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.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 18

Beer 18

Today’s beer is another South American one!  It comes to us from Well folks, here we have come at last.  The last day that I will posting with the calendar.  I will be back posting the final beers when I return from my trip.  In the meantime I will be making every effort to post on beers I am trying while on the trip, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

Today’s beer is another South American one!  It comes to us from GUYANE FRANÇAISE, or French Guiana, located in the northeastern region of South America bordering Brazil (to the south) and Suriname (to the west) with the South Atlantic Ocean on its eastern side.

Founded in 2010 as an amateur microbrewery, they brewed their first beer in 2011 and opened their brewpub doors in Cayenne.  In 2012 they grew to allow 10 times as many people into their brewpup and began selling their beer throughout French Guiana.  This is also the year they introduced there second two beers, the Weiti (which we get to try today) and their blonde.  Today, in 2014, they have finally begun to export for the first time, to Canada!

Now, their Weiti is a White beer (wheat beer) that has been flavoured, lightly, with oranges.  They use malted barley and wheat to give it the specific white beer characteristic of being creamy.  Like many wheat beers, this one is not filtered to allow for the flavouring of the oranges to remain intact.  This beer would likely be reminiscent of Shock Top or Rickard’s White (I would guess) and I am excited to see!  On to the beer!

Rating: 85/100

Appearance: Golden brown, cloudy, with a significant head that retains until consumed.
Smell:
Strong citrus smell, the orange really comes through.
Taste: As I expected, quite a lot like Rickard’s White and Shock Top.  Creamy orange flavor that goes down smoothly and is packed with malty sweetness to go with the tangy citrus notes from the orange.
Overall: While this one is a more traditional Belgian Wheat Beer, the citrus notes add quite a bit to the balance and over all flavours of this beer.  The fact that I would put it above Rickard’s White or Shock Top in terms of balance, flavor, and overall quality of a Belgian white is a strong nod to this South American microbrew.
Do I like it: I do, quite a bit, like this one.  While it is not as strong as the Hop Blanc was, lacking the nice bitterness from the hops, it is a strong Belgian Wheat Beer that brings a lot to the table.  It is certainly something I’d drink again and definitely one of my top choices so far.  Maybe Belgian Wheat’s are my new style?

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 17

Beer 17

Today’s beer comes to us from Yorkshire, England.  The Wold Top Brewery is located on 600 acres of farmland in Yorkshire.  Owned by the family for generations, the traditional farm was not bringing in enough revenue.  The decision was made to diversify – after 8 years of planning and discussing, in 2003 they brewed their first beer.  Since then they have grown to include numerous traditional recipes and brew many beers that are distributed around the UK.

Being on a farm, brewery owners Tom and Gill use ingredients that they grow right on site.  Leaving space between their crops to allow for biodiversity, they make every attempt to brew using sustainable methods and local self-grown ingredients!  The beer we will be trying from them today is a seasonal that is typically brewed as a cask ale (a beer brewed and served from an oak cask) that they have bottled for limited distribution.  The beer is called the Marmalade Porter!

Porters, like stouts, are dark and heavy beers that have been malted heavily.  They are rich and often flavored with chocolate, coffee, or caramel malts to give them some balance to that richness. This one uses both barley and corn malts. It was rare to see corn malts in a beer until recently when the numbers of those with gluten intolerances soared.  Now we find corn and even sorghum malts used in beers to make them “gluten free.”  This one is not 100% gluten free – while it does meet the requirements for those who simply have an intolerance, it would not be good for those with celiac.  On to the beer!

Rating: 75/100

Appearance: Rich dark brown with no apparent head.
Smell: Chocolate, coffee, caramel and sweetness are apparent in the smell.  Hints of orange at the end.
Taste: Rich and heavy with a strong malt flavor and good sweetness.  Has an odd metallic taste to it and a strange after taste that I attribute to the use of corn malts.  Flavors are good and it is not overly sweet.  Not a high quality porter but a unique one in the use of corn malts and the flavor profile.
Mouth feel: Rich and full bodied with mild carbonation.
Overall: A standard porter. Nothing spectacular about it but it also does not have anything really dragging it down other than the metallic taste and the odd aftertaste.  The choice of malts was a good one, other than perhaps the use of corn malts in this case.  The flavor profile is nice and provides for a good balance.  Corn malts in a porter where malts are super important is a risky choice.  I don’t think it worked here.
Do I like it: I didn’t not like it, I’ll say.  It is definitely not my favorite beer and one that I likely wouldn’t want to have again.  It is a beer that I’d be fine drinking if there was nothing else but not one I would seek out to drink again.  Overall it’s an average porter and an average beer.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 16

Beer 16

My wife thinks that as this beer calendar progresses I am becoming more difficult when it comes to my reviews.  I was thinking about it, and I honestly might be.  Not because I am treating the beers differently, I believe, but because I am trying so many fantastic beers it is difficult not to compare them to one another.

There are 3 more beers until I am off for my travelling. Today’s beer comes to us from the beer-soaked land of Belgium. Oud Beersel brewery brings to us their Belgian Ale “Bersalis Kadet.”

The brewery started in 1882 and is located about 10 km from the Brussels city centre in the southwest of the capital. It is one of the last remaining authentic lambic breweries and is known of its lambic beer brewed in the tradition brewing method.

Lambic matures up to 3 years in wooden barrels before being blended to make Oude Geuze, which is the young form, or first fermentation of the lambic beer.  Sour cherries undergo fermentation in this immature lambic beer and after a second fermentation Oude Kreik is created, which is the matured version of this beer. This spontaneous fermentation and unique brewing process is possible because of the presence of special micr-oorganisms in the region.  It is only possible in this region due to the existence of what they call “wild yeast” native to the Zienne valley where Brussels is located.

Luckily for me, because we’ve already tried a beer like this (Krampus), this particular beer brewed by Ould Beersel is a Belgian Ale that is brewed in the standard method. It is a Belgian beer brewed in the style of a lager.  Lagers are a type of beer that is fermented and conditioned at low temperatures.  The most common one consumed is a pale lager but other types include pilsners, and Märzen style lagers.  Let’s give this one a try!

Rating: 73/100

Appearance:  Clear golden brown/amber hue with significant head that retains very well.
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 good sweet from the malt and a dry bitter finish from the hops.  Good summer beer very reminiscent of a pilsner in flavor with its lightness and dry crispness.
Mouth feel: Light body with crisp carbonation.
Overall: Crisp, cool and refreshing this beer certainly brings a lot to the table.  The sweetness is not overpowering but nor is it really there.  There is some lacking in the flavor department as things tend to drift off as you get to the finish.  While dry and bitter from the hops, it’s not really anything noticeable.  This beer is good, but it lacks overall for other beers of the category..
Do I like it: I did enjoy the beer.  It was refreshing.  The flavors, while not overly noticeable, were still appealing and provided a nice good beer to go with a meal.  It’s like they say, you don’t want a beverage to overpower your meal.  This one would certainly be a good food beer as it allows the flavor of the food to come through.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 15

Beer 15

My wife and I were going over in our heads the countries and continents we have already seen so far this month.  We were figuring out which continents we have yet to visit of the 6 featured.  So far we are only missing Africa and Asia.   I guessed that we would be seeing a beer from South Africa shortly and lo and behold, today’s beer is from Africa!  South Africa to boot.

Porcupine Quill Microbrewery is located in the Valley of 1000 Hills, Bothas Hill, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.  Bothas is 600km southeast of Johannesburg and is on the eastern edge of South Africa right on the ocean. They produce beer under 3 labels: Porcupine Quills, Dam Wolf and African Moon. They produce a total of 8 beers under the labels in a variety of styles.

The brewery is located in the same building as a deli in the Bothas region and they serve locally made food as well as their local brew.  The brewery itself is a 6 barrel brewery system imported from the UK.  Another rather small brewery, they are only producing 980 litres of beer at any given time.  The system can only use whole flower hops as opposed to manufactured hop pellets, which are used in many other brewing processes.  This gives a fresher hop flavour to beer and combined with their chemical free production method makes for a very “wholesome” beer.

One important thing to note is that this brewery does what is called “natural bottle conditioning” for the beer. Conditioning has to do with how the beer becomes carbonated. While many larger breweries will artificially carbonate beer by forcing CO2 gas into the entire batch of beer, bottle conditioning is more traditional for small batch beer.  It is, actually, how home brew is carbonated.

At the end of the fermentation process some residual yeast is still in the beer.  Extra sugar, typically dextrose as it dissolves best, is added just before bottling.  This allows the beer to carbonate while in the bottle.  This results in a yeastier smell and flavour to the beer as well as mild sediment.  It is however also a more natural way of carbonating the beer.

The beer we are trying from them today is the Porcupine Quills Karoo Red. It’s an American amber ale that has been highly hopped with Williamette whole flower hops to give it a pronounced bitterness.  Coming in at 49 International Bitterness Units (IBU), it’s right up there with any IPA.  Similar in style to the Hopped Red Ale we had from Australia, I’m curious whether the makers of the Calendar consider this to be a different style simply because it is called a Red Ale rather than an India Red Ale.  Either way, I am excited to give it a try!

Rating: 77/100

Appearance:  Cloudy amber with no noticeable head.
Smell: Caramel, yeast and floral notes from the hops.
Taste: Sweet malty caramel that flows smoothly into bitterness that is enjoyable for those who like it.  Certainly well-hopped.  Balance is right for a hoppy beer with the sweetness making way for the bitterness on the finish and allowing it to shine as the star.  The hops in this beer are one that carry a citrus flavour that blends well with the other flavours, caramel, malt, and slight yeastiness from the natural bottle conditioning.
Mouth feel: Medium bodied beer that is well carbonated and has a coarse mouth feel.
Overall: Excellent hoppy red ale that shows of the flavour of the Williamette hop while still balancing well with the sweet malts.  The yeastiness from the bottle conditioning detracts somewhat from the overall flavour of the beer and brings the overall flavour of the beer down a bit.  While it is a decent red ale, there is certainly room for improvement.
Do I like it: Yes, I did like this beer.  I am a big fan of hops and I love having the opportunity to try ones which are being showcased.  Having a single hop in a beer and allowing it to shine is an excellent way to give someone the opportunity to really taste a particular hop.  Most IPAs and hopped beers use multiple hops to create broad flavour profiles.  I really enjoyed getting to try the Williamette hop and I’d be happy to see it show up in other beers.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 14

Beer 14

We are now on the 14th day of the beer advent calendar.  I wanted to take a minute to remind you that I will be travelling and so I will not be reviewing the last 5 beer until I return from my trip.  I will be having the opportunity to try some unique beers and will be taking notes on them so that I can blog about those as well.

For today’s beer we have flown back across the ocean and have arrived in Austria.  The brewery Loncium, located in the village of Kötschach-Mauthen, Gailtal, Carinthia, near the Italian border has produced the beer that we will be trying today.

The brewery itself was founded in 2007 and has been expanding since then.  They are far away from being any sort of corporation and take to heart the nature of craft beer by producing small batches of what they like to call “artisanal beer.”

They don’t provide many details of themselves on their website but they do talk a lot about craft beer and the importance of it.  They even go into its history and paint a wonderful picture of small batch brewing.  The beer that we have the pleasure of trying today is the Imperial Schwarze Gams or an Imperial Dark Bock.

Bocks are a style of beer that are dark in colour, malted, and lightly hopped.  They were first brewed in the 14th century by German brewers.  Originally brewed in Einbeck, the style was named for that town.  When it spread to Bavarian region the inhabitants mispronounced the name as “ein Bock” (a billy goat) and thus was born the beer we now call bock.  As a visual pun to this mistake, most bocks have a goat on the label.

In Austria, where this beer is from, Bocks are typically only brewed at Christmas and Easter time which makes its inclusion in the advent calendar no coincidence.  I’m excited to give it a try, so let’s get to it.

Rating: 80/100

Appearance:  Pours a clear dark brown with a short loose tan head that diminishes rapidly leaving a thin skim.
Smell: Mild smoke, floral notes, chocolate, vanilla, and liquorish notes on the nose.
Taste: Sweet taste that combines well with mild smoke and bitterness to provide a complex flavor profile that includes the vanilla and chocolate notes as well.
Overall: Body is a little light for a bock but the sweetness and balance make up for that.  The beer is an excellent addition and is great for these cold winter months. Good example of a bock from Austria.
Do I like it: I’ve really grown to appreciate bocks.  There malty flavor profiles and complexity bring a lot to the table and are very flavourful.  This one does not disappoint and I did rather like. I would be happy buying this one.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 13

Beer 13

So begins the second half of the CraftBeer advent calendar.  The first half of it was rather good.  As a recap on the countries we have visited so far we have: Norway, Finland, England, United States, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Mexico, Iceland, Brazil, and the United States.  So, thus far we have visited 11 unique countries on 4 different continents!

Today’s beer takes us back to the United Kingdom, this time to Perth in Scotland!  Perth is located to the north of Edinburgh, 42.8 miles away and within the city we will find the brewery who has made us our beer today – the Inveralmond Brewery.

Founded in 1997, this brewery has certainly made a name for itself in Scotland.  The head brewer, Ken, officially joined the brewery in 1999.  A year later he smuggled some yeast to Scotland from the Czech Republic giving the brewery the claim of having the only “official” Czech Pilsner in Scotland.  In 2002, they won Champion Beer of Scotland, no easy task, and continued to grow from that point on.

In 2009 they had grown too big for their original space and laid the ground work to build their brand new brewery.  They moved into the new brewery in 2011 and have continued to expand their production from brewing 8000 pints at a time to now brewing over 32000 pints at any given time. When their local team, St. Johnstone, made it to the Scottish cup for the first time in 130 years, they brewed a special blue beer to show their support.  They are truly a Scottish brewery through and through.

The beer we have the pleasure of tasting from them today is their Blackfriar Scotch Ale.  It’s named for one of the three ancient orders of monks who are central to the history of Perth.  The monastery of the Blackfriar was built in 1231 and was the location of the assassination of King James I by traitors.

Scotch Ales are strong ales which are traditionally known as a “wee heavy” in Scotland. Scotch ales are typically very malty and balanced with hops to land somewhere in the middle ground between sweet and bitter.  This particular beer has been brewed with not only barley malts but also wheat which will give it a heavier, creamier feel.  Balancing with four different kinds of hops this brew promises to have a number of flavor notes and I’m excited to see what it tastes like.

Rating: 78/100

Appearance:  Copper brown beer, clear, 1” of head that retains well.
Smell: Chocolate notes as well as the floral notes of hops.  Smells a bit of caramel as well at the very end.
Taste: Malts come through at the beginning with a creaminess that comes from the wheat malt.  Balances really well with the hops providing a mild bitterness to combat the sweetness of the malts.  Flavours of chocolate come through from the chocolate malt used in the beer.
Overall: Creaminess is really pleasant and goes well with the richness of the malts and the balance of the hops.  This beer has flavours that work well together with the specific body of it and I really found that I was enjoying the beer while drinking it.   The use of wheat and barley malts was really smart and added a lot of character to the beer.
Do I like it: I’m not a huge fan of this style of beer. While I wouldn’t necessarily seek this one out at the liquor store, I did enjoy it and would be happy to drink it given another opportunity.  I feel the hops came through really well to balance the sweetness.  Overall, a beer I really enjoyed.

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