Category Archives: Craft Beer Advent Calendar – 2017

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 15 – Crazy Mountain Holiday Ale

Crazy Mountain - Holiday Ale

I hope that everyone is excited for the weekend. Given that last weekend I was either sick or caring for a sick baby, I’m excited to have a full weekend of feeling well and enjoying time with family and friends. It’s a busy time of year for everyone. Holiday parties abound, visits with family, holiday trips and all the like. I just want to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and to encourage you to be safe over this holiday season.

Today is day 15 of the craft beer advent calendar. It comes to us from Crazy Mountain Brewing Company out of Colorado. It is a Winter Warmer they’ve aptly called their Bridge Street Holiday Ale. It is a Winter Warmer that has been spiced using holiday spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) as well as Maple Syrup.

Founded in 2010 by Kevin and Marisa Selvy, Crazy Mountain is the first production brewery to be opened in the Vail Valley and is headquartered in Edwards with a second location in the Bakers Neighbourhood of Denver.  The mountain lifestyle is pervasive in this brewery. They’ve been known to close shop early to hit the runs and bring a laid-back mindset to what they do. They are interested in making interesting and tasty beers without getting bogged down in the grind.

They’ve made a little video that talks about the brewery and I encourage you to take a watch rather then read me write about it. You can find that here.

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 presence of hops both in bitterness and flavor. This Winter Warmer uses a variety of spices combined with maple syrup. I can expect it to have a nice spice presence with a pronounced sweetness.

Appearance – Pours the colour of caramel with a thin 1” head that leaves just a bit of froth on the top.
Smell – Those spice notes come through strong. All I get is the nutmeg, a bit of ginger, and tinge of cinnamon.
Taste – On the taste I get a slight astringent/metallic taste right on the front followed by a powerful ginger note. All I taste after that is a bitter ginger finish.
Mouth feel – Slightly metallic front, spice middle, and bitter finish.
Overall – While certainly a spiced ale, this one brings a bit too much of the spice and bit too little of the ale. While I get the carbonation, the subtle bitterness and slight caramel malt notes, the front and centre star is the ginger. While this is appropriate for a spiced beer, overall that’s pretty much all I get.
Do I like it? 
– I found this to be a bit too much on the spice front. I like spice in beer but not when it is the only taste you are really getting. Granted, this is a spiced beer, spice should be expected, but for me it wasn’t something I enjoyed.

 

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 14 – White Pony Dark Signs

Photo Credit

Day 14, amazing. It seems like every year the progress through this calendar goes fast. I always enjoy it and I am again this year. I hope that folks enjoy reading these write-ups. I find it interesting to learn about the various breweries and to remind myself about the styles. For the local beer scene, I’ve got some news I’ll be putting out tomorrow. Lots of things happening around town and great beers available from local breweries now!

Today’s beer comes to us from an Italian microbrewery called White Pony. It is a Belgian Strong Ale that has had a post fermentation addition of orange peel and coriander.

White Pony is in the Citta di Padova in Italy. This small town in the northern part of the country is only 92 square kilometres but boasts a population of 214,000. That gives a population density of 2300 people living on each square kilometer. That’s quite a packed town. White Pony is the project of the son of an Italian-Belgian family who has a passion for brewing beers in the Belgian style. Using Belgian yeasts, bottle fermentation, they make unpasteurized, unfiltered and bottle conditioned beers.

They brew a variety of different beers throughout the year to compliment their core beers. They focus on trying to be innovative while still sticking to some of the old brewing traditions. They even have a barrel aging program for some of their beers.

The style of beer we are trying today is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale. To compare, Belgian Darks are similar in strength to a Belgian Tripel but they don’t have quite the hop profile. They are more like a big dubbel and border on being called a Quadrupel. They are heavily malted, very sweet and bring dark fruit notes along with subtle spice elements. They are smooth, almost creamy, and bring a rich complexity of flavours that, when done right, can be dangerously easy to drink. Let’s get to it.

Appearance – Pours a dark amber with a thin, quickly fading, beige head.
Smell – Big caramel malt sweetness, candied sugar, plum, figs, and some real booze notes in there too.
Taste – That candied sweetness comes through right at the beginning before giving way to some of the more malt forward caramel sweetness and that dark fruit. The finish is smooth, sweet, and warming.
Mouth feel – Full bodied, smooth, sweet warm finish.
Overall – This is exactly what I’d expect from this style of beer. It brings big malt sweetness along with candied sugar, dark fruit notes and rich smooth and complex overall profile. There are subtle spice notes in there at the finish and this beer is rather easy to sip.
Do I like it? 
– I really did like this. I think that it represented exactly what it should and brought a beautifully complex and delicious beer. It’s dangerous, given that the nearly 12% of alcohol in it is hard to identify. I wouldn’t drink more than one of these.

 

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 13 – Duck Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

Photo Credit

So, with the half-way mark behind us, I have officially caught up and am back on track with the Craft Beer Advent Calendar. As a special note on yesterday’s beer, Nickel Brook has indeed determined that their beer is infected and have been amazing at connecting with beer drinkers who got tainted beers across the country. This is excellent. A brewery acting when one of it’s beers isn’t where they want it to be. Glorious to see.

For Day 13 we go to a brewery that has a great name. This beer, a Scottish Wee Heavy, comes to us from Duck Rabbit Brewery.

Located in Farmville, North Carolina, is a brewery.  It has an interesting name and makes interesting beers.  The Duck-Rabbit Brewery was founded by Paul Philippon and sold its first beer in 2004.  It was a long journey to arrive at this point for Paul.  Pursuing a career teaching Philosophy, Paul first got he idea to open his brewery in 1987.  After working over the next number of years at three different breweries, he was finally able to open his own.  In 2004, Duck Rabbit Brewery sold its first beer and has continued to grow since.

Paul came up with the logo for the brewery using his experience as a philosophy teacher.  The image is one of those which when viewed from a different perspective looks like more than one thing.  Like the old lady and young lady picture, this logo is based off one which looks like both a rabbit and a duck, depending on how you look at it.  Hence the name, and the logo.

The Duck-Rabbit brewery team includes many folks helping out with the various tasks. The brewery uses a 20-barrel brew house and brews into 20, 40, 60 and 80-barrel tanks.  The focus of the brewery is not on brewing a wide variety of beer styles, but focusing on being the “dark beer experts”.  For them, the dark styles of beer are under represented in the marketplace.  Given the enormous flavour and style possibilities in brewing the darker styles of beer, they hope to be able to make something that will suit the tastes of every beer fan.

A Scottish Wee Heavy is a historical ale that originated in strong ales of the 1600 and 1700s and eventually moved into a “schilling” classification in the 1800s. The “schilling” classification had to do with the alcohol content. Typically, these beers would range from 60 schilling (light) to 90 schillings (wee heavy). These are rich, heavy, and sweet. Bringing big caramel malt and dextrinous (corn sugar) sweetness. Overall, they can bring what might be described as a “dessert” characteristic. In many ways, the Scottish Wee Heavy is like an English Barley Wine in it’s malt and flavour profile. I’m excited to give this one a try, especially since I really enjoyed the Baltic Porter they included in the 2015 calendar.

Appearance –  Pours a clear amber with a puffy beige head.
Smell – Caramel, bready malt, sweet breads, toffee, and dark fruit notes on nose.
Taste – Grainy caramel malt, toffee, and sweet bread come through on the taste. There are also some raisin notes and some dark fruit, plum or fig, that come through as well. There is a sweet husky floral finish.
Mouth feel – Soft carbonation, medium bodied, sweet floral finish.
Overall – Very nice. Malty, boozy, sweet, all of the characteristics I’d expect from a wee heavy. While the booze doesn’t come through in the flavour (it’s surprisingly smooth for 8%) it brings a lot of really nice malt and dark fruit character along with some pleasant sweetness.
Do I like it? 
– I do like it. It’s a sipping beer, that’s for sure, and while I compared it a bit to a barley wine above, it is lighter in character then something along those lines. It brings a nice malt, dark fruit, and sweetness that warms on a winter’s night, while at the same time not being overly heavy.

 

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 12 – Nickel Brook Half Bastard Stout

Well folks, we are now ½ way through the craft beer advent calendar for 2017. So far, it’s been pretty good. I’ve enjoyed many of the beers in the calendar and am hoping that the second half will bring just as many enjoyable beers.

For the second post of today, I am writing about Day 12’s beer coming at us from Nickel Brook Brewing Co in Burlington, Ontario.

Nickel Brook may sound familiar to many regular craft beer consumers. They’ve got a couple of beers that are easy to find in our local Liquor Marts. Their Headstock IPA and their Cause & Effect blonde are regular listings. They’ve also sent us several seasonal beers including Uber Weisse, Bolshevik Bastard Russian Imperial Stout, and some others that I’m forgetting (I’m sure).

Nickel Brook has a unique history in that they didn’t begin as a brewery. John and Peter Romano started a company together called “Best Bitters” which was a brew-on premise operation. Clients would come and brew all sorts of wine and beers. Over the years this company grew to be the largest brew-on premise operation in the province. The Romano brothers worked this gig for 10 years before getting tired of making wort for others to turn into beer. They decided, why not brew a few big batches and sell them directly to our consumers? So, they applied for a commercial license and began building a brewery. In 2004 Nickel Brook Brewing Co. opened its doors.

The name comes from John’s children, Nick and Brooke, and built a name for itself brewing a gluten free beer and a green apple pilsner. By 2005, they were listed in the LCBO and by 2006 they had hired Rick Morrow as Assistant Brewer. This is also when they started turning away from mainstream brewing styles towards more innovative and creative beers.

In 2009 Head Stock IPA won a gold at the American Brewing Awards. And the brewers began experimenting with barrel-aging beers. This created the basis for what eventually became one of the largest brewery barreling programs in Ontario. The Romano brothers are also the co-founders of Arts and Science brewing company along with Collective Arts and through this and their Funk Lab (opened in 2016) they’ve increased not only their brewing capacity, but their ability to make interesting and fun beers.

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 a number of craft breweries playing with stouts regularly. Higher alcohol stouts also often age well, making them a wonderful cellaring beer.

This stout is an American Stout. American stouts tend to be more hop forward then your traditional stout (think Diesel Fitter). They have a dry slightly bitter finish but are very subtle on the hop aroma and flavour. Let’s get to the beer.

Appearance – Pours black with red tinges and a frothy tan head.
Smell – Grainy caramel malt, roasted malt and cocoa notes, a mild earthy note and some herbal hop notes.
Taste – That same grainy caramel and roasted malt character comes through with a slightly sour tinge to it. It has a subtle coffee and cocoa notes with some herbal, wet hop character as well.
Mouth feel – Higher then expect carbonation with a slightly sour finish and a medium body.
Overall – I think there is something going on with this beer. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I think there might be a bit of an infection going on with this beer. The sour notes and the high carbonation were off putting and out of place. Sad, because I though the imperial version was fantastic.
Do I like it? 
– No, I didn’t enjoy it. There were some notes here that felt out of place and made it difficult to drink. Each sip tasted “off” and so I, sadly, ended up dumping it. Boo.

 

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 7 – Camba Bavaria Grisette

Image result for camba bavaria

The first post for today comes to us from one of my favorite places to visit, Bavaria (Germany) and is a Grisette 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 in Chiemgau, one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in Bavaria.

The style of beer we are drinking today is a Belgian Farmhouse Ale called a grisette. There is a fantastic write-up on grisettes at Draft Magazine’s website, but I’ll hit on the key notes from this for those of you not interested in reading through that whole thing.

A grisette holds a lot of characteristic similarities with a Saison. While saisons were often brewed for seasonal workers, grisettes were originally brewed for miners. There are many attempts to explain the name of the beer but they all boil down to the “gris” (French for grey) in the name. Whether this be the grey colour of the long boil when making the beer, the grey pinafores worn by women who would serve the miners, or the fact that the miners would come back looking for drinks covered in grey dust, it is safe to say that the name has its origins in the colour grey.

Grisettes are a low alcohol beer brewed with malted wheat and a more hop forward character then your saison. Most grisettes come in around 4% (this one is a whopping 5.9%), are brewed with approximately 40% malted and unmalted wheat, and while not coming to the point of an IPA or anywhere near, they have far more hop character then other farmhouse style ales.

As I said, this article really walks you through the Grisette style and history and is well worth a read. What I’ve noted above is a Coles notes version of this. I love beer history almost as much as I love drinking the beers. Let’s get to it.

Appearance – Pours a hazy straw colour with a nice frothy white head.
Smell – Grainy malt notes with a Belgian yeast character to it bringing some peppery notes. Subtle citrus and grassy hop notes as well.
Taste – Grainy, biscuit malt notes with some sweet apple character to it and a grassy, herbal hop finish.
Mouth Feel – Good carbonation, light bodied, off-dry malt/fruity finish.
Overall Thoughts – Had I not done a bit of reading about the style before drinking it, I would likely have said that I can’t really tell how this is different from a saison. Knowing that there is a bit more hop character to it, I can see that. This certainly brings some more hop notes then I would typically expect in a saison while still bringing some of those stereotypical saison characteristics too.
Do I like it? – A sweet and malty drink with some subtle hop character that is both refreshing and enjoyable. I did like it, although I would have preferred a bit more funk (I love funky farmhouse ales).

 

 

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 11 – Brouwerij De Molen Dancer & Dasher

For the second beer post today, I’m writing about Day 11’s beer which is coming to us all the way from the Netherlands. This isn’t the first time we’ve had a beer from Brouwerij de Molen. In fact, this is the third time that we’ve see one of their beers.

In the 2016 calendar we had a Winter Saison, and in the 2014 advent calendar, we had the chance to try their Winter Porter. The beer we have from them is called “Dasher & Dancer” and is an Irish Red Ale.

The breweries name means “The Mill” and is located inside a historic windmill building called De Arkdulf, which was built in 1697.  As well as a brewery, they also have a retail business on site and a restaurant which creates food to pair with their beers.

Founded in 2004 by head brewer Menno Olivier, this brewery can produce 500 litres per batch with an annual production of 500 hectolitres.  The equipment at the brewery includes converted dairy tanks which are used as fermenters and the bottles are still capped and corked by hand.  Today the brewery can produce 2500 litres at a time and has an annual production of 6000 hectolitres due to the purchase of a new building 200 meters away from the mill.  One interesting thing about this brewery is that they do not dispose of unsatisfactory beer.  Instead, this beer is distilled into a “beer liqueur” at 20% abv and is then sold as well, reducing the spoilage of the beer, and allowing them to still make profit off bad batches.

Irish red ales are typically an easy drinking pint of beer. They have subtle flavours and are more malt forward with a balance between toffee/caramel sweetness and slightly grainy biscuit notes. Some versions, like this one, will emphasize the caramelly sweetness a bit more.

While it’s true that Ireland has a long tradition of ale brewing, this style of beer is an interpretation of the English Bitter with less hopping and a bit of roast to add colour and dryness. Having been rediscovered as a craft beer style in Ireland, it has now become quite a regular style in many brewery line-ups along side pale ales and stouts. Onto the beer.

Appearance – Pours a clear amber with a huge frothy white head.
Smell – Pine and Resinous hop note are the first things that come through for me on this beer. There is a biscuity caramel malt back end on the nose as well.
Taste – Taste is a very subtle version of the nose. There are those resinous pine hop notes that jump up right on the tongue before a subtle light caramel malt sweetness rushes in to push them aside. After the malt sweetness leaves you are left with a bitter dry finish.
Mouth Feel – Soft carbonation with a dry finish.
Overall Thoughts – Overall, I don’t really know where this one fits. The malt notes were overly subdued. The body was a bite on the light side for me and I was missing that caramel malt sweetness from this beer.
Do I like it? – I found this one to be lacking a bit for me. I didn’t really enjoy it overall, and I’m a big fan of these guys.

 

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 6 – Belching Beaver – Milk Stout Nitro

Photo: http://www.belchingbeaver.com/beers

I can’t believe how quickly we are approaching the end of this calendar. I know that we are just about half-way through at this point, but it seems like it’s going so fast. I’m sure part of it could be that I’ve missed a few days. Whatever the case might be, we are motoring through these beers and to catch-up here is the first of two posts today.

Day 6’s beer is Belching Beaver’s Milk Stout on Nitro.

Belching Beaver is a San Diego based brewery that has 5 locations in San Diego, Oceanside and Vista California. While I can’t find many details on the brewery in respect to date of opening, I do know that it is owned and operated by Tom Vogel who, for years, had wanted to open a bar or a pizza place but could never find the right location to buy. After years of making offers and exploring this route, he decided to just open a brewery and make a place for himself.

Luckily for Tom, he played poker with a brewer from Cornado Brewing named Troy Smith. He asked Troy if he wanted to do his own thing and join him in his startup brewery. Troy agreed and they began moving forward scouting locations and coming up with a design. They partnerd with Dave Mobley, an accomplished architect, and opened their first brewery in San Diego, CA.

They’ve now expanded to 5 locations and boast a 15-barrel system at their headquarters plus a 10-barrel system at their brewpub location and an annual production of 60,000 barrels at its Oceanside base of operations. They make a variety of interesting beers including a PB&J stout and a Peanut Butter Latte stout.

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 – Opaque black with a nice tan head that leaves little lacing.
Smell – Roasted malt, caramel, subtle cocoa notes, vanilla, and roasted coffee beans.
Taste – Nice silky sweetness from the lactose, notes of coffee and some caramel or brown sugar, chocolate notes, like a bitter or dark chocolate, and a very subtle earthy hop character.
Mouth Feel – Silky mouth feel that is accentuated using Nitro. There is very little carbonation. Medium bodied.
Overall Thoughts
– A bit of a lighter bodied stout than others I’ve had of this style. The sweetness builds as you drink this beer but is overall not overpowering. The use of nitro draws out that lactose character and makes this beer feel light and airy.
Do I like it? – I do like this beer. I’m a big fan of stouts and I really like trying a good milk stout. I’d be happy to have this one again.