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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