Tag Archives: advent calendar

Advent Calendar 2015 – Wrap-Up


Sorry this took so long. I had a great time travelling and am now back and ready for the New Year. It’s a pretty exciting time to be writing about beer. While last year when I started it was all about what might come, it is now about what is coming. I met and interviewed a lot of up and coming breweries last year. This year, I get the opportunity to write about them opening. Like I said, exciting. I’m in the midst of setting up follow-ups and looking forward to Winnipeg’s craft beer community growing.

Once again I’ve been really impressed with the craft beer advent calendar.  While I know there are qualms and concerns with the beers sitting for so long, having a chance to try unique and one-off beers is well worth it.  So, let’s wrap up with some statistics.

  • Once again we had 24 beers, this time from around North America.
  • There were 15 from the USA and 9 from Canada
  • States and Provinces represented:
United States Canadian Provinces or Territories
–          California (3)

–          Washington

–          Massachusetts

–          Colorado

–          Montana

–          North Carolina (2)

–          Maryland

–          New York

–          Connecticut

–          Michigan

–          Kentucky

–          Alabama

–          Yukon

–          British Columbia (2)

–          Ontario (4)

–          Alberta

–          Saskatchewan

  • One of the beers, Evil Twin’s Smoked Pilsner, technically doesn’t come from anywhere in particular as the brewer uses other breweries. That particular one came from Connecticut, but he is based out of Brooklyn, NY.
  • 62.5% of the beers came from the United States and 37.5% from Canada

I’m a bit disappointed that most came from the United States, but I suppose they were the ones who chose to participate. I’d like to see a more Canadian advent Calendar and I’m actually hoping next year there will be enough breweries here in Manitoba I can just build my own local version. Or maybe we will get a collaboration pack for Christmas…hint hint.

Over the 24 days there were some hits and misses. Out of all the beers though, my favorite came to us from:

Spider Bite Brewing Company, Holbrok, Long Island and was Boris the Spider Russian Imperial Stout

Once again it’s been a lot of fun doing this blog-a-thon of beers from the advent Calendar. I brought some pretty interesting ones back from my trip and I’m looking forward to trying those.  As for this blog, I’ll be returning to my focus on beer in Manitoba. I can’t wait.

  • Beer Winnipeg

Day 23 – Sound Brewery – Yonder Star English Strong Ale

Day 23 - Sound Brewery - Yonder Star English Strong Ale

Sorry for the late post.  Here in Hawaii it’s 4 hours behind Winnipeg, so it isn’t always easy to remember that. I’ve been enjoying some good local island beer, and also, some of the great American stuff they have. But, as for the Calendar, only one left after today.  I hope it’s going to be a good one.  So far this has been a pretty solid advent calendar and I’m happy I managed to get it.  I hope next year they will have the packaging issues sorted out.  There are a lot of interesting calendars coming out.  Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be reviewing a collaboration pack from the new local Winnipeg breweries (here’s hoping.)

Today’s beer comes to us from Sound Brewery in Washington State and it is called Old Yonder Star and it is a Yorkshire Style Christmas Ale.

Unfortunately, their website does not really provide a whole lot of details on them.  I can’t seem to find much in general.  Maybe I’m not looking hard enough because I’m on vacation, so if you have better luck, let me know.  What they do list is their beers and there are a number of them.  They have some good info on each one so that is at least worth a read.

This beer is brewed in the style of an English Strong Ale.  Now, English Strong Ales are somewhere in between a Pale ale and a Barleywine.  They are strong, complex, and rich in flavours.  Typically, with a colour between deep amber and reddish copper, they usually have bold fruity flavours and a malty mix of toasted and chocolate malt. Hops can vary depending on brewer but they can have full blown hop potential to a subtle bitterness.  Alcohol is usually evident with even some solvent taste to it depending on quality.  Many of this style are unfiltered and bottle conditioned.

I’m interested in trying it, so let’s get to it.

Rating:  79/100

Appearance: Jet black with a really thin dark brown sliver near the edges.
Smell:  Molasses, alcohol, black cherry notes
Taste:  Roasted malt combines with malty sweetness and finishes with a slightly bitter oily finish.
Mouthfeel: Very fine carbonation. Oily slightly bitter finish with alcohol warming.
Overall, not bad. It doesn’t have the full body and depth that a barley wine might have nor does it have the light hoppy notes of a pale ale.  Overall it’s a good balance between these two.
Do I like it: It’s alright. I’m not a huge fan of it. I think it could be doing a lot more.  Overall it’s not bad, just not really right up my alley right now.

Day 22 – Yukon Brewing – Longest Night Cascadian Dark Ale

Day 22 - Yukon Brewing - Longest Night Cascadian Dark Ale

So, the beer made it through a plane ride just fine.  I had them wrapped well and no breakage, super awesome.  As I’m on holiday and don’t really have a lot of time to be writing these given there is so much to see and do, I’ll be keeping these last ones a bit shorter. I also don’t have my photo editing program, so, no titles on the pictures unfortunately.

Today’s beer comes to us from Yukon Brewing based out of Whitehorse in the Yukon.  It’s called the Longest Night and is a Cascadian Dark Ale.

Yukon Brewing originally opened its doors in 1997, but under a different name.  Originally it was called Chilkoot Brewing Co. Ltd. The owners, Allan and Bob, came up with their idea for the brewery around a campfire on a canoe trip.  Being from Ontario originally, they have both lived and worked in the Territory for most of their lives.

The plan was to open a quality brewery while keeping jobs in the Territory and service the north with good beer. Over a decade later, this is still the main goal of the brewery and they now employ over a dozen staff and support many local events every year.

Bob and Allan still act as the chief officers and now Yukon distributes its 9 brews outside the Yukon to Alberta, BC, Manitoba and some finding their way into Quebec and even all the way over to German. They’ve got a good blog on their website and chat a bit more about their beers.  Take a look if you have a chance.

The style of beer we are having today is called a Cascadian Dark Ale.  Now this style of beer has raised a bit of controversy over what it should actually be called.  Some say it is a Black IPA, others an India Black Ale while, like this one, others call it a Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA).  The US Brewers’ Association accepted it as a style in 2010 and dubbed it the “American Style India Black Ale”. Whatever it is called, it is essentially a dark hoppy beer.

The style has been described in a couple of different ways and this site has a pretty good exploration of that.  Essentially what it comes down to is that it is a darker beer with between 50-90 IBU and good combination of malt characteristics and hopiness.  I’m looking forward to it, so lets give it a try.

Rating:  78/100

Appearance: Deep amber with little head that fades quickly leaving some minor lacing
Smell:  Roasted malt, chocolate, bit yeasty, slight hop notes and toffee notes.
Taste:  Resinous hop flavour, slight chocolate and roasted malt. Very little else.
Mouthfeel: Finishes with resinous bitter note that lingers. Medium-light bodied not withstanding how dark it is.
Overall, not bad. Decent dark ale but would likely be better with food. Something to bring out the subtle flavours of the malts.
Do I like it: It’s pretty decent. I’d be happy to have it again if I was at a friends but I’m not going to go out and buy it.

Day 21 – Clown Shoes Beer – Bombay Berserker Indian-Stlye Chocolate Stout

Day 21 - Clown Shoes Beer - Bombay Berserker Indian-Stlye Chocolate Stout

Only a three beer left after today.  It’s been quite a run.  I can’t believe it’s already almost over.  I’m heading out of town shortly too, but I’m bringing the beers with me so that I can still get my posts up.  It’ll be a sweet trip and I’m hoping to manage to get to some of the breweries in Hawaii so I can try some of the beer.  I’ve already scoped out a sweet pub near where I’m staying that has a ton of beer on tap from all over the USA. Should be fun.

Today’s beer comes to us from Clown Shoes Beer and it is a variation on a Chocolate Stout called an Indian-Style Chocolate Stout.  The name of the beer itself is “Bombay Berserker” and it sounds pretty tasty.

Founded by Gregg Berman and a group of friends after losing a beeradvocate naming contest.  They decided that they could make Clown Shoes beer themselves and they didn’t need Beer Advocate to be the ones to use the name.  They started off thinking it’d be one brew, just for fun.  After getting some good feedback on their beers, they decided what the heck, let’s keep going.  While they don’t provide too many details about the formation, brewhouse, or anything at all really on their website, they do at least give us a look at the variety of the beers that they make.  They’ve got a ton of special releases, seasonal bombers, 4-packs, and a whopping list of retired beers.  As the name might suggest, while clown shoes represent humility and humour, the brewery itself represents producing beer without pretension while being free to be a little crazy.  They put a big focus on experimentation and the list of beers on their site point to a lot of that.

This is another stout, although a different variation on the style. There have been a lot of stouts in this advent calendar.  This likely has to do with their ability to age. Now, I already did a write up on stouts on Day 2 and so if you are interested in reading a bit more about the Stout style, feel free to take a look at that one.  Like I indicated on the first chocolate stout we tried, they are beers which have noticeable dark chocolate notes both in flavor as well as in colour.  This is done through the use of darker, more aromatic malts.  Specially, chocolate malts, malts which have been roasted or kilned until they develop a chocolate colour.  This beer is a variation on this variation.  While still using the same malts in the beer they have added a number of spices including: chai tea, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla. I’m pretty excited about this one, it sounds tasty. So, enough about it, let’s get to it.

Rating:  79/100

Appearance:  Pours solid dark brown.  1” of puffy foam with tan head.
Smell: Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, star anise, some caramel malt as well as some chocolate malt.  Some earthy hop notes are present as well.
Taste:  Bready caramel malt, toffee, chai spice, cardamom is really present, ginger is noticeable but as a bitter lingering finish.
Mouthfeel: medium bodied, smooth, some creamy notes as well.
Pleasantly spiced with a lot of layers and different notes coming through along the way. It’s got a good body to it that carries these flavours overs the threshold. Good sipping beer for sure.  Only complaint is that the spices overpower any of the underlying stout and I don’t really get to taste the beer, just the spice.
Do I like it: I enjoyed it.  I think it had a lot of interesting characteristics going for it.  I’d be interested in trying it again but I’m not going to seek it out.

Day 20 – Paddock Wood Brewing Company – Marzyana Belgian Tripel

Day 20 - Paddock Wood Brewing Company - Marzyana Belgian Tripel

Well, only a few beer left of the Advent Calendar before getting back to the regular blogging routine.  It’s always a fun time doing this calendar and I hope that while my reviews are that of an expert, that they’ve at least been helpful or mildly interesting.  Today I got to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I’m impressed.  That’s all I’ll say.  Go see it if you are interested.

Today’s beer comes to us from our neighbor, Saskatchewan, and is Paddock Wood’s Marzyana Belgian Tripel.

Paddock Wood Brewing Co. has its origins all the way back in 1992.  Founder, Steven Cavan and his wife Kathleen James-Cavan, had recently moved to Saskatchewan to take up positions at the University of Saskatchewan.  Steve quickly discovered that there was no craft beer in Saskatchewan, so he decided to make his own.  From this endeavor Paddock Wood began, not as a brewery, but as a mail order brewery supply store.

A lot happened in between with various business ventures and some road bumps along the way.  There is a really good article on their website that I’d suggest you take a read through, it’s pretty interesting. Today, Paddock Wood is brewing beer through experimentation, trial and error, and a true love for the craft.  They pride themselves on trying to be unique and different and, thankfully, you can find some of their beers here.  They have a lot of interesting beers as well as a number of special and seasonal brews.  I’m going to need to make sure to take a visit there the next time I pass through Saskatchewan.

The style of beer we are drinking today is a Beligan Tripel. The name Tripel comes from the brewing process of this beer.  Essentially it means you are adding three times the malt as you would in a Beligan “simple”.   This increases the sugar content in the beer and results in a highly alcoholic beer.  The best Belgian tripels hide this strong alcoholic flavor making them delicious but dangerous.  They have a surprisingly light color, typically bright yellow to golden, which is a result of the addition of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose).  Tripels are the most brewed of the Belgian styles and are highly adored due to their deep color, soft maltiness and unique yeast flavors.  Even with their high ABV (usually 8-12%) they are highly approachable when done right.  Let’s get to the beer.

Rating:  80/100

Appearance: Light copper with sediment floating around in it.  A good 1” of head that retains very well.
Smell: Smells of alcohol, very sweet fruit notes like apple. Caramel and Candi-sugar as well as some hop notes.
Taste: Caramel, candi-sugar, fruit notes but not overly so.  While alcohol is on nose, beer is smooth and balanced for the 9.2% abv. 
Mouthfeel: Carbonation is spot on, great full mouth feel.
Pretty tasty. Solid body, good flavours, great balance.  Decent beer all around.
Do I like it: Yeah, it was quite nice.  I enjoyed this one and would be happy to have it again.

Day 19 – Back Forty Brewing Company – Cuban Coffee Stout

Day 19 - Back Forty Brewing Company - Cuban Coffee Stout

Can you believe it has been 19 days since this calendar started?  I think I’ve managed to keep this blogathon going pretty well.  Only 5 days left to go (2 of which will be in Hawaii…sweet!)

Today was a pretty decent day.  Not only did we get pretty much everything prepped for our trip, I managed to get 4 of the 6 chapters of my thesis ready to upload.  Awesome.  Also, I am going to see Star Wars tomorrow (no spoilers, I promise) and Half Pints put their Simcoe Spruce on tap.  All in all a good day.  I am hoping that today’s beer, a Cuban Coffee Stout from Back Forty Brewing Company, makes it all the better.

Back Forty Brewing Company is based in Alabama, a place that the brewery describes as a “wasteland of craft beer”.  Their name comes from the agricultural term for the forty acres of land situated furthest from the farm.  These forty acres are the hardest to maintain and are often overlooked, a metaphor for how the brewery sees Alabama.

What is likely the largest contributor to the lack of a craft beer market, is the legal framework under which Alabama found itself up until 2008.  Before 2008, it was illegal to sell beer in Alabama with an ABV over 6%.  Needless to say, this eliminated dozens of styles of beers.  It was also illegal to operate a tasting room, sell beer directly to the public or package beer in bottles larger than 455ml.  So, no bomber bottles either.  While these laws have loosened and it has become possible for craft breweries to exist, it is to this day illegal to offer investment opportunities to anyone who owns a restaurant or distributor within the state making it very challenging to get funding.

In 2008, founder Jay Wilson got in touch with a renowned brew master, Jamie Ray, and asked for help developing recipes for Back Forty Brewing Company. The goal was to expose southerners to the same craft beer Wilson had been a part of for the past 10 years. In June 2009, Back Forty released its first beer, Naked Pig Pale Ale, and after its success, the second hit the shelves in March, 2010.

Today, Back Forty employs 22 individuals from all over the country, has six beers on offer, and has seen its capacity tripled since 2012. They even have another 2X expansion slated to happen soon.

The beer style we have today is one that any Half Pints drinker will be familiar with.  It is a Coffee Stout.  Now, as the name suggests, Coffee Stouts are essentially stouts with the addition of coffee during the brew.  As you know I wrote about stouts on Day 2, so I won’t repeat myself again and bore you all.  I will say that coffee stouts carry with them a really nice coffee flavor and are typically paired with complimentary malts.  This one, for example, uses chocolate malts that will bring with a it kind of mocha pairing, I’d expect.  I’m looking forward to trying it, so let’s do it.

Rating:  81/100

Appearance:  Jet black with beige head that retains nicely leaving no lacing.
Smell: Smells like chocolate malt and coffee.  Some slight hints of toffee or caramel.  Really, it smells a lot like a hot chocolate with baileys.
Taste:  The coffee comes through on this beer right away on the start.  It fades slightly to a bit of a bitter finish.  The chocolate notes compliment the coffee nicely, but overall the coffee is the star.  It has a light sort of grainy note to it, like coffee grinds, but not in an unpleasant way. It’s more that it leaves a lingering astringent coffee note on the tongue.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-low carbonation, slightly astringent finish.
Overall it’s a pretty solid.  I feel the body could have been a bit more full, the lightness of the body somewhat detracted from the overall enjoyment of the beer.  The flavours are solid and true to the name. I’ve had Cuban coffee a number of times and this certainly rings true in the flavours of the beer.
Do I like it: It’s pretty good.  I think that if it had a fuller body I would have enjoyed it more.  Overall it was tasty and I’d be happy to drink it again.

Day 18 – Black Oak Brewing Co – Neck of the Woods Vintage Ale

Day 18 - Black Oak Brewing Co - Neck of the Woods Vintage Ale

Well, today I had the opportunity to try some pretty good beer.  The Liquor Mart near my house was doing a tasting of the Westvleteren 12.  For those who are unfamiliar, Westvleteren 12 is considered by many to be some of the best beer in the world.  It is made by Trappist monks in Belgium and has been brewing beer since 1838.  They brew in incredibly small batches and they are VERY hard to get. They had to fix their roof in 2012 and so some actually made it over to Canada. Today I got to try one of those that had been aging since then.  But, that’s another story.

Today we have a beer coming to us from Black Oak Brewing Co. based in Etobicoke, Ontario.  It is a beer made especially for this advent calendar and is called “Neck of the Woods” and it is an Old Ale.

Black Oak Brewing was founded in 1999 in Oakville Ontario by Ken Woods, owner and president of the brewery.  In 2008 they made the move to Etobicoke and have been brewing there ever since.  Like most craft breweries, they really care about the beer they are making and are sticklers for quality.  They take extreme caution in the production of their beers and only use traditional brewing processes and quality, Canadian, ingredients.  As well, they make an effort to use environmentally friendly materials throughout the whole process.

Black Oak Brewing brews using a 20 hectolitre brew house.  They have four 40 hectolitre unitanks and two 40 hectolitre bright beer tanks in their 11,000sq/ft space. All of their brewing equipment is stainless steel and custom made in Canada. They have a strong team and produce a number of interesting sounding beers, from year-rounds, to seasonal, to special series of beers.  I’ll be interested in making a visit the next time I visit Toronto.

The beer we are drinking today is an Old Ale.  Really, it is an American Strong Ale, but this term is a catch all that refers to a number of different styles.  Based on some of the reading, I’m leaning towards this one being an old ale.  Old Ales range from dark amber to almost black in colour.  With soft aroma and varying levels of bitterness.  Dark fruits are common as are intense malt flavours and sharp alcohol notes. The brewer describes this beer as being “strong, yes smooth: a full-bodied ale. You’ll get lots of dark fruit and caramel notes too!”  It sounds pretty nice and I’m excited to give it a try.

Rating:  85/100

Appearance:  Dark amber, off white head that fades relatively quickly (stays long enough for a picture)
Smell: Salted caramel, dark fruit and alcohol are prominent with hints of roasted malt and chocolate
Taste:  Roasted malt, alcohol, raisins and black currants come through. Caramel is not noticeable in the flavor as much as it is on the nose.  Sharp bitterness on the front with a warm alcohol finish that lingers.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, good carbonation, sharp bitterness on front and warm lingering alcohol finish.
Pretty good indeed.  I’d be interested to see how it would age. There are some sharp notes that might balance out.  Overall I found this one to be quite a strong beer with a lot of different flavours going for it.
Do I like it: Yeah, I did.  Like I said above, it might be interesting to age one and see how it turns out. I thought it was nice as is and would be happy to drink it again. It makes me want to visit even more.


Day 17 – Black Market Brewing – Tradecraft Sour Ale with Cherries

Day 17 - Black Market Brewing Co - Tradecraft Sour Ale with Cherries

So, remember a long time back when I was complaining about how the beer I took out was the wrong one. That it resulted in me having to have all the beers taken out and organized because the box was annoying.  Well, today, I finally get to try that beer!  It is day 17 and I’m looking forward to it.

The beer we have today comes to us from Black Market Brewing in Temecula California. It is there Tradecraft Cherry Sour.

Not only does Black Market Brewing have a pretty cool name, they also have a really well done website.  Starting out from humble beginnings of essentially a large garage and a 1 barrel system, Black Market Brewing has always put the emphasis on creating good beer.  Starting with what is now one of their most loved beers, a hefeweizen, they have always committed to using only the best malt, hops and yeast that are all hand selected by the brewing team.

Black Market is one of Temecula’s first craft breweries and helped to introduce locally crafted beers to the community.  Coming from wine country they had a lot of discerning wine lovers to convince, and they’ve done that.  Now sold not only all over Southern California, but also in Washington State and Arizona.

Founded by Kevin Dyer dream to start a brewery began with watching the growth of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and how it built itself into one of the finest American craft breweries.  Having worked in corporate America for a time, he grew bored and in 2007 founded what would become Black Market Brewing in an 800sq/ft garage.   As Black Market grew, so did the team, as have the wide variety of interesting, spy inspired, beers.

The beer we have today is a Sour Cherry beer.  It is essentially a Berliner Weisse that has had syrup infused into it rather than added afterwards.  Berliner Weisse is a really interesting style of beer, one that we will have the chance to try here in Winnipeg once Peg Beer Co. opens.

Berliner Weisse literally translates to Berlin White and it is a regional variation on the white beer style from northern Germany which dates back to the 16th century.  The fermentation of this style takes place with a mixture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria (lacto-bacillus for example) which is what creates the distinguishing feature of a Berliner Weisse.

By the 19th century, it was the most popular style of beer in Germany with up to fifty breweries making it.  By the 20th century, it had gone almost extinct with only two breweries left making this style.  What is interesting about this beer is that it has been given geographic indication protection.  This means that only this style brewed inside of Berlin can legally be sold as “Berliner Weisse”.  In America and Canada they are typically labelled and sold as “Weisse” beers.

The style is traditionally served in bowl like glasses with a number of different syrups that can be added to provide additional flavourings. The beer can also be mixed with other styles, like a pale lager, to balance the sourness.  I’ve always thought that a Canadian Berliner Weisse would be served with maple syrup and perhaps a garnish of candied bacon. Who knows? In the case of the beer we are trying today, it has been already flavoured with Cherries but is described on the breweries website as using their “Berliner Weisse” as the base.


Rating:  66/100

Appearance:  Light pink in color, good head that fades quickly leaving small bubbles on surface.
Smell: There are slight cherry notes, but, predominately is a cheese smell. Like stinky cheese and not wholly appealing.
Taste:  Starts of nice on the front with sour cherry notes. The finish is that of stinky cheese that grows and continues to invade your taste buds. Unfortunately this was incredibly unappealing and I could not push through it.
Mouthfeel: Light bodied with good carbonation, sour/cheese finish.
Unfortunately this beer tasted more like stinky cheese with slight sour cherry notes than what I would expect. Overall it was unappealing and I was unable to finish it.
Do I like it: Nope. Stinky cheese flavor that grew as I drank it. Could not handle this one and made me feel nauseous.

Beer 16 – The Duck-Rabbit Brewery – Baltic Porter

Day 16 - The Duck-Rabbit Brewery - Baltic Porter

We have arrived at Day 16 of the advent calendar.  Not too many left to go before we arrive at the last. I am also getting close to my trip and I am getting pretty psyched. I’ve already been exploring the best beer spots and prepping my trip to allow for some beer time.  It was a good day yesterday, despite the beer not really being my favorite, I’m optimistic for today.

Today we have a beer from The Duck-Rabbit Brewery (yes I love the name too) and it is a Baltic Porter.

Located in Farmville, North Carolina, is a brewery.  It has an interesting name and makes interesting beers.  The Duck-Rabbit Brewery was founded by Paul Philippon and sold its first beer in 2004.  It was a long journey to arrive at this point for Paul.  Pursuing a career teaching Philosophy, Paul first got he idea to open his brewery in 1987.  After working over the next number of years at three different breweries, he was finally able to open his own.  In 2004, Duck Rabbit Brewery sold its first beer and has continued to grow since.

Paul came up with the logo for the brewery using his experience as a philosophy teacher.  The image is one of those which when viewed from a different perspective looks like more than one thing.  Like the old lady and young lady picture, this logo is based off one which looks like both a rabbit and a duck, depending on how you look at it.  Hence the name, and the logo.

The Duck-Rabbit brewery team includes a number of folks helping out with the various tasks. The brewery uses a 20-barrel brew house and brews into 20, 40, 60 and 80 barrel tanks.  The focus of the brewery is not on brewing a wide variety of beer styles, but focusing on being the “dark beer experts”.  For them, the dark styles of beer are under represented in the marketplace.  Given the enormous flavour and style possibilities in brewing the darker styles of beer, they hope to be able to make something that will suit the tastes of every beer fan.

Today we have from them a Baltic Porter.  Now, as I discussed on day 2 of this blog, porters and stouts are not really historically different beers.  While we do have beers sold under both names, stouts traditionally were stronger versions of porters.  The Baltic Porter is a prime example of this historical nature, though, it is still quite strong in an of itself.  The Baltic Porter is in fact a version of the Russian Imperial Stout which originated in the Baltic region of the world.  What makes this different is that it is usually cold fermented, similar to a lager.  With the export of Britain’s Russian imperial stouts being quite popular in the Baltic region, it was only a matter of time before they decided to make their own using their own ingredients and brewing styles.

A Baltic porter often has the malt flavours similar to an English Brown porter but with less of the roast on the malt, like a schwarzbier.  Overall, typical of this style is a sweet malt combined with deep malt, dried fruit esters and alcohol.  Smooth roasted malt flavours coming close to burnt with a clean lager characteristic.  An interesting style that I’ve not had the opportunity to enjoy too often. So, I am looking forward to this one.

Rating:  88/100

Appearance:  Deep dark brown, almost black in colour. A good amount of head that fades really quickly.
Smell: Chocolate, toffee, plums, currant, date and roasted malt.
Taste:  really nice sweetness from the malt as well as some good bitterness thrown in there as well. The roasted malts come through really nicely along with those chocolate and dark fruit notes. There is a lightness to this beer as well and it is incredibly smooth.
Mouthfeel: Full bodied, lighter than a Russian imperial stout, soft carbonation, good warming finish from the alcohol. Smooth drinking.
Sweetness is not overwhelming, really well balanced, great depth of flavours with the roasted malts bringing in chocolate and toffee and then the dark fruit notes coming in on the back to just add even more to it. Alcohol is present, but not noticeable on taste, just there to warm the cockles of your heart.
Do I like it: Oh yes.  So far this is my second favourite from the Calendar.  It has a lot of those same positive points from the Boris the spider, but with a slightly lighter body.  Overall, this one is really strong and really worth drinking. I’d have this one again any time.

Day 15 – West Sixth Brewing – Christmas Ale

Day 15 - West Sixth Brewing - Christmas Ale

Well, for those of you who have been reading regularly, you’d be aware that today I defended my Master’s Thesis.  It was quite a nerve wracking experience up until it started and then things went as smoothly as I could have hoped.  So, if you’re at all interested, I was successful and I have officially passed the thesis component of my Master’s program.  I’m pretty thrilled.

Back to business.  The beer we have today comes to use from West Sixth Brewing in Lexington Kentucky and it is a Christmas Ale.

West Sixth Brewing was founded by four friends who all felt that Lexington, KY needed more high quality local beer.  So, with their diverse sets of talents and skills, Ben, Brady, Joe and Robin all came together to create not only beer for the craft aficionado, but also beer you could drink after a bike ride.

With this in mind, West Sixth Brewing produces a number of different beers with a focus on quality ingredients, hand crafting, and working hard to make sure every beer that goes out the door is just as delicious as the last.  West Sixth produces four flagship beers as well as various seasonal beers.  The beer we are having today is one of their seasonal brews.

They also have a strong community focus.  Since the beginning part of the model for West Sixth has been to have a positive impact on the community in which they live. They do this in a number of ways.  The most simplistic way is by contributing money back to charities.  They have so far committed to contributing 6% of their net profits back to various charities every year. They also hold special “Sixth for a Cause” nights at their brewery allowing non-profits to come in and use the space and setup all kinds of things in their tap room.  From this they contribute 6% of their sales that night to the non-profit as well as whatever is donated directly to them through whatever activities they’ve setup.

Now, Christmas beers come in all shapes and sizes.  This style typically refers to beers consumed at Christmas time that are generally spiced with seasonal spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger.  These beers also tend to be higher on the ABV ranger and can often use odd or interesting ingredients.  These beers don’t have a specific style necessarily.  Already we’ve had a Christmas beer that was in the style of a Belgian Dark.  Fort Garry’s “Naught and Spiced” could be considered a Christmas beer and is made using a porter base.  This specific beer we have today is called an ale.  The brewery itself, which is something I love, gives the exact malts, spices, yeast and hops used in the production of this beer.

Based on this, it has some Belgian components in the use of Abbey Malts and Belgian dark beet syrup, as well as the Christmas spices (ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg) along with some traditionally used in a wit (cardamom, clove and orange peel.)   At 9 ABV and with a good range of spices and malts, I’m interested to see how it tastes.

Rating:  66/100

Appearance:  Dark Amber Brown with very solid head that fades quickly after pouring
Smell: Smells of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and roasted malt. The smell on this is fantastic and really does smell like Christmas.
Taste:  I’m feeling as thought something may be off with my beer.  The spices come through but there are some serious off flavours in this one.  In reviewing other comments on the advent calendar beer, I’ve come to conclude that whatever I got is not quite as strong as the others for some reason.  I had a hard time drinking this beer and really, the taste was unappealing and very off putting.  It may just be me.
Mouthfeel: Good carbonation, medium body, bitter finish.
I’ve never pretended to be a beer tasting expert and have always stated that my tastings are my own opinion of the beer to help me know which I like best.  This is a situation where some may like this beer but I found, overall, it was very off putting and I ended up not being able to finish it.  The spices tasted off, there was a weird metallic aftertaste that really was not nice and it simply did not taste good.
Do I like it: No.  I’m not suggesting that this beer is bad. In fact all other comments I’ve read suggest the opposite.  For me, and in this particular situation, it tasted bad and was really off putting.  As always, I suggest people try beers they think sound interesting and make up their own minds. For my particular can, it was not good.