2016 Craft Beer Advent Calendar

Well, I’m ready for December 1! Looking forward to another year’s advent calendar starting in less than 10 weeks. For reference, here are the origins and strengths for the 2016 calendar:

2016-advent-calendar-origin-and-strength

And as soon as I saw that there might be IPAs and lagers in there, I tore it open and stuck ’em all in the beer fridge. Didn’t look at any, though: I put ’em in a box with labels for 1-24 without looking – I like my daily surprises. However, a cardboard IPA that’s been sitting at room temperature for three months isn’t the kind of surprise I like!

#ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Pivovar Vysoký Chlumec (Pivovary Lobkowicz) Baron Bohemian Czech Dark Lager – Dunkel at 5.2% ABV | 22 IBU

Pivovar Vysoký Chlumec (Pivovary Lobkowicz) Baron Bohemian Czech Dark Lager Dunkel at 5.2% ABV | 22 IBU (C$2.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 500 ml, best before 12-Jan-2017, acquired 18-Sep-2016, reviewed 25-Sep-2016)

Appearance: clear amber-brown with one fat finger of fluffy light beige head, good retention and spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: roasty malts, caramel, milk chocolate, liquorice. (6/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, mild bitter. (6/10) Medium-light body, lively carbonation, short duration lightly bitter finish. (3/5)

A fairly easy-drinking Dunkel. Nothing too interesting or exciting, but fine with lunch. A tad sweet for my preference, but not excessively so. I was going to express doubt about the “craft brewed” claim on the label, but apparently it’s legit – from their (seemingly now defunct) site: “The Lobkowicz brewmaster starts with pure water from the brewery’s artesian wells and bohemian barley, which is turned into malt in their own malt house. He brews the lagers in traditional copper brewing vats, adding aromatic Saaz hops by hand.” (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Firestone Walker Brewing Company Opal Farmhouse – Saison at 7.5% ABV | 35 IBU

Firestone Walker Brewing Company Opal Farmhouse Saison at 7.5% ABV | 35 IBU (C$12.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, bottle date 21-Jul-2016, acquired 18-Sep-2016, reviewed 24-Sep-2016)

Appearance: slightly hazy straw with two fingers of rocky light ivory head, excellent retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: citrus zest, white grape must, hay, white pepper, light barnyardy funk. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter and peppery spice, light funk. (8/10) Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry mild bitter and lightly funky finish. (4/5)

A nice Saison, even if it is really too high in ABV to be considered “in-spec.” And it’s a touch sweet, but all in all, it’s pretty decent. Light, clean, and pleasant to drink. I wouldn’t serve it too cold, though – straight out of the fridge, this would be pretty mild, maybe to the point of blandness, but it opens up nicely as it warms. Then the 7.5% ABV comes along and whacks you in the back of the head with a baseball bat. So, all good, right? (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company Wag the Wolf – Hopfenweisse at 6.8% ABV | 20 IBU

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company Wag the Wolf Hopfenweisse at 6.8% ABV | 20 IBU (C$10.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 600 ml, bottle date 21-Jun-2016, acquired 18-Sep-2016, reviewed 24-Sep-2016)

Appearance: hazy straw with two fingers of loose white head diminishing gradually to a thick persistent cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: citrus, melon, tropical fruit, wheat malt, clove and floral. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, mild bitter, light tart. (8/10) Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry mild bitter and lightly spicy finish. (4/5)

Aww yeah – hops you can smell from across the room upon decapping. That’s how you do a wheat beer! Lovely bright NZ hops impart fruity and almost vinous notes on a light, nearly crisp wheat base. I’d love to get this fresher, actually, even though it doesn’t seem particularly faded. (It would be sheerest niggling pedantry to point out that, yet again, their labelling appears questionable: “Wild Oats” series, for a beer with no oats in it? Really?) Anyway, another nice example of the Hopfenweisse style, right up there with Driftwood’s Entangled, and really worth trying if you find it. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company Beunos Dias Gruit – Gruit at 4.5% ABV | 10 IBU

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company Beunos Dias Gruit Ale Gruit at 4.5% ABV | 10 IBU (C$7.79 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 600 ml, bottle date 14-Jul-2016, acquired 18-Sep-2016, reviewed 24-Sep-2016)

Appearance: cloudy pale straw with one finger of loose white head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: lime and citrus zest, herbal, crackery malt, light brine. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, mild bitter, light salt. (6/10) Light body, moderate carbonation, medium duration lightly salty finish. (3/5)

An odd little beer, more like a Gose than a Gruit. Though, I’m not sure how this is a Gruit at all, since it’s actually hopped, instead of bittered with herbs. I’m actually halfway tempted to conclude they just made a mistake in the naming, and they meant to call it a Gose. Regardless, not without its merits, even if it’s not quite the margarita profile they claim. (13/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Karlsbräu (Karlsberg) Licorne Black – Dunkel at 6% ABV

Karlsbräu (Karlsberg) Licorne Black Dunkel at 6% ABV (C$3.79 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 500 ml, bottle date 17-Apr-2016, acquired 18-Sep-2016, reviewed 24-Sep-2016)

Appearance: clear amber-brown with one finger of rocky beige head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, minimal lacing. (3/5) Aroma: muted, coffee, cola, liquorice. (4/10) Taste: high sweet, mild bitter. (3/10) Medium-light body, lively to moderate carbonation, sweet and sticky finish. (2/5)

The first sip is shockingly sweet. After the initial shock wears off, it’s still sweet, but some other flavour starts to become apparent. It’s like liquorice dissolved in cola, and way too sweet for me to finish. Might be some folks’ cup of tea – folks who take six sugars in their tea, maybe – but not mine. Sink pour. (7/20)

3.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Russell Brewing Company Twig & Berries Juniper Berry Kolsh – Kölsch at 5% ABV | 20 IBU

Russell Brewing Company Twig & Berries Juniper Berry Kolsh Kölsch at 5% ABV | 20 IBU (C$5.68 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 18-Aug-2016, reviewed 23-Sep-2016)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale straw with one finger of fluffy white head, moderate retention and spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: doughy yeast, herbal, faint juniper. (4/10) Taste: moderate sweet, mild bitter. (4/10) Light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium finish. (3/5)

Yep, a lager-y ale, just like the label says. Which is to say, a boring ale. I was expecting gin and tonic flavours here, but instead got… well… not much of anything. This is really, really light in aroma and flavour, with only the faintest hint of juniper berries. Nothing actually off, but very much “what’s the point?” territory. Plus, the label’s just dumb: the “twig and berries” analogy doesn’t jive very well with the (presumably) “girl” berry being flustered by the size of the “guy” berry’s twig. And, they misspelled Kölsch. Dumb and pointless, there’s a rave review for you. (10/20)

5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Yukon Brewing Company You’d Be Surprised – Fruit / Vegetable Beer at 5.4% ABV

Yukon Brewing Company You’d Be Surprised Fruit / Vegetable Beer at 5.4% ABV (C$8.75 at Sundance Wine Market, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 19-Aug-2016, reviewed 23-Sep-2016)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale gold with one finger of rocky white head, good retention and patchy lacing. (3/5) Aroma: raspberry, wheat, light citrus. (6/10) Taste: moderate sweet, mild bitter, light tart. (5/10) Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium duration lightly tart finish. (3/5)

Yeah, I woulda been surprised – but I wasn’t. Nothing all that special. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Lao Brewery Company Beerlao Lager – Euro Pale Lager at 5% ABV

Lao Brewery Company Beerlao Lager Euro Pale Lager at 5% ABV (C$2.60 at Liquor Crossing Red Deer, 330 ml, best before 15-Jul-2016, acquired 24-Aug-2016, reviewed 23-Sep-2016)

Appearance: clear straw with one finger of medium white head diminishing rapidly a thin cap, moderate lacing. (3/5) Aroma: corn syrup, rice, grass. (4/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, mild bitter. (3/10) Medium-light body, lively to moderate carbonation, off-dry slightly sticky finish. (2/5)

Maybe not quite “terrible,” but not far off it. Naw, let’s go with “terrible.” A sickly sweet adjunct mess. Drank half, sink poured the rest. Life’s too short to waste on beer like this.(8/20)

My 234th from the 2010 Edition of 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die, 223rd from the 2013 edition, and 246th combining both editions.

3/10 #1001beers #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom IRA – India Red Ale at 6.5% ABV | 60 IBU

Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom IRA India Red Ale at 6.5% ABV | 60 IBU (C$7.55 at Liquor Crossing Red Deer, 500 ml, bottle date 10-Dec-2015, acquired 24-Aug-2016, reviewed 22-Sep-2016)

Appearance: slightly hazy medium amber with two fingers of rocky ivory head diminishing quickly to a thin skim, moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: caramel, pithy grapefruit and orange peel, cedar, tropical fruit. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high bitter. (7/10) Medium slightly oily body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium duration slightly spicy finish. (3/5)

A little elderly, perhaps, but the slightly higher ABV seems to have provided some measure of protection. The intention here is pretty clear: marry the characteristics of sweet malty red ales with those of IPAs. The execution is… slightly less clear. Although bitter and sweet are not necessarily antagonistic, they can be tough to balance – one or the other seems to always win out. In this case, malt is clearly dominant. On the plus side, the SImcoe hops don’t taste skunky or catty, so there’s that. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

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