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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