Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 7

Beer 7

Today is the 7th day of the beer advent calendar.  One whole week has gone by with a new beer each and every day.  It’s been quite exciting each day and I think this is something any beer lover should try to invest in if they can.

We are sticking in the same region today for our 7th beer.  While we had an Aussie beer yesterday we are jumping islands and finding ourselves in New Zealand.  Today’s beer comes to us from Croucher Brewing Co and it is the “Nuclear Free Anzus IPA.” This is the first true India Pale Ale in the calendar. India Pale Ales are hoppy beers within the broader category of Pale Ale.  They are lighter in colour and are incredibly unique as the variety of hops used and the hopping method can significantly change tastes.

Croucher Brewing Co is located in Rotorua, a small town in the northeast part of the island near Lake Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand.  Rotorua means “second lake” in Maori – the full name being “Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe.” It is best known for its geothermal activity, having many geysers, bubbling mud pools, thermal pools and the buried village (a village buried by the  Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886).

Croucher Brewing Co was founded by Paul Croucher.  It began as a dream in the 1990s that slowly developed into a non-commercial brewery in 2004.  Paul entered the Beer NZ brewing competition and won the non-commercial category. This gave him and his business partners, Richard Croucher and Nigel Gregory, the confidence to forge ahead as a commercial brewery.  In 2006 they opened as a commercial brewery and in August of that year won a bronze medal for their Croucher Pale Ale.  They have continued to grow over the years winning numerous awards and producing many styles of beer.

The Anzus IPA  we are trying today was made using Australian, New Zealand and US hops.  The name of the beer itself is quite important.  ANZUS was a military alliance between Australia, New Zealand and the US (hence the hop choice) formed in 1951 in the shadow of the developing cold war. As the south pacific became a testing ground for nuclear weapons in the 80s, relationships became strained between these three super powers as NZ banned Nucelar Weapons in their territories and the US refusing to confirm or deny if they had any on board their ships.  This lead to then NZ Prime Minister David Lange famous quote during debate saying “If you hold your breath just for a moment… I can smell the uranium on it as you lean towards me…”(2 minute mark of the clip)

The beer itself is an attempt to repair relations, so Croucher Brewing Co says. Let’s see what the “best hops” from these three regions can produce. Onto the beer!

Rating: 86/100

Appearance: Clear golden brown with a 1” head that dissipates slowly.
Smell: Pear, apricot and green olive on the nose.
Taste: The front is incredibly smooth, light bodied, with the pear, apricot and citrus coming through in flavor. The combination of hops makes for a unique taste that finishes with just the right amount of bitterness and leaves a sweet fruit taste on the tongue.
Mouth feel: Smooth and light bodied.
Overall: This is a very good IPA.  The combination of hops from three countries is interesting and works. The flavor profiles of the hops work well together and provide you with a very well balanced beer.
Do I like it: As I have said many times, I love IPAs. This one does not disappoint.  It brings full on hop action that isn’t too overwhelming even for someone who doesn’t drink a lot of IPAs. The light body provides a crisp and refreshing beer. This is certainly a beer I’d buy and be happy to drink. This is a close second as my favorite beer so far.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 6

Beer 6

In 6 days of the beer advent calendar we have gone through Scandinavia, hopped over to the UK, flown across to the USA, back over to Italy and now today we have arrived in Australia.  This has been quite the tour of world beers and has been incredibly enjoyable so far.

Today’s beer comes to us from Bridge RoadBrewery in Victoria, Australia.  Victoria (the city not the territory) is located about halfway between Canberra and Melbourne in the Australian Capital Territory.  Conceived in 2004/5 by Ben Kraus in his dad’s back shed, Bridge Road Brewery now produces 25Hl (2500 liters) of beer in over 20 different styles of beer.

This brewery likes to push the limits on beer recipes trying to appease their “what will happen if we do this” type mentality. They use locally sourced hops and malts and have a really unique way of profiling their beer based on the Malt level (out of 10) and the Hop level (out of 10) to allow beer drinkers to choose the style that most suits their taste preference.

The beer that has been selected for the advent calendar is called “Fat man, red suit, big sack” and is an India Red Ale.  Like the Hop Blanc, this is a red ale that has been hopped like an IPA.  It was developed specifically to be exported to Canada and showcases some of the Aussie hops: Galaxy, Enigma and Topaz.

Now, red ale is primarily used as a catch all for any beer less than a Dark ale. Some argue red ale is not really a “style” of beer but rather a pale ale that is malted differently and thus has different hues. Amber ales, red ales, and Irish Red Ales have become quite popular with breweries and are being produced worldwide.  Given that, I would say that whether it is an actual style or not, it has been widely accepted as one.

Red Ales range from amber to dark red in hue and are primarily used to focus on malts but can be hopped, like in this case.  Most have light fruitiness and as Aussie hops tend to bring tropical and citrus notes, I expect this one will be the same.  Now, onto today’s beer!

Rating: 83/100

Appearance: Amber red and cloudy.  Head was intense, not sure what happened but ended up with ¾ glass of head before dissipating.  Left foamy on top that would not dissipate.
Smell: Citrus, passion fruit and pineapple all come through quite noticeably.  There is also the sweet malty smell, almost like caramel.
Taste: The citrus, pineapple and passion fruit notes come through in a lively burst of tart bitterness that is really quite nice. It melds perfectly with the sweetness of the malt and is incredibly well balanced.  Great bitterness that isn’t too much but exactly what you’d expect in a hopped beer.
Mouth feel: Light carbonation with medium body.  Smooth in the mouth.
Overall: Really showcases the hops which was the point of this particular beer.  I haven’t had many India Red Ales in the past but for an IPA style beer this one is really well balanced and showcases the flavors really well. An excellent example of taking two styles of beer and melding them seamlessly.
Do I like it: Yes! I love IPAs though and this is a really good example of that style of beer, even if it’s called an India Red Ale.  For me, the red just refers to the color as this is basically an IPA through and through.  Very well done Bridge Road.  I would certainly buy this beer.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 5

Beer 5

My wife was asking me yesterday if this was getting less exciting.  I told her that there is no way getting to try a brand new beer from around the world could get less exciting, at least for me.  Today’s fifth beer comes to us from Italy.  It is a season beer from Birrifico del ducato (Ducato Brewery) and it is called Krampus.

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.  Krampus, the beer I will be trying, is one of those seasonal beers.

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.  This beer draws inspiration from Belgian beers.  It features 9 different spices and is similar in style to the winter warmer I had on day one.  The difference here is that this lighter and produced in the style of the Belgian wheat beers like I explained yesterday.  This is why beer is so exciting.  You can mix and meld styles based on your brewing technique and the ingredients you include. This particular beer sits at 7% alcohol.  Now, let’s get on to the beer!

Rating: 70/100

Appearance: Nut brown with a reddish hue and about 1.5” of head that dissipates slowly.
Smell: Cranberry is front and center with smells of other spices typically used in mulling.
Taste: When I read that this is styled after Belgian beers I thought it was the more common Wheat beer like yesterdays.  It is, however, not.  It is styled after the Belgian fruit beers similar to Fruili.  Cranberry juice is present and is the most front and center flavour.  Sour cranberry candies is the best way to describe the taste.  This overwhelms any other malts or hops that may be in the beer.
Mouth feel: Strong carbonation almost like a soft drink, coarse, medium body.
Overall: Not what I was expecting.  I do my best to keep these parts of the neutral.  So, for a fruit style Belgian beer it is quite good.  The sour candy flavour is one that is pleasant and people who like this style of beer would really enjoy this one.  My wife, who does, really liked it.
Do I like it: I am not a fan of these styles of beer.  While I try to keep an open mind, I do not at all like this one.  It is my least favourite thus far.  I do have to note that my scores do not take this into account.  I just do not like it, personally.

Thanks for reading along.  I hope you are enjoying it.  Looking forward to tomorrow’s beer!

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 4

Beer 4

Today is the fourth day of the beer advent calendar.  We have gone from Norway to Finland, over to the UK and now ALL the way over to Portland, Maine. Opening these beers every day is almost like putting together a puzzle.  Where will they be from? How will they be organized? How many from each area will there be?  All these questions are not answerable until all 24 beers have been revealed.

Today’s beer comes to us from Peak Brewing Company in Portland, Maine.  When I first opened the bottle I had thought it was from Portland, Oregon, widely known as Brewvana, for the sheer number of craft and microbreweries.  I am not disappointed, actually the opposite, I’ve never heard of this brewing company and I’m rather intrigued by their mission.

Peak Brewing Company is all about sustainability.  Combining unique flavours, local produced ingredients, and sustainable brewing methods to create their beers.  Sometimes when I read a beer stating it is “organic” I often think of it being used as a buzzword.  It is nice to find this brewing company actually works quite hard to locally source their ingredients and to make certain they are grown organically.

The head brewer, Jon Cadoux, started off home brewing beer in the 1990s.  He decided to combine his passion for beer with his passion for sustainability and the result is Peak Brewing Company.  They brew 17 beers either produced on site or in collaboration with others.  The beers are all rather unique including a Maple Beer, Espresso, Pomegranate, and even a Mocha Ale.  The beer that I have the pleasure of trying today is their “Hop Blanc” white IPA.

White IPAs are in fact Belgian wheat beers that have been hopped like an IPA.  This means they have similar color, body and esters of a wheat beer with a noticeable hop aroma, flavour and bitterness. Not all White IPAs – nor even IPAs – are going to be the same.  There are a number of different varieties of hops that give different flavors.  With the number of possible combinations it leaves limitless opportunity for flavor palates.  White IPAs being wheat beers as well typically have more citrus notes and tend to be “fruitier.”  Really though, it depends on the brew master and their vision of the beer.  So it will be interesting to see what this one, hopped with Centennial, simcoe and citra hops, will taste.  I’m expecting, based on those hops, a tropical and citrus front.  On to the beer!

Rating: 87/100

Appearance: Golden brown and cloudy with a good amount of head that dissipates slowly.

Smell: Hops, Citrus and passion fruit.

Taste: The hops, citrus and passion fruit flavours really come through in this beer.  There is only a little bitterness from the hops which works well with the overall flavours.  It is really well balanced.  There are hints of cinnamon at the very end left on the tongue which is interesting. Great balance of flavours.

Mouth feel: Smooth and medium bodied.  Not too heavy which is nice.

Overall: The hops used in this provide just enough citrus and passion fruit to add the complexity to the beer while balancing out the bitterness.  This is an excellent example of a white IPA.

Do I like it: I typically am not a fan of White IPAs but I really love this one.  It is a fantastically balanced White IPA that does not focus too much on the wheat ale nor the bitterness.  This is my favourite so far (not saying much considering it’s day 4).

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 3

Beer 3

Today is the third day of the beer advent calendar.  It still has just as much fun and charm as it did two days ago.  My wife is wondering if I will become “bored” with it and if it will lose its excitement.  Stay tuned to the blog to find out (I doubt it.)

Today’s beer is a Chateau Civrac Old Ale – Cask Aged Strong Ale from Penpont Brewery in Cornwall UK.  You might be wondering why there is a French name on an English beer.  I wondered that as well.  It turns out that this beer is aged in wine casks from the Chateau Civrac vineyard in Bordeaux.  Hence the name.  Most cask aged beers I’m familiar with use rum casks for aging.  I’m rather excited for one aged in wine.

Penpont Brewery is located in Altarnun in Cornwall region of UK.  It’s rather far from London (245 miles) and is located quite inland.  The brewery was established in a converted milking parlour on the edge of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall.   They use their own local spring water and top quality ingredients in their beers and produce about 10 different beers.  This particular beer I will be tasting is not on their official beer list leading me to believe it is a special beer made specifically for the advent calendar (or they are slow at updating their website.)

With this beer we actually end up having two different varieties of beers combined.  To be fair, old ales were traditionally the ones that they kept at the brewery longer (also known as keeping ales) and so the big difference here is that it was kept in a Cask to age rather than in the standard brewing drum.  The first beer I tried, the winter ale, is a style of old ale as well.  Traditionally darker and more on the malty side of things these beers, in England, typically only range up to 5% alcohol.  Another deviation for this particular beer as it is at 7.5%.

Cask aged ales should not be confused with Cask ales.  A cask ale is a beer that is produced inside a cask which is then “tapped” and the beer poured directly from there.  Cask aged ales are beers produced using the more modern method of stainless steel drums and such but then are moved into a cask, in this case old wine casks, to be aged before being bottled and sold.  This allows the beer to take on the flavours of whatever was produced in the cask beforehand.  So, without further ado, let’s get to the beer!

Rating: 76/100

Appearance: Nut brown with 1” of head which dissipates quickly leaving light rimming on the glass.
Smell:
Hints of oak and wine combined with caramel-chocolate notes of the malt.
Taste: Starts sweet and rich with the malt coming through strong until the finish where you are left with strong tannins like a red wine.
Mouth feel:
Smooth with a medium body and low carbonation.  Leaves the tongue feeling as though you have black tea leaves on it.
Overall: Excellent cask aged ale.  The uniqueness of the wine cask really brings another element to the beer. The oak and wine notes balance well with the sweetness of the malt.  My only complaint is the finish on the tongue.
Do I like it: I do like this beer, though it is not my favorite. The tannins, while something I love in red wine, I do not overly appreciate in this beer.  The smoothness of the malt and the oak of the cask work well together.  I could go without the tannins.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 2

Beer 2

I could hardly sleep last night.  It’s going to be a long month of excitement as I anticipate what the next beer will be.  It’s like getting to open a little gift every morning that is something I know I will enjoy.  Today was not different.  As soon as I woke up I ran downstairs, opened day number 2 and pulled out my beer.  Today’s beer is the Hippa Heikki Extra Special Bitter from Panimo & Tislaamo Teerenpeli in Lahti Finland.

This brewery is located 107 km inland from Helsinki in the town of Lahti. Lahti is the capital of the region and is located on a bay at the southern end of Lake Vesijärvi.  The work Lahti in Finnish actually means “bay.” They are a microbrewery that produces over 20 different styles of beer.  Sadly their website is in Finnish, a language I have yet to learn, and so I was unable to garner much more information on them then that.

Extra Special Bitters are essentially more aggressive and balanced bitters.  Bitters are the British term used for Pale Ales and so are typically on the hoppy end of the beer spectrum.  ESBs tend to blend better the bitter hoppy notes with the sweet malty notes while not being too overpowering on one side or the other.  Despite having the word bitter in its name, ESBs are actually not that bitter as the key to a good ESB is balance.  Colors range from dark gold to brown and alcohol content is usually between 4%-7%.  The one I am tasting is right in the range at 4.7%.

Rating: 63/100

Appearance: Dark gold in colour with about 1” of head that quickly dissipates leaving small amount on the surface.
Smell: Citrus notes with hints apple and earthy tones.  Malty, toasted caramel with moderate hop.
Taste: Crisp bitter front with some hints of sweetness from the malt.  Bitterness lingers and is somewhat unpleasant.
Mouth feel: Body is medium with oily mouth feel and soft carbonation.
Overall: Not overly pleasant.  Bitterness is there but does not move into the sweetness.  The finish on this beer is one of an unpleasant bitterness that isn’t overly appealing. This particular ESB is not overly balanced and is not very strong beer for the style.
Do I like it: I am a big fan of bitterness in my beers.  I love the lingering bitterness that comes with hops.  I do not, however, like this beer.  The overall beer reminds me of a bitterer Molson Canadian.  It is a bit too light on flavour for me and doesn’t have much complexity.  It’s not a “bad” beer, but I don’t like it.

This is the second beer from a Scandinavian country in as many days. This one was not as strong as the first, but I suppose they aren’t all going to all-stars.  I wonder if the locations will be grouped together like this as the calendar continues.  We shall see.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 1

Beer 1

Today was a very exciting day.  It is the first day of the Beer Advent calendar.  I had the opportunity to open my first beer!  It actually felt a bit like Christmas morning.  Running down the stairs to see what had been left under the tree.  Only this time it wasn’t socks or underwear, but BEER.  I opened the first square on my calendar and pulled out the first beer.  Lo and behold it was a special beer made specifically for the Calendar. Gød Advent is a bottle of fantastic extra-strong (10%) Winter Ale from Norwegian brewery Nønge Ø!

This brewery, located in Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway about 232 km from Oslo, is the largest supplier of craft beer in Norway and the first brewer of sake in Europe.  The name, Nønge Ø, means “naked island”, a term used to describe the barren rocky outcroppings visible in the sea.  In 2013 it was acquired by Hansa Borg Bryggerier who own a family of regional breweries in Norway: Hansa, Borg and Christanssand Bryggeri.

Luckily the founder and head brewer who started Nønge Ø in 2003, Kjetil Jikiun, will maintain his position as head brewer.  His passion and uncompromising mind for quality is what has allowed this brewery to grow from 300 hectare liters up to 3500 hectare liters in only 7 years.  They produce over 20 different styles of ales and have a brilliant mind for flavor.

Now, onto the beer!

Gød Advent is a Winter Ale, also called a winter warmer.  These styles of beer are traditionally malty-sweet strong ales that are brewed for the winter months.  They are darker in color, not as dark as a stout, with a big malty presence. The alcohol content on these beers is typically quite high.  This one is at the high end of the spectrum almost entering barley wine territory.  You will often find these beers being spiced with traditional spices like nutmeg, cinnamon etc… but the real characteristic behind all these winter ales is that alcohol content.

Rating: 81/100

Appearance: Nut brown and cloudy ale with minimal head and low retention.
Smell: Caramel notes with hints of chocolate and an acrid sweet smell.
Taste: Starts off bitter and melds into smooth caramel notes and deep malt
Mouth feel: Coarse like sandpaper on the tongue with a smooth swallow.
Overall: Excellent winter ale.  Deep malty sweetness and not too overpowering despite 10%.
Do I like it: I am not usually a fan of winter ales as I prefer heavy hops to over heavy malt.  The balance of bitterness on the front end moving into the malty sweetness is fantastic.  I do like this beer.

What a great start to the beer advent calendar.  Not typically my favorite style of beer, but Nønge Ø did a really outstanding job.  I can’t wait to see what I get tomorrow!

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