabi is likely known to any sushi lovers as that green paste that comes with your meal. It’s hot, but a different kind of hot. It’s a Japanese horseradish and is pretty good at clearing your sinuses. I’m interested to see how it fits with this style of beer.

Appearance – Pours a hazy golden yellow with a good 1” white head and effervescent carbonation.
Smell – Smells of biscuit malt, toffee and a bit of wasabi in the back of the nose.
Taste – Sweet right up front with notes of caramel and chocolate. There is a slightly metallic twinge before the wasabi note comes on the finish. Wasabi is subtle and just noticeable on the back of the tongue.
Mouth feel – Medium body with medium carbonation and effervescent bubbles.
Overall – Falls a little short. The flavor of the wasabi is so subdued by the sweetness of the malt that it’s almost unnoticeable. While the beer is pleasant and the sweetness with the slight wasabi isn’t unpleasant, the beer comes across more as a middle of the road golden ale.
Do I like it?
– I found this beer to be a bit “meh”. While it was good and I didn’t find myself thinking it was unpleasant, the wasabi really didn’t come across for me and it left me a bit disappointed. With a label that says “brewed with wasabi and an appetite for destruction” I had higher hopes. Still, it wasn’t bad, just slightly disappointing.

 

Day 17 – Monyo Brewing Co – Black Alligator

It’s definitely that time of year. It’s crazy out there. People are in the thick of last minute holiday shopping and the roads are packed with people. It’s also cold outside. All this makes it feel pretty nice to just stay inside, relax in the warmth, and have a good beer.

Today we have a beer from Budapest, Hungary. I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Budapest, one of the few places I missed out on, so I’m excited to give this beer a try. The beer comes to us from Monyo Brewing Company and it’s a Black Saison called Black Alligator.

Monyo Brewing Company was founded in 2014 by Pein Adam, Antal Nemeth, and Zoltan Elek. The entire process of founding the brewery from scratch occurred over the course of less that one year. Quite impressive. Adam was frustrated with his local pub. They tried to serve good quality craft beer to its patrons, but the quality wasn’t very consistent. So, he decided to open a brewery and solve the problem he saw.

Using the most modern equipment and keeping the brewery at the highest possible cleanliness, Monyo brews good beer. They use the best ingredients they can find and have consistently produced high quality beers winning themselves Brewery of the Year in 2015. Brewing both standard beers as well as experimental ones, they like to try new things and play with different ingredients. They believe that hard work, technology, cleanliness, quality, and professional knowledge result in good beer.

Saison’s are a sturdy farmhouse style of beer.  Originally brewed in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, it was a beer brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common.  It had to be sturdy enough to be able to last but also not too strong so it would quench your thirst in the summer months.   This style of beer is very complex with a lot fruit notes, spices, and earth yeast notes to the beer.    They tend to combine nice fruity notes with spice and a subtle sourness or tartness.  Usually lots of spice with mild bitterness and a dry crisp finish and only a hint of sweetness.

At one point in time Saison’s were an almost extinct beer style but they have seen a great resurgence and are commonly brewed by several craft breweries across Canada.  Black Saisons are essentially brewed in a similar fashion as a typical saison but using darker malt varieties to give it bit more malt character and a darker colour. This particular one uses both Juniper Berries as well as Alligator peppers along with the malt, hops, and three kinds of yeast. Seeing how these flavours work together will be interesting, on to it.

Appearance – Pours black with a red hue and a good 3” head that fades quickly.
Smell – Smells of roasted malt, peppery spice, biscuit, caramel and juniper berries.
Taste – Sweet flavor with peppery spice, juniper berries, black licorice, dark fruit and some of that candied sugar coming through. Finish is sweet candied sugar and alcohol warmth.
Mouth feel – Medium body with a slightly oily mouthfeel and good carbonation. Finish is dry with alcohol warmth.
Overall – There are certainly some subtle components of a saison in this beer. Still, it comes across more like a Belgian strong ale. Certainly it could be called saisonish.
Do I like it?
– For a saison, this is lacking the crisp refreshing fruit flavours I look for. If you look at this like a Belgian tripel or another Belgian strong ale, it comes across quite nicely. There is a lot going on in this beer and I quite enjoyed the combination of the juniper berries and alligator peppers.