Category Archives: Craft Beer Advent Calendar – 2017

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 24 – Põhjala Jõuluöö

This is the last beer of the Advent Calendar for 2017. I’ve really enjoyed doing all of these write-ups and I hope that you folks following along found them interesting and informative. While I know that you all probably have different perspectives and opinions on the beers, I’m glad you stuck with me. One more post tomorrow with a beer from Beau’s and then I’m off until the New Year.  Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Today we have a beer that I’m excited to try. It’s from Estonia and it’s Põhjala Jõuluööa (Christmas Night) which is a Chocolate Vanilla Barrel Aged Imperial Baltic Porter. Why this is exciting to me is because I’ve had a Baltic porter from this brewery before, it was awesome, and it’s an actual Baltic porter from a Baltic state (how cool is that).

Põhjala is a brewery located in Tallinn, Estonia. Founded in 2011 by four Estonian entrepreneurs alongside head brewery Chris Pilkington.  Originally they brewed on a contract basis, going from brewery to brewery having their beers made out of other facilities. In 2013 they opened their own brewery and from the outset have been brewing quality beer. They are seen as one of the small number of breweries who can take credit for kick-starting the craft beer revolution in Estonia.

It is headed by head brewer Chris Pilkington, formerly with Brewdog in Scotland, and supported by a dedicated and knowledgeable staff. The brewery itself has quite a large production and with it’s setup they are able to produce 12hl at one time on their brew house. Once the beer is complete they have 13x24HL and 3x32HL fermentation tanks and 2x24HL bright tanks. Using only the latest technology and quality control measures, they can produce a variety of different styles of beer at the highest possible quality.

Today we have from them a Baltic Porter.  Now, as I’ve discussed loads of times on this blog, porters and stouts are not historically different beers.  While we do have beers sold under both names, stouts traditionally were stronger versions of porters.  The Baltic Porter is a prime example of this historical nature, though, it is still quite strong in and of itself.  The Baltic Porter is in fact a version of the Russian Imperial Stout which originated in the Baltic region of the world.  What makes this different is that it is usually cold fermented, making it a dark lager.  With the export of Britain’s Russian imperial stouts being quite popular in the Baltic region, it was only a matter of time before they decided to make their own using their own ingredients and brewing styles.

Baltic porter often has the malt flavours like an English Brown porter but with less of the roast on the malt, like a schwarzbier.  Overall, typical of this style is a sweet malt combined with deep malt, dried fruit esters and alcohol.  Smooth roasted malt flavours coming close to burnt with a clean lager characteristic.  An interesting style that I’ve not had the opportunity to enjoy too often. So, I am looking forward to this one. This one is a Chocolate, Vanilla, Barrel Aged Imperial Baltic Porter. So, we can expect a wide range of flavours coming in on this one. Let’s get to it!

Appearance – Pours black with a good tan head.
Smell – Smells of chocolate, roasted malt, vanilla, and some subtle oak in there as well.
Taste – Roasted malt mixed with malty sweetness. The chocolate and vanilla really come through for me on the taste and provide a nice rich sweetness that is slightly cut by a bit of oak.
Mouth feel – Medium-full body with moderate carbonation and a semi-sweet finish with alcohol warmth.
Overall – Roasted malt and dark fruit esters meld well with the sweetness of the chocolate and vanilla in this beer.  Overall delicious brew.
Do I like it?
– I did like. It brought some lovely flavours to a rich and smooth mouthfeel that hid the alcohol content of this beer well. It was a really nice way to finish the calendar and a fine example of a true Baltic porter.




2017 Advent Calendar – Day 23 – Du Claw Sweet Baby Java

Image result for sweet baby java

So, I’m in Hawaii now. Enjoying the sun and the beach. I’ll be back in the new year with new posts. I’ve got another day of this Calendar to go and then I’ve got my write-up on Beau’s New Lang Syne which you can find in liquor marts and beer vendors around town. As a spoiler, I’d go buy one. It’s a fantastic beer and I think it’ll be a great addition to your New Years celebrations.

Today we have a beer from DuClaw brewery and is called Sweet Baby Java. It’s an Espresso Bean Infused Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter and sounds pretty tasty.

In 1996 Duclaw brewery opened its doors in Bel Air.  Within one year it had been dubbed Bel Air’s hippest establishment by a local newspaper. The founder, Dave Benfield, had one central pillar of his mission: to be cool.

Today, Dave and brew master Jim Wagner are the ones responsible for the wide array of craft beers made by Du Claw. Through the experimentation they have created over 35 unique beers and countless variations and blends.  They’ve got quite the write-up on their website, check it out.

Porters are a dark style of beer that was originally developed in London from well-hopped beers made with brown malt.  Originally this style of beer was created by mixing an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale) to combine and create a new beer altogether than balanced the flavours and left a pleasing beer that was neither like the new nor the old.

Porters and Stouts are of the same stock.  In fact, when Guinness first launched its world-renowned stout it was as a focus on the mass-production of Porter.  At the time, there were two strengths of porters, either X or XX.  Stout at the time simply referred to a strong or robust ale, it has since developed due to the advent of coffee roasters and many of the malts that they could use to impart both colour and flavor, but originally this was its meaning.  Porters were part of this thread.

Appearance – Pours an abysmal black with about a quarter finger of tan head.
Smell –
Peanut butter on the nose along with some undertones of chocolate and coffee and roasted malt.
Taste –
Brings some crazy peanut butter notes dominating the palate along with some undertones of roasted malt, coffee beans, and chocolate.
Mouthfeel –
Medium bodied with good carbonation and nice semi-sweet finish.
Overall –
Good beer. Brings some interesting combinations of peanut butter, chocolate and coffee that, while the latter two are undertones, work well together. The porter base provides a good vehicle for these flavours without overpowering them and allows it to really be what it says it is.
Do I like it? –
I did like it. I love peanut butter and it was certainly at the forefront of this beer for me. The addition of the chocolate and coffee balanced it out a bit.

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 22 – Bridge Brewing Santa’s Sac

Image result for bridge brewing company

So, I’m leaving for Hawaii. I’ve got all the beers for the rest of the Calendar tasted and I’m scheduling some posts to happen while I’m away enjoying the beach. So, you can expect this weekend to see some Hawaiian check-ins coming your way. Let’s just hope my one-year old daughter enjoys the long plane ride…

Today we have a beer from Bridge Brewing Company located in North Vancouver, BC.  The beer is called Santa’s Sac and is a Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Bridge Brewing Company opened in 2012 as Vancouver’s first nano-brewery. Bridge was housed in a 1,000 sq/ft space and was brewing beer in 800 litre batches. Craft beer drinkers loved their beers and they’ve been working hard to expand production as much as possible to meet their demand. They have since expanded their brew house and brought on some help in order to meet the demand for their beers.

What is interesting about Bridge Brewing is that they are committee trying to be a zero-waste brewery. At present, they are 99% waste free. As they brew in small batches their hops and grains in small quantities so that they make sure they get the most use out of them. This also helps them ensure high quality standards in all their batches of beer.

Speaking of beer, they brew quite a lot of different styles from year-rounds, their iron-worker series, as well as seasonal beers.  The beer we are having today is from the Seasonal selection and sounds pretty tasty.  I’ve had the opportunity to try another one of their season beers, their Uganda Sipi Coffee Brown Ale and I thought it was pretty good.

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 phenolics from the yeast. Interestingly, there are many references to the devil in the 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 I’ve come to rather enjoy Golden Strong Ales. Let’s get to it.

Appearance – Pours a cloudy golden colour almost like honey with a thin white head.
Smell – Fruit forward on the nose with some dark fruit like plums along with some pepper, citrus and Belgian yeast notes.
Taste – Flavour brings some honey notes along with hints of banana, toffee, candied sugar, bubblegum, and a slight alcohol warming.
Mouthfeel – Nice medium mouthfeel with some candied sweetness on the finish. Not overly sweet and with a balanced alcohol presence.
Overall – Quite a nice Golden Strong Ale. It brings some nice flavour notes from the Belgian yeast along with some good candied sweetness that isn’t overly cloying. It’s got a good alcohol warmth that isn’t too pervasive. The Alcohol is well hidden.
Do I like it? – Yes, I do. I enjoyed this beer. I am becoming more of a fan of some of these Belgian styles that I don’t too often get to drink. This was a nice beer for day 22.

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 21 – La Debauche Saison

Image result for la debauche saison

I’m getting excited. My wife and I are travelling to Hawaii for the holiday season and I can’t wait to get there and enjoy the beach. The time is coming soon. I’m looking forward to also checking out some of the breweries there that have popped up since the last time I’ve visited. Saying all this, I won’t be posting much other than this calendar and one other write-up I have scheduled to be posted. So, no Friday Beer News until the new year. But, we still have a few more days of this Calendar left, so let’s get to it.

Today we have a beer coming to us from La Debauche Brewery located in Angoulême, France. The beer is a Saison.

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 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 neat artwork and makes for a unique experience when drinking their 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. Saisons, for me, are an interesting and flavourful style of beer that can bring a lot of interesting notes. I’m excited to give it a try.

Appearance – Pours a cloudy blonde colour with a thick white head.
Smell – Yeast esters bringing some yeasty notes, fruit and floral aromas (orange, honey, grapefruit) and some hints of coriander.
Taste – Citrus notes along with some of that Belgian yeast character. A bit of a bitterness to it on the finish. Those floral notes come across more as a herbal taste. There is a slightly metallic finish on this as well.
Mouth feel – Belgian yeast and some pepper with a slightly bitter, metallic, dry finish.
Overall – Overall this brings mostly what I’d expect from a saison. Good Belgian yeast notes along with some citrus and herbal notes. Coriander is there along with a slightly bitter dry finish. The odd metallic taste is slight off putting.
Do I like it?
– I did like. Overall I found it to be pleasant and enjoyable.


2017 Advent Calendar – Loncium Gingerbread Man


I’m leaving for Hawaii here soon and I’m really getting to be excited. I can’t wait to visit again and to bring my daughter along for the trip. I think she’ll love being on the beach and enjoying the pleasant weather. I’m a bit nervous about the flight, but we will see how it goes.

Day 20’s beer is a Spiced Black Ale from Privatbraurei Loncium from Kötschach-Mauthen, Austria. I’ve relied a lot on Google Translate today as their website, while it says it has English, appears to be exclusively in Austrian.

Loncium is in Kötschach-Mauthen, a picturesque village located near the Italian border. They are able to source their raw materials for their beer from within their village. They use these materials to brew the best beers they can and they’ve been recognized on a number occasions with gold, silver and bronze medals for many of their beers.

Having opened in 2007 the brewery has steadily expanded adding more fermenters and tanks to allow for an expanded range of beers. Describing themselves as being as far away from the corporate breweries as you can get, they focus on hand crafting each of their beers. As the regions first brewery, they have connected with the craftsmanship that has existed in the region since the 1700s. The brewery is equipped with the most modern equipment and the beers are fermented in open vats.

Currently Loncium produces 11 beers ranging from a classic Bavarian style pilsner, Schwarze Gams (take on a Bock), to a Rauchbier (smoked beer). You can check out their full range of beers here. The brewery also has a guest house attached to it and it’s possible to stay right on site. If you’re ever thinking of travelling around Austria, what better place to stay than a hotel connected to brewery.

As for style on this beer, it’s being called a Black Ale, or a Dark Ale, but this really doesn’t help to determine what style of beer it might be. Because this beer has been spiced, it falls into the category of “Spiced/Herbed Beers”. This is a catch all category for beers with any spice addition. Most Christmas and pumpkin beers fall into this category.

On that, I’ll just get right into it.

Pours a dark brown with a bubbly white head that recedes rather quickly to a ring. The aromas of all of the gingerbread baking spices are present, some ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and star anise. Fairly smooth on the palate, low-medium carbonation on this one, and some lovely balance between the sweet vanilla and ginger notes, and some robust roasty bitterness rounds it all out

Appearance – Pours a dark brown colour with a white head that dissipates quickly.
Smell – A lot of the gingerbread spices come through on the nose. There is ginger, nutmeg, star anise (kinda like black liquorice) and some cinnamon. There is a touch of maybe clove there as well.
Taste – The flavour brings much of the same with the nutmeg and ginger coming through the most for me on this. I don’t like star anise, so I am getting that as well because I’m sensitive to it.
Mouth feel – Medium bodied with low-medium carbonation and a roasted malt bitterness on the finish.
Overall – I think that this beer was as described. It had the spice character of a Gingerbread man, and it was a dark beer with some roasted malt notes.
Do I like it?
– I was okay with it. I wouldn’t say I loved or hated it. This is one I was neutral on. I am a rare breed that enjoys some Pumpkin beers. That said, this spice character didn’t really do it for me.


2017 Advent Calendar – Day 19 – Sound Brewery Baltic Porter

sound brewery Baltic porter

I always enjoy doing these write-ups. There are a lot of repeat styles and repeat breweries but the beers are often slightly different and provide a unique opportunity to try something you might not otherwise get a chance to try. I’m a bit disappointed in some of the beers being infected, but overall I’ve enjoyed doing these write-ups and refreshing myself on the styles and the breweries who brew them.

Today’s beer comes to us from Sound Brewery in Washington State and it is a Baltic Porter.

Sound Brewery, not to be confused with Howe Sound Brewery from BC, is a small brewpub founded in 2010 in Poulsbo, Washington. It is really quite the small brewery. If you look up pictures you’ll see that it is an old-style house on a busy city street. They specialize in traditional style beers done well, and limit most of their bottles to local distribution. The fact that we get to try some of there beers in this calendar is kind of neat.   While I can’t find too many details about the brewery from their website or other sources, what the website does list is their beers, and there are many them.  They have some good info on each one so that is at least worth a read.

Today we have from them a Baltic Porter.  Now, as I discussed on day 2 of this blog, porters and stouts are not historically different beers.  While we do have beers sold under both names, stouts traditionally were stronger versions of porters.  The Baltic Porter is a prime example of this historical nature, though, it is still quite strong in an of itself.  The Baltic Porter is in fact a version of the Russian Imperial Stout which originated in the Baltic region of the world.  What makes this different is that it is usually cold fermented, like a lager.  With the export of Britain’s Russian imperial stouts being quite popular in the Baltic region, it was only a matter of time before they decided to make their own using their own ingredients and brewing styles.

A Baltic porter often has the malt flavours like an English Brown porter but with less of the roast on the malt, like a schwarzbier.  Overall, typical of this style is a sweet malt combined with deep malt, dried fruit esters and alcohol.  Smooth roasted malt flavours coming close to burnt with a clean lager characteristic.  I’ve come to really enjoy this style of beer and so, I am looking forward to this one.

Appearance – Pours an abysmal black with a big puffy beige head that required a bit of time to complete the pour.
Smell – Dark fruits, bready malt, caramel notes, toasted malt, and a touch of vanilla.
Taste – Dark fruit notes come through on the flavour bringing a bit of sweetness along with the caramel malt. A roasted malt flavour follows bringing a nice subtle bitterness that lingers on finish.
Mouth feel – Medium bodied with a sweet front and a bitter finish.
Overall – Very nice Baltic Porter. I’ve had the opportunity to have a number of these and this one fits the bill very nicely. Good sweetness, nice malt character, some dark fruit notes, and a good dry bitter finish.
Do I like it?
– Yep. Very nice Baltic Porter. Really like this style.



2017 Advent Calendar – Day 18 – Tickety Brew Salted Caramel Latte Stout

For day 18 we have a Salted Caramel Latte Stout 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.

As I’ve said many times on this blog, stouts are one of my favorite styles of beer. 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 name ‘stout’ referred to the often-stouter bottles these brews were sold in, which eventually became the term used to describe the style of beer.

There are numerous sub-styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite, Imperial Stouts. While they had lost popularity after the First World War, they’ve 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. You can see many craft breweries playing with stouts regularly. Higher alcohol stouts also often age well, making them a wonderful cellaring beer.

This stout is known as a “sweet stout,” which are much sweeter and less bitter than most other stouts. This is a traditionally English style of stout developed in the early 1900s as a tonic for invalids and nursing mothers. Originally called Milk or Cream stouts, this designation is no longer permitted in England (even if it is everywhere else) and the name derives from the use of lactose, or milk sugar, as a sweetener in the beer. Lactose is not a fermentable sugar and remains after fermentation is complete, which gives this beer its sweet and creamy nature. Onto the beer.

Appearance – Beer burst forward from the bottle upon opening and had a huge amount of carbonation. When finally poured the ½ bottle remaining it poured a hazy dark brown and had a big frothy head that slowly dissipated.
Smell –  Roasted caramel, coffee, slight salt on the nose, some cocoa powder notes and a slightly astringent to the nose aroma.
Taste –  The taste from the chocolate does come through on this beer with that coffee note and a bit of bitterness on the finish. It has a slightly astringent note that seem out of place and a higher than expected carbonation.
Mouth feel
– Highly carbonated with fizzy bubbles with a medium body and a bitter-sweet finish.
Overall – I’m really at a lose here. When I think of a sweet stout I often think of a creaminess to the mouthfeel and a nice enhancement on those coffee and caramel notes. Sadly the carbonation detracted from this beer and caused these flavours to be more subdued. When I got past this it was overall pretty decent in respect to what it brought. I thought it might be infected, but I think that was just my over-reacting to the high carbonation and slightly astringent note.
Do I like it?
– Sadly no. I think this could have been a fantastic beer. It was bottle conditioned, for some reason, and that didn’t help it overall. The carbonation was higher then it should be, and it really detracted from the beer for me.