Craft Beer Advent Calendar – That’s a Wrap

Craft Beer Advent Calendar - All 24 Beer

The craft beer advent calendar, 2014, is complete.  It has been a really interesting 24 beers with a lot of variety and a veritable world tour of brews.  My wife asked if I’d be interested in doing this again.  ABSOLUTELY.  It was a fantastic experience that gave me the opportunity to try beers that I might never have the chance to try again.  I certainly hope I can for some of them, others…I’m okay not having them again.

So, let us wrap up the post with some statistics.

  • We had 24 beers all of which were a different style or variation on a style.
  • We visited:
o        United States (3)

o        Israel

o        Netherlands (2)

o        Germany (2)

o        Brazil (2)

o        Guyane Francaise

o        England (2)

o        Belgium

o        Norway

o        Austria

o        Scotland

o        Iceland

o        Mexico

o        New Zealand

o        Australia

o        Italy

o        Finland

o        South Africa

  • We managed to hit 6 continents through this with the following stats
    • Europe (Scotland, Finland, Norway, England, Iceland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Italy)
    • North America (United States, Mexico)
    • South America (Guyane Francaise, Brazil)
    • Asia (Israel)
    • Africa (South Africa)
    • Oceania (Australia, New Zealand)

Certainly the majority of the beers came from the European countries with absolutely NONE coming from Canada.  We had some repeat countries as listed above with 3 coming from the United States as the top contributor.

Now.  My favorite beer for the entire 24 days.  It’s actually rather funny that I should have my favorite beer on the fourth day of the Calendar!  My favorite beer from the entire calendar comes to us from:

Peak Brewing Company in Portland, Maine and is the Hop Blanc

Thanks so much for following along.  I hope that you enjoyed these reviews and found them useful.  I hope that you continue to follow along as I continue to blog about beer news and reviews.

– Beer Winnipeg

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 24

Beer 24

Well, what a journey.  24 beers from around the world in a variety of different styles.  This process has given me a great deal of insight into brewing and breweries around the world.  I feel I have learned a great deal and I respect and appreciate beer a lot more than I did before this.  I certainly hope I have been able instill in some of you the same sort of sense of appreciation.

Our final beer comes to us from Sound Brewery out of Washington State in the USA.  Founded by Mark Hood and Brad Ginn, two seasoned home brewers, Sound Brewery began brewing in Poulsbo in February of 2011.  They have been brewing some award-winning beers that are Belgian inspired as well as traditionally northwest style beers as well.

The beer that has been given to us for the very last beer of this calendar is the Entendez Noël Belgian Quadrupel.  Sitting at 11.5%abv this is certainly a strong beer, bordering on a barley wine that promises to bring a good bitterness along with the warmth of malt.  Sitting at 50 IBU it is certainly up there with a good hoppy IPA for bitterness and having been brewed in the Belgian style, it promises to be a strong upfront beer with lots of complexity.  They’ve used Trappist yeast, Belgian Pilsner malts, cane sugar, and Motueka hops.

Quardrupels are a beer that is traditionally brewed by the Trappist Monks of Belgium.  Trappist Monks are renowned worldwide for their brewing abilities and rarely sell beer outside of their monasteries.  My brother had the opportunity to purchase 6 beers from one of the Trappist monasteries in a very limited release (100 cases of 6 beer each) in Toronto.  They were going for $100 a case, not cheap.

The name represents the strength of the beer and originates from the use of X on the bottles which indicated this.  So, a single would be marked with an X and indicate a weaker beer.  This is the strongest beer brewed by Trappist monks and would have been marked XXXX.  I’m rather excited to give it a try as it is the last beer of the Calendar.

Rating: 82/100

Appearance:  Clear amber colouring with no head.  Was concerned it was flat upon opening, luckily it just wasn’t.
Smell: Lemon notes, hoppy notes, some sweet honey smell and a bit of the caramel malt.
Taste: At first taste it is a light bodied, well balanced, sweet and hoppy beer with good citrus notes and some honey sweetness in there for flavor.  As I continued to drink the alcohol (11.5% if you remember) started to show itself making it taste like alcohol and overshadowing the other initial flavours.
Mouth feel: Light body with creamy mouth feel with light carbonation.
Overall: Nice, well-balance quardrupel that is better cold than warm.  As it warms the alcohol comes through a lot stronger and overpowers the other flavours.  They are quite nice though initially and this beer is well balanced and when I first sipped it I was surprised that I didn’t taste the alcohol.  As far as quadrupels go that is a good thing and this was definitely a strong contender.
Do I like it: No, I did not enjoy this beer.  It was good to begin with but as I continued to drink it the alcohol came through too strong.  Perhaps it is because it is such a strong beer and not my cup of tea, but it overpowered everything else for me and made it more of a chore to drink.  If I drank this one again, it would be outside on a cold Winnipeg day so that the beer would stay at that initial temp.

I have one more post that I will do for the Advent Calendar.  I will be summing up the 24 beers we have tried indicating their styles, location, and choosing my overall favorite.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 23

Beer 23

Today’s beer comes to us from Israel making it another Asian beer.  The beer is called Mosco and is brewed in the Judean Mountain in the village of Zanuch in Israel.  Annoyingly the website is down for them to update it and so I can’t find any information the brewer or brewery other than its location.  Seems that a variety of the beers in the calendar are trying to sabotage my ability to review them.  Oh well, we shall just move into the beer style and its review.

The beer is a Strong Blonde ale brewed in the Belgian method, so a Beligan Pale Ale essentially.  Blonde ales are very pale in color and are usually clear, crisp and dry.  Being brewed in the Belgian style means that it will use wheat malts which will make it cloudier than you’d expect but it should still hold the same coloring.  Blondes are from the Pale Ale variety of beer and usually have a lighter body with a subdued malt character and large hop profile.  They aren’t hoppy by any means, but they typically are not malty either.  Think of Coors or Coors light. Onto it then!

Rating: 67/100

Appearance:  Cloudy with a straw coloring and quite a bit of yeast sediment.
Smell: Yeasty on the nose with caramel malts and grassy/lemony notes from the hops.
Taste: Cool and crisp with a dry finish.  Slight fruitiness with a sickly sweetness making it taste far more alcoholic than the 6.5% abv should account for. Not as crisp as I would expect as the wheat malts make for a creamier mouth feel so the taste is subdued a bit on the end.
Mouth feel: Light body with creamy mouth feel with good carbonation.
Overall: Not the best Belgian style beer I’ve had in this variety nor even in this calendar.  The yeast sediment is a big turnoff for this style of beer as was the overly sweet character to it.  Overall this beer was below average for its style and not really a good showing for this calendar.
Do I like it: No, I did not enjoy this beer.  The sweetness was too much, it didn’t have the body and flavor that I would expect in a Belgian beer. I would not be interested in drinking this one again.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 22

Beer 22

The 22nd beer from the advent calendar was a Winter Saison produced by the gents at Rooie Dop, a brewery out of the Netherlands.  Interestingly enough, while these gents do brew small batches at their own brewery located in Utrecht, their large batches are brewed by the Brouwerij De Molen who produced our 19th beer!

Rooie Dop is a brewery that wants to make some flavourful and sometimes experimental beers.  They do a lot of collaboration with their beers and don’t really care about the rules for brewing particular styles of beer, they “care about flavor” as they say on their website.  The brewery was started y three friends some years ago.  Mark Strooker is the one who calles the shots at the brewery and is an IBU extremist according to his profile (I like this guy).  Overall the brewery sounds unique, creative, and over all talented based on being rated one of ratebeer.com’s 2013 best.

The beer we get to try today is a Winter Saison.  Again, Saison’s are broadly defined pale ales that are higher in alcohol content, highly carbonated and generally spiced.  They are traditionally a Belgian style of beer which means they include the wheat and barley malts which produce a creamier mouth feel.  This particular Saison is called “Final Countdown” and was produced using smoked malts and rye.  It was specifically made for inclusion in this year’s Advent Calendar and that is pretty exciting. Onto the beer!

Rating: 80/100

Appearance: Cloudy amber colored beer with good head that dissipates rapidly.
Smell: Smoke and apricot are right at the front.  Interesting combination that isn’t unappealing, actually.
Taste: Very smoky with a hint of fruit notes in there.  Sweet malty balance that goes well with the smokiness of the beer.  Reminded me a little bit of being at a  campfire though, which wasn’t wholly appealing, but not terrible either.
Mouth feel: Good carbonation, creamy mouth feel, light body.
Overall: Definitely a unique beer for me.  I’ve had smoked beers out of Germany before which taste like you are drinking the campfire.  This one was lighter and had that pleasant creaminess of a saison.  As a Saison I’d say it was good with a unique flavor balance and some risks taken that turned out pretty okay.
Do I like it: I enjoyed this beer for the risk that was taken in producing it.  Adding smoked malts to a saison is an interesting idea that I didn’t know if it would work.  Overall it worked well enough to taste good, but I wouldn’t drink it again.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 21

Beer 21

Well, today wasn’t a bad day, although one of the beers in my advent calendar had gone bad as it had not sealed properly.  I opened it, poured it and right away could tell it had turned.  No carbonation at all and a sour smell.  I did taste it and the taste had turned also.  I will not include a rating of this beer only details about the brewery as I did not feel it was fair to rate a beer that had turned.

The beer today is from Fürst Wallerstein Brauhaus in Wallersten, Germany.  Founded in 1999, it is a large scale operation that produces malt based beverages including beer.  The beer that we had in the advent calendar today was their Winter Bock.  We have seen a bock before, they are a strong lager made in Germany with a variety of subtypes.  In this instance a winter bock is a bock that has been spiced, in this case with molasses and a bit of pepper, to give it a more winter warmer/ale style flavor.

There are not many details that I could find on the brewery, so I apologize for the curtness of this post.  As I said, the beer had gone bad, so I moved on to the next one!

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 20

Beer 20

Today’s beer comes to us from the Colorado brewery located in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil.  It is one of the oldest craft breweries in Brazil and was founded in 1995.  Rather than try to copy American and European style beers they decided to use local malt, cassava flour, unrefined cane sugar, coffee and hops to create uniquely Brazilian beers.

The beer in the calendar today was their Imperial double IPA called Vixnu.  It is made using local malt and dry-hopped with American hops. Rapadura, a traditional Brazilian candy, is added as well to add a unique sweetness.  I’m excited to give it a try, so let’s get to it!

Rating: 79/100

Appearance: Dark Orange Amber, slightly cloudy with quite a bit of sediment floating around inside. Good head which retains well.
Smell: Very malty nose with loads of caramel and some floral and pine hop notes.
Taste: Very hoppy with the cane sugar sweetness that finishes off on the tongue.  Good piney hops as well as woody and resinous flavours with slightly herbal notes.
Mouth feel: Good carbonation, coarse mouth feel, light body.
Overall: The floaties inside were a little off putting.  Made it difficult to swallow not knowing what they were.  After getting past that, this is a well-balanced and nicely hoppy double IPA.  It is not the best one that I have tasted in this style.  Fairly average but surprisingly smooth for a 9% beer.
Do I like it: I don’t dislike it.  The beer is a reasonably well-balanced double IPA with good hop and nice sweetness.  Sadly, the floaties were a bit off-putting and made it difficult for me to find the appeal.  The flavours were reasonable and while there are other double IPAs I like a lot more, this one wasn’t bad.

Getting close to the end of the Calendar.  I may double up on my reviews to try and get more than one done during the day.  I’m excited to get through the Calendar and given that the days have all passed, I guess there is no reason to wait.  I still enjoy the excitement of finding out the new beer each day.  In any case, thank you for following along and Happy New Year!

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 19

Beer 19

Good day everyone.  I am glad to be back in Winnipeg once more and to get back to blogging about the rest of the Advent Calendar beers.  I apologize for not posting much while I was away.  I took notes and have lots to blog about, I just was busy spending time with family and friends and could not find the time to sit down at a computer.

Today’s beer comes to us from the Brouwerij de Molen in the Netherlands.  It is a Winter Porter aptly named “Winterporter”.  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 is able to 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.

Porters are style of beer we have seen already in this calendar and 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.

This Winter Porter is essentially a Winter Warmer, a malty, hopped dark beer that has reasonably high ABV (6.5%).  Its light body adds some differentiation from the stouts and warmers we have had, as well as being brewed in the traditional porter style.  I’m excited to give it a try, so let’s get to the beer!

Rating: 73/100

Appearance: Dark brown in the glass allowing little light to pass but showing ruby highlights when held to the light.  Strong head that retains well.
Smell: Chocolate notes on the nose with a light sour fruity note as well as some yeastiness mixed in there.
Taste: Some sour fruit notes, reminded me a bit of grape juice to be honest, with some chocolate notes and a finish earthy/hoppy bitterness.
Mouth feel: Low carbonation, smooth mouth feel, light body.
Overall: Not an overly appealing beer with the sour fruit notes in it.  The light body is deceiving when drinking such a dark beer.  For a porter it is not bad.  I have certainly tasted better but this one brings some interesting tasting notes that I wasn’t expecting.
Do I like it: I do not like this beer.  It’s not a bad beer by any means, it just is not a good beer either.  Having just returned from the Maritimes and having some fantastic stouts, porters and other beers, I find this one to be lacking in some areas.

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