December 21, 2014

Bonus Beer Review 1 | Tante Blanche


Good day folks, and hello to you from New Brunswick.  We arrived here are safe and sound and have been happily enjoying the company of family and friends.  I had the opportunity to get down to the local LC and check out what new craft beers are in from local or regional brewers.  Surprisingly there are a few!  In fact there are some just opening on Monday which I plan to visit at the actually brewery (keep an eye open for the post).  Remember that this beer is NOT in the Advent Calendar.

Today’s beer comes to us from Petite Sault (little jump) brewery located in Edmunston, NB.  It’s really close to the border of Quebec and has a predominately French population which is why the brewery name is French as are all the beer names.

Opening just this past year in 2013 this brewery is located in downtown Edmunston in an old police station that has been renovated.  The primary contacts André Léger, Mychèle Poitras and André Morneault but they are supported by the community, friends, and family including over 80 shareholders!

They have a variety of different beers in different styles but they follow the traditional Belgian style of brewing combined with local flare and experimentation.  The particular beer we are trying is a Belgian White (wheat) beer called “Tante Blanche.” or “White Aunt”.  Brewed with the traditional ingredients of Barley, Wheat, Hops, and a hint of orange, this one promises to be quite good.

Rating: 86/100

Appearance: Golden brown, slightly cloudy, good head that retains well.
Smell: Orange and Apricot notes on the nose followed by the slight citrus notes of the hops.
Taste: Orange and apricot come through balanced with the malt and the hops to create a really smooth drinkable beer.  The tastes work very well together and while drinking it I could find no complaint compared to the Jeune Geule we had the other day or the big names.  It is a strong Belgian white that I’m excited to find here in the Maritimes.
Mouth feel: Creamy mouthfeel from the wheat malt combined with mild carbonation for a smooth finish.
Overall: Strong, well balanced Belgian white beer that blends well and has a nice flavour profile.  For a Belgian white I can find no complaints and feel that this is a very strong beer.  Compared to the Hop Blanc and the Jeune Geule that we have seen on this blog already, this one is right up there with them in respect to quality and style.

Do I like it: I really do.  I am finding that I really enjoy the Belgian whites as I try them more and more.  The combination of flavours with the creamy smooth texture makes for an overall appealing beer that drinks well and tastes great.  I still like the Hop Blanc better because it combines this style with the hoppiness of an IPA which I also love.  This one displaces Jeune Geule for my second favorite beer of all the ones I’ve blogged about.

December 18, 2014

Beer Advent Day 18 | Jeune Gueule


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 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?
Be sure to check back from time to time as I attempt to post updates as often as possible from the road.  I can’t guarantee a post every day, but I’ll try!  Thanks for following!, 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?

Be sure to check back from time to time as I attempt to post updates as often as possible from the road.  I can’t guarantee a post every day, but I’ll try!  Thanks for following!

December 17, 2014

Beer Advent Day 17 | Marmalade Porter


Well, we only have 2 beers left before I take a break from this.  It’ll be hard to leave 5 beer behind in the calendar undrunk.  Alas, they will be all the sweeter when I return and can try them in quick succession and post my final days of beer!  Luckily I’ll be trying some fantastic brews while away and will blog about those so you don’t feel like you're missing out!

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.

December 16, 2014

Beer Advent Day 16 | Bersalis Kadet


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.  

December 15, 2014

Beer Advent Day 15 | Karoo Red


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.

December 14, 2014

Holiday shopping made better


A few years ago my family made an excellent choice to simplify spending over the holidays. At first we switched to Secret Santa style giving (like your office party, but without the weird passive aggressive politics), but we took an even awesomer leap this year and are making donations to charities. Go Team Impossible Last Name!

Mel and I made our gift to Growing Opportunities International, a Winnipeg-based fundraising charity that supports community-driven projects in

Their current big push is for Hero Home, a community sports centre in northern rural Tanzania being spearheaded by Tabitah Martin, a Tanzanian marathoner and national coach. It'll be a safe place for kids can go to play, learn and be nurtured.

Like a lot of clever charity projects, you can see exactly what your dollars are going toward. Want to buy nails? You can do that. Sand? Then let's call you the Sand Man. If you're into that.

PLUS, if you donate before the end of Monday, December 15, you're entered to a draw to win 5 hours of customized tattooing from Ivy Gowen at Metamorphosis Custom Tattoo, inking "Sand Man" on your bicep like a boss.

Get in on this. Or donate to whichever charity you support. It's shopping from your computer at home, so you skip the mall, plus you can skip the "will they like it?" anxiety. Everyone wins.

Happy holidays!

Beer Advent Day 14 | Imperial Schwarze Gams


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.

December 13, 2014

Beer Advent Day 13 | Blackfriar


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.

December 12, 2014

Beer Advent Day 12 | Biére de Nöel Holiday Extra Strong Ale


We are official at the halfway point in the beer advent calendar.  It’s been quite an interesting experience thus far.  Lots of opportunity to try unique beers, and only halfway done!  That means 12 more beer to go!  Fantastic!

Today’s beer comes to us from Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, Montana.  This is the second American beer we’ve come across in the calendar.  Big sky was started by Neal Leathers, Bjorn Nabozney, and Brad Robinson.  It all began with Brad and Neal, home brewers since the 80s, when they first came together they began producing a series on their local cable access station called “Beer talk”.  It was a show about Brad and Neal tasting various beers and commenting on what they liked and did not like.  This brought attention to the duo and showed their passion for beer.  Sadly neither of them were business savvy.  That’s where Bjorn came in.

Neal started brewing test batches while Bjorn and Brad raised the capital.  After about a year and a half, Big Sky Brewing was officially ready to open its doors.  They brewed their first batch of beer, Whistle Pig Red Ale, in mid-June of 1995.   They started out as a draft only brewery but today they are one of the 50 largest breweries in the U.S. selling a total of over 46,500 barrels (2.5 million 6 packs) of beer a year.  They sell in over 24 states so it’s a beer you might be likely to run across.

The beer we are trying today is not one of their standard brews.  It’s a seasonal beer (not to be confused with the style) that they bring out only around this time of year.  It is the Biére de Nöel Holiday Extra Strong Ale.  This is a limited edition beer from the company brewed in the style of a Belgian Dark Ale.  It sits at about 10.13% alcohol/volume.

Belgian Darks offer a really wide range of characters.  The colours can be in a variety of hues from amber to light brown to deep garnet.  Flavours range between dry and spiced to sweet and malty.  Most usually have low bitterness but this one comes in at a pretty good 35 IBU (international bittering units).  The average IBU of IPAs (the hoppier style of beers) come in at the 40+ range.  I’m pretty excited to give this one a try, so let’s get to the beer!

Rating: 66/100

Appearance:  Amber brown with 1” of head that retains very well.  Cloudy with some signs of possible sediment.
Smell: Very sweet smell.  Malts come through strong giving a caramel aroma with slight berry notes and the distinct smell of alcohol.
Taste: Sickly sweet with a strong alcohol after taste.  This is clear a strong ale as the taste is somewhat overwhelming.  Malts are clearly noticeable and add to the sweetness of the beer.  Flavours are limited by the overtone of the alcohol leaving a bitter aftertaste that isn’t wholly pleasant.
Overall: When brewing, alcohol is created by the yeast digesting the sugar in order to create alcohol as a by-product (among other things).  Many strong ales have this trouble of being overly sweet with a strong alcohol after tone that overshadow any of the malts or hops used in the brewing process.  Good ones can balance this out creating a flavourful enjoyable brew.  Sadly, this one was not able to do so and the alcohol and sickly sweetness of the sugar and malts overwhelmed any other flavours.
Do I like it: There are many good examples of strong ales that are balanced and provide a full flavour beer that is still strong in alcohol. Sadly, this beer was not very balanced and was not really that enjoyable. I found myself cringing at the sweetness combined with the alcohol after tone.  This is not a beer I would buy.

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Since we're at the halfway point, here's a quick refresh of the first 12 beers of the Beer Advent Calendar:

Day 11 | Tropical Christmas Saison
Day 10 | Gædingur Stout
Day 9 | Cucapá Honey Amber Ale
Day 8 | Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050
Day 7 | Nuclear Free ANZUS IPA
Day 6 | Fat Man, Red Suit, Big Sack
Day 5 | Krampus
Day 4 | Hop Blanc
Day 3 | Chateau Civrac Old Ale
Day 2 | Hippa Heiki Extra Special Bitter
Day 1 | Gød Advent

December 11, 2014

Beer Advent Day 11 | Tropical Christmas Saison


The question was asked of me this morning if I am getting beer'd out.  I think I likely would be if all of the beer were the same. Luckily with 24 different styles from 17 countries, I think I’m going to be excited 'til the very end... and then sad.

Today’s beer comes to us from Brazil.  This is our first South American beer of the calendar.  The beer comes to from the Wäls brewery located in Belo Horizante, the capital of the Minas Gerais state in Brazil.

Founded in 1999 the brewery wanted to bring beer to the demanding consumer.  They chose the tourist region of Belo Horizante as the location for their dream and started brewing beers based off the Belgian, Czech and English styles.  Dare, invent and believe is the spirit by with the brewery creates its beers.

The brewery itself produces a number of different styles of beers and employs some different methods such as oak barrel maturation and brewing in the champenoise style (sparkling wine/champagne method).  They have enough storage for 2500 bottles to mature at any given time.

They like to produce unique beers from the standard Pilsner, to Hoppy Vanilla Cookie, and the one we are trying today which is their Tropical Christmas Saison, a flavoured strong beer sitting at 7% alcohol/volume.

Saison (French for season) is a broadly defined pale ale that is generally around the 7% mark for alcohol, highly carbonated, fruity and spiced.  This particular one has had raisins, figs, orange peel and coriander added to it during the brewing process to create the “Tropical Christmas.”  This style of beer originated from beers brewed during cooler less active months in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, and it is thus a Belgian style beer similar in many ways to the Krampus that I tried a little while back.  Let’s give this one a try!

Rating: 81/100

Appearance:  Clear, golden, and light bodied with minimal head that retains well.
Smell: Figs are noticeable right on the nose with the coriander and citrus from the orange close behind. 
Taste: Very light and crisp on the front with citrus and the flavour of the figs and the coriander coming through at the end to create a dryness that results in a refreshingly dry beer.  The coriander leaves your mouth dry and works well with the sweetness to create a fairly well balanced beer.  It would make a fantastic summer beer which makes sense as Christmas is during the Brazilian Summer, go figure.
Mouth feel: High carbonation, light bodied, crisp.
Overall: Refreshing, light, citrusy with not too much spice or fruit flavouring to overwhelm the taste buds.  This is an excellent saison in that it really fits what it is trying to accomplish.  The flavours are truly Christmassy and given that it is summer time south of the equator, the refreshing crispness of the beer works well.
Do I like it: Considering that I was expecting the Krampus, which I did not like, I was pleasantly surprised with this beer.  It was delicious.  While it is not my favorite style of beer I found myself enjoying the flavours and the crispness of this particular saison.  I dare say, I would drink it again!

December 10, 2014

Beer Advent Day 10 | Gædingur Stout


I believe the best thing about this craft beer advent calendar is that I get to try beers I would likely never have an opportunity to try.  While I do travel a lot and partake in “beer tourism” as much as I can, there are still some beers that I would be unlikely to find.  I believe that today’s beer is one of those.

Today’s beer comes to us from a small brewery in the Flókadalur valley region of Iceland called Gðingur Brewing Ltd.  This region is located in the northern part of Iceland near the northern coast about 360 km from Reyjavik.  The brewery was founded in 2011 with the purpose of using the local flora and Icelandic culture to brew new and exciting beers.  The brewery is run by 3 people.  Arni is the owner of the brewery and the farm from which they get their ingredients.  Birgitte is a partner to Arni in the brewery building.  She is also a seamstress.  Joe is the brewer in the operation and responsible for the beer that we are going to be trying today.

The brewing system that they use at Gðingur Brewing is a British 6 barrel brewery system.  While you can create most types of beers using this system, it is a lower yield system that can produce 980 litres of beer at any given time.  Given that, they are one of the smaller breweries we have had the opportunity to try. They produce 4 beers at present, a lager, a stout (which we are trying today), an IPA and a pale ale.  There stout is brewed using roasted malts from the farm.  This is the first stout that we are going to have a chance to try as well.  Two firsts today!

Stouts are a dark beer made using roasted malts or roasted barley, hops, water and yeast.  Traditionally the term stout was used to describe the strongest (most alcohol) porters, typically around 7-8%, produced by a brewery.  There are numerous styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts.  While they had lost popularity in the early 20th century after the First World War, they have started to have a bit of an upswing due to the growing popularity in craft beer and breweries.

When I think of a stout I think of a beer that is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum from an IPA.  Rather than hopping to bring out that floral and bitterness from the beer, malts are used to bring out rich sweet flavours like chocolate, coffee, and caramel.  Stouts are a very heavy beer as well often considered almost a meal.  I am really excited to try this stout today and see what this small Icelandic brewery has in store! On to the beer!

Rating: 79/100

Appearance: Black like the depths of the ocean with 1” of foamy head.
Smell: Chocolate, caramel, and smoke notes.
Taste: Rich and deep almost like milk with chocolate notes right on the front.  Flows into mild bitterness that leaves a smokiness in the mouth.
Mouth feel: Silky smooth and full bodied.
Overall: The flavours of the stout go well together. The sweetness is definitely there on the front but then it blends into a bitter smokiness on the finish. This stout is well balanced and quite a good example of a stout.
Do I like it: I used to drink stouts quite a lot.  Their heavy nature tends to make them something I am less like to reach for these days.  This is an excellent example of a stout and I did rather enjoy it.  Good balance between the sweet and the bitter and I really rather enjoyed the smokiness on the finish.  Something I would not likely buy, but would be fine drinking.

December 9, 2014

Beer Advent Day 9 | Cucapá Honey Amber Ale


We are approaching the halfway mark on the beer advent calendar.  There has been only one of the 8 beers I’ve tried already that I have not liked, which is fantastic. The excitement for each beer also has not diminished.  I’m always very excited to see what the next style and region the beer will be from!

Today’s beer comes to us from Mexico! Cerveceria de Baja California, to be exact. This brewery, founded in 2002, is located in the City of Mexicali. They are one of the few Mexican microbrews and produce beer under the label Cucapá Beer.

The name for the beer comes from one of the tribes that live in the Mexicali Valley.  The Cucapá tribe were the first settlers in the region. Their love for water and nature led them to live in the Colorado River Delta.  The tradition of nature, the water of the river, the geographical location and the initiative of being the first people to explore the region is what makes Cerveza Cucapá as unique as the Cucapá tribe's ancestors.

Mexico had been predominately made up of Macro breweries which left an opening for a gourmet microbrewery.  Seeing this, the founders of Cerveceria de Baja California opened their doors as a brewpub initially in 2002. By 2004 their popularity had grown and they began considering how they might be able to expand. In 2007 they had expanded their production and bottling to be able to sell their beer to a wider market. They brew beers ranging from Blonde Ales all the way up to Barley Wines.  Today, we have the opportunity to try their Honey Amber Ale.

Amber Ales are a name given to a Pale Ale that has been brewed using a proportion of amber malt and sometimes crystal malt.  This produces an amber colour that ranges from light copper to light brown.  Again we see how simple changes in the brewing process can lead to different styles and flavours of beer.  Despite there being no real difference in the style from pale ale other than the malt choice, it is still a unique style with its own unique flavours.  This particular beer, however, has honey that has been added during the brewing process, often in place of dextrose or another sugar, which gives it a wider flavour profile.   This is the second North American beer in the kit.  Onto the beer!

Rating: 72/100
Appearance:   Clear, light brown with good amount of head.  Retains well. 
Smell: Honey is very apparent along with the smell of apple and pear.
Taste: Starts off bitter and then melds into a honey sweetness.  Balance is off as the bitterness tends to linger longer than it should.  Honey flavour is not as apparent as you would expect from a honey amber ale.
Mouth feel: Coarse mouth feel, medium body, excellent carbonation.
Overall: The honey flavour is there but this beer lacks balance.  The bitter notes are not outweighed by the sweetness of the malt.  The bitterness is almost metallic leading me to believe it is not from the hops themselves.
Do I like it: I do not like this beer.  It wasn’t terrible but it was not something that I would seek out and purchase.  By happenstance I was eating spicy food while drinking this beer. After the initial tasting with a clean palate and taking notes, I continued to try the beer with my food.  I noted that after eating spicy food the balance of the beer was much better.  The flavours melded better and the honey was more apparent.  Given that I base my scores off clean palate tasting, this will not enter into the scoring.  I felt it was important to note though for those who may try this beer.


Thanks for following along.  Appreciate it!

December 8, 2014

Beer Advent Day 8 | Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050



Today’s beer is a special one.  It comes to us from the Weltenburg MonasteryBrewery in German and is called “Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050.” For those who may not know, the Weltenburg Monastery is the oldest monastery brewery in the world and the second oldest brewery.  The main reason for the popularity of the Weltenburg Abbey Beer is due to the high art of brewing: they follow the brewing tradition of the Benedictine monks and also must follow the Bavarian purity laws.

Bavarian Purity Laws were established in 1487 when Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria promulgated it.  The law specifies three ingredients – water, malt (barley) and hops – for brewing beer. The law was established to make eliminate competition between brewers and bakers for rye and wheat.  Limited the grain to barley they made certain that there would be affordable bread for citizens.

The law was replaced by the provisional German beer law in 1993 which allowed other ingredients such as yeast, wheat malt and cane sugar, but would no long allow unmalted barley. One of the reasons yeast was never included in the original text is it wasn't until the 19th century that Louis Pasteur discovered the role of microorganisms in fermentation.  While the change from the original law allowed for brewers to use different ingredients, many German breweries still follow the original law and brew using the strict method laid out within it. Weltenburger Kloster (Weltenburg Monastery) is one of those breweries.

Before refrigeration it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather.  Brewing ended with the coming of spring and most beers were brewed in March (Märzen).  These brews were kept in storage until the end of summer where they’d be brought out and served with the remaining bottles served at Oktoberfest.  Because of this tradition, it has become a beer associated with the Oktoberfest.

The beer we are trying today is called a Märzen beer. This style of beer originates in Bavaria around the 16th century and is also known as an Otoberfest beer. The style is characterized by a medium to full body, malty flavor, and clean dry finish.  I’m excited to try this one. Let’s get to the beer!

Rating: 80/100

Appearance: Clear, medium copper amber colour that pours with about two fingers of head which dissipates leaving a thin cap. 
Smell: caramel malt, floral notes from the hops.
Taste: Honey sweetness with hint of lemon and just a hint of bitterness on the finish. Different than other similar style beers but still very tasty.
Mouth feel:.Coarse mouth feel, medium body, perfect carbonation.
Overall: A very tasty brew overall.  Excellent flavors that meld perfectly together to give you a really fresh, crisp and refreshing beer.  This would be the perfect summer beer.
Do I like it: I very much liked this beer.  It is different than what I would normally seek out, one of the reasons I love this calendar.  The flavor profile of this beer is just fantastic. It is sweet and smooth while at the same time being crisp and refreshing.  The sweetness is not overwhelming but rather a good compliment.  Very good beer from this, the second oldest brewery in the world!

December 7, 2014

Beer Advent Day 7 | Nuclear Free ANZUS IPA


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.

December 6, 2014

Beer Advent Day 6 | Fat Man, Red Suit, Big Sack



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.

December 5, 2014

Beer Advent Day 5 | Krampus


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!

December 4, 2014

Beer Advent Day 4 | Hop Blanc



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).

December 3, 2014

Would you spend $3K on a pet?

Would you spend three thousand dollars on a pet?

I will.



In January, I'll take Trish to Saskatoon for cataract surgery, a complication from the diabetes she developed shortly after we adopted her. The surgeon will, miraculously, replace the fluid in her eyes with a neutral solution and give her new lenses, restoring her vision.

$3400.

One of the reasons I quit theatre and moved to PR was to earn a more stable income. This surgery will hurt, but Mel and I can afford it and it's nice to be able to say that - it wasn't always the case. But as we head into donation season, I'm struck by what this money could do if spent elsewhere. A quick spin through Oxfam's Gifts Catalogue is revealing: $3400 buys the destitute 19 wells, 58 goats or 34 beehives.

Apparently I would rather give my dog sight than change a person's (village's?) life.

We all draw selfish lines in the sand, choosing to spend unnecessarily on ourselves rather than give to the urgent needs of others. But this is the most I've ever spent on the least justifiable thing. And it's not having much emotional impact. Truthfully, I do care more about Trish than the lives of thousands of people I've never met.

I think I need to get out in the world more...

Thoughts?

Beer Advent Day 3 | Chateau Civrac Old Ale



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.

December 2, 2014

Beer Advent Day 2 | Hippa Heikki Extra Special Bitter


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.

December 1, 2014

Beer Advent Day 1 | Gød Advent



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!

Mystery Beer Blogger!

Hello Faithful Readers of a Faithless Blogger,

I do intend to return to writing on this blog, pinky swears, but in the meantime I'm allowing a friendly hijacking by a beer aficionado. Please enjoy the craft brews reviews of someone we'll call Mr. X.

-Matt

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Good Day Everyone,

I’d like to start of this first blog post by telling you a bit about myself and also what I will be blogging about.  First, I am a maritimer.  Born and raised on the east coast of Canada. We are known for many things, beer being one of them. 

To be honest, I didn’t always like beer.  It was something I drank but never really enjoyed.  It wasn’t until I started travelling and making my own beer that I really started to appreciate the simple complexity of the beverage.  How such simple ingredients can be so broad as to almost approach overwhelming.  The different varieties of ingredients, the ways it can be brewed the different flavours that come of minor changes. In another life I would like to be a brew master and own my own brewery. 

With that out of the way, let’s get started.  My wife gifted me the Beer Advent calendar this year.  24 different styles of beer from 17 countries on 6 continents.  Not only a fantastic gift but also the impetus for me to begin blogging.  The plan is to blog about each of the beers from my advent calendar.  Here is how the post will be organized:

-          Beer name, location, and style of beer.
-          Description of the style, origins and information about the brewery.
-          Rating of the beer based on the following:
o   Appearance (Body, Colour, Head, Retention) (%5)
o   Smell (20%)
o   Taste (45%)
o   Mouth feel (Light, Medium, Heavy, Smooth, Coarse)(10%)
o   Overall (20%)
o   Do I like it (Yes or No) and why.

There is one hitch.  I will be travelling from the 19th of December until the 1st of January.  This means that the last 5 beers from my Advent calendar will not be coming with me.  I will post those last 5 after I return from my trip.  In the meantime I will be blogging about beers I have the opportunity to experience while in the Maritimes.  One of my favorite breweries does the “12 beers of Christmas” and so those will be posted until my return.  I’ll let you know as I get closer to the time.

I hope that you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy trying the different beers.