Beer Advent 2017: All-Star Edition

The air is cool, the snow crisp and the trees sway back and forth in the wind releasing the fresh, resinous scent of pine.  The amber glow of dusk approaches sooner in the day and the people of Fort McMurray are racing to get home and sit next to crackling fires bundled beneath warm blankets.  T’is the season yet again.  A time for merry making and a time for treat baking.  The season for staying warm on long cold nights and also for partaking in seasonal delights.  That’s right friends!  Once again it is time for the annual Craft Beer Advent Calendar review! This year we take a look at the 2017 themed All-Star Edition.  Let us not delay any further and begin this treacherous, yet heart warming, journey together.  Here we go!

December 1 – Shipyard Export 

Brewery: Shipyard Brewing Co.
Style: Export Ale
Alcohol: 5.1%
Origin: Portland, Maine

Shipyard Export was the first beer on the list this year.  Pours a dark golden colour with a fizzy but thin head.  No real noteworthy smell, which I guess could be either a bad or good thing depending.  First sip is dry but deep.  Further exploration reveals caramel with a metallic flavour.  A fairly clean ale overall.

Thoughts: What many macrobrews should try to aim for if they were doing their job properly instead of brewing overpriced piss.  A decent offering but nothing remarkable.  A solid and serviceable ale.

Final Score: 3 / 5

December 2 – Nøgne ø Dubbel Advent

Brewery: Nøgne ø
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Alcohol: 8%
Origin: Grimstad, Norway

Starting off strong early on in the advent calendar, the second day gives us a Belgian Strong Ale…..from Norway.  Pours an extremely dark colour that makes it look almost like a stout.  Despite this, it maintains a thin, almost not existent head throughout.  A closer look reveals a fair amount of yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass.  The first few sips gives a flavour of malt and sweet caramel.  It does not maintain that flavour though and what is there thins out rather quickly.

Thoughts: I enjoy the thought of a Norwegian Belgian strong ale.  This beer was ultimately drinkable, despite not being to my usual tastes.  Unfortunately, for the style, I thought it was far too thin and lacking in substance.  A subpar example of what a Belgian strong ale should be.

Final Score: 3 / 5

December 3 – Cocanuck Stout

Brewery: Saugatuck Brewing Co.
Style: Stout – Strong Beer
Alcohol: 7.5%
Origin: Douglas, Michigan

The third day presents one of my favourite styles of beer – the stout!  I was actually quite excited to try this from the moment I pulled it out of the door. The label showed what looks like the head of a lumberjack with the beard made out of the image of a coconut. What could go wrong?  Pours just like a stout and has the dark look of one too! Here is where it gets complicated.  And by complicated I mean … not.  After the pour, I can smell the coconut but not much else.  What does it taste like though?  Well……it tastes like coconut.  Largely benefits from the darkness and depth a stout should have and has a fair amount of sweetness.

Thoughts: While I was excited for this, it turned out to be a less pleasant ride than I had hoped.  The flavour of coconut dominated my taste buds and made them its bitch.  The beer was also far too sweet for me, but it did remind me of a Bounty chocolate bar, so I gave it some extra points for nostalgia.

Final Score: 3.5 / 5

December 4 – The Quads Are Not What They Seem

Brewery: Eviltwin Brewing / Dorchester Brewing Co.
Style: Belgian Style Quadrupel
Alcohol: 10%
Origin: Brooklyn, New York / Boston, Massachusetts

Day four and I think they are trying to kill me.  I still have 20 days left of this!  Next up is this long-named quadrupel boasting a 10% alcohol rating.  Pours plainly and dark in colour with noticeable yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass.  Has a thin creamy head and smells like sweet coffee.  Flavour is primarily alcohol – like so much alcohol – followed closely by raisin, malt, salt, and sweetness.  Extremely intense!

Thoughts: If the dubbel isn’t my style of beer, what do you think I’m going to say about a quadrupel? Far too much for me! Intensity if over the top, almost too much to properly enjoy.  The flavour of alcohol is extremely distracting.  I can appreciate the other flavours that popped out and they would have made a decent Christmas beer, but it just wasn’t enough.

Final Score: 2.5 / 5

December 5 – Alien Klaw

Brewery: Naparbier
Style: Belgian IPA
Alcohol: 6.8%
Origin: Noain, Spain

Another Belgian style beer…..is this a conspiracy or what? A Belgian IPA this time though, so at least it’s something different.  Pours with one hell of a head!  Beware – or you’ll be cleaning up a mess rather quickly.  Smells like a hefeweizen which translates into the flavour as well.  Decent amount of citrus but not a lot of hops that an IPA should have.  Still easy to drink and pleasant enough.

Thoughts: More of a lemony beer than an IPA. That is all….

Final Score: 3.5 / 5

December 6 – Beavers Milk Stout Nitro

Brewery: Belching Beaver Brewery
Style: Stout
Alcohol: 5.3%
Origin: Oceanside, California

Where to begin with this?!  First of all, the name is confusing but awesome.  The name of the brewery also conjures up images that only a 6 year old boy is capable of.  But I digress…. This beer pours the colour of the darkest night – meaning a dark black.  The bottle offers instructions to pour into a glass rapidly.  Despite this, there is very little head to speak of.  The smell from the glass is that of earthy chocolate.  The flavour is smooth with sweet cocoa notes.

Thoughts: This is probably my favourite so far.  There is a lot of things this beer does well.  The flavour was great and gave me something interesting to look forward to every time I took a sip.  The branding is creative and imaginative.  Not extremely complex, but a good offering overall.

Final Score: 3.75 / 5

December 7 – Grisette Belgian Ale

Brewery: Brauerei Camba
Style: Belgian Ale
Alcohol: 5.9%
Origin: Seeon, Germany

I’m beginning to think this is a Belgian invasion.  This Belgian ale pours a pale gold with a slight cloudiness to it.  As it tumbles into the glass, you’ll notice that it quite fizzy and carbonated like a soda in addition to having a head that lingers.  On the tongue, you’ll notice a nice subtle lemon, citrus and fruit notes and a slight sweetness that compliments it well.

Thoughts:  Extremely easy to drink, refreshing and clean. Otherwise unremarkable.  A good but relatively boring beer.

Final Score: 3.5 / 5

December 8 – Advent Party Crasher

Brewery: Clown Shoes
Style: American Imperial Stout
Alcohol: 10%
Origin: Ipswich, Massachusetts

The final beer in the first round of beer advent is a delightful imperial stout that pours a beautiful dark brown and has a large head that won’t quit. The scent of dark cocoa invites you in and then delivers with the taste of chocolate and orange.  While labeling shows a 10% alcohol content, there is almost no trace of it on your tongue leaving you with just the flavour of the beer itself.

Thoughts: Reminds me of a Terry’s chocolate orange…..except in liquid form……and alcoholic.  This beats out the other 7 beers by far.

Final Score: 4.25 / 5

ROUND 1 SUMMARY:

A little disappointing out of the gate, but there were a few dark horses that shone through the rest of the pack.  The Advent Party Crasher and Beaver Milk Stout Nitro were the clear winners of this round.  I was a little shocked at how much of a selection of Belgian style beers there were in the first few days.  While I can appreciate the Belgian style, it didn’t do much for me in terms of variety which is one of the reasons I buy this calendar to begin with.  It really didn’t help that some of them were less than stellar.  Still, it’s still early in the race and with 16 days of beer advent left, anything can happen.  Another 8 days of advent coming up with even more reasons to grab some glasses and sit on your asses!

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Pet Parenting: A Story of a Dog Named River

Anybody that tells you owning a dog does not qualify you as a parent is either doing the dog thing wrong, or angry that their special snowflake, angel of a darling child has now been compared to a hairy, flatulent, trouble maker who likes to chase after squirrels and lick their own crotch.

I have recently read a fair amount of articles claiming that those who consider themselves parents simply for owning a dog need to, and I quote, “STOP!”  You can google them or you can check a couple of the following links to see what I am talking about:

Pet Parents: Can We Stop Pretending It’s a Thing?

Pet Parents are NOT Moms

There are so many more I could point out, but we’ll stop at two for now.

For a quick summary, there are several arguments to support this….. let’s call it “ideology.”  Firstly, and my favourite of these points, is that a dog is not the “fruit of your loins,” so to speak.  They do not share your genetic code and they are not of your blood – not even the same species.  Secondly, they do not yell that they hate you, break curfew, rebel or require that you drive them to soccer practice.  The social interactions and needs of a child versus a dog are a completely different.  Thirdly, a dog rarely outlives its owner; this falls under the idea that parenting, in part, means leaving a legacy – a piece of you behind after you are gone.

Now… before I address these well crafted and thoughtful points, I’d like to spend a little bit of time talking about my recently adopted rescue; a dog that goes by the name of River.

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River is a dog that I began working with at the local SPCA, where I work as the Kennel Supervisor.  Up until that point I was proud of myself for staying strong and avoiding the old “I want to adopt them all” mentality that could easily overcome someone in my line of work (and has on many occasions).  Truth be told, River was at the shelter a while before I really noticed him.  And there’s plenty of history I could give on the little guy, but to make a long story short he was not in good health when he came to us; a sad little mutt in dire need of medical treatment.  After receiving the veterinary care he needed, he was eventually moved into the adoptions kennel where I just happened to be covering a shift.  Despite having many other dogs to deal with, I was drawn to this one in particular.  I’m not sure why it happened, but it did; we connected with each other.  Before long, I asked my wife to come in and meet him and a few weeks later we adopted him.

In the few months that he has been living with us, he has provided us with a lot of entertainment, happiness stress and grief.  It hasn’t always been an easy go with him, but such is the way of any puppy you bring into your home.  Every experience is entirely different, and in some way the same; we learned as much when we compared this experience to our first dog, Phoebe (now reluctantly River’s older sister).  So let’s talk about some of River’s “adventures” over the few short months he’s been with us, shall we?

To start, I will point out that my beautiful four legged boy is indeed a smelly one  There is no nice way to say it – he farts.  He is flatulent.  He can produce a scent that can easily clear a room – and what’s more is that it lingers.  When this happens, the room belongs to him for the next 10 minutes.  You are best advised to leave and return with a breathing apparatus.  It wouldn’t even be so bad if we could predict when these events would occur, but we can’t because he only deals in the silent type of bio-chemical warfare. This is an element of his being that we noticed earlier on in his development, and while it has gotten better over time, it still remains one of his more amusing qualities.

Of course, he does possess a more commonly shared trait with other puppies; he’s a chewer.  So far he has managed to destroy a coaster, two xbox 360 controllers, our TV remote, his bed, several of our slippers and shoes, and many of his own toys without effort.  I’m sure he has also managed to eat more sticks and tree branches than a beaver of similar age.  I wish I could say that was it, but I would be lying.  It gets better.  Recently, we’ve been experimenting with giving River a little bit of his own space in the house (rather than keeping him crated while we are gone).  We were reluctant to give him the whole house, so we agreed to let him roam between the kitchen and the bedroom as these are two places that he is most comfortable in.  One day, after coming home from work, I found Phoebe waiting for me, but not River.  I made my way through the house and eventually, I was happily greeted by the little devil himself.  At the time, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary – he hadn’t messed in the house, everything appeared to be intact – so I fed both of them and went to let them out.  Just as River passed by, I noticed he looked a little different; his paws seemed darker for some reason.  I managed to grab him before he could make his escape and I examined him a little closer.  He was green!!  His paws, and other parts of him, were covered in a substance which had dyed his hair an interesting shade of forest green.  Confused about what he had gotten into, I released him and made my way through the house.  That’s when I found it.  On the bedroom floor, right next to the bed were the remains of a long forgotten bag containing a variety of …… harmless liquid items that my wife had received during her bachelorette party some years ago.  A few of these items were more interesting than others, but the one sample bottle he had bitten through happened to be green…….and for some reason he decided to roll in it.  To be honest, neither of us can figure out where the bag had come from and we should have been a lot more angry with him over this incident but we decided to let his one go.  The enjoyment of seeing a proud male prance around the backyard with the partial appearance of a Muppet is really hard to remain angry over.

Rivergreen2

This leads me to the last few days where River has shown his more exploratory nature.  Before I begin, I will let you know we let both of our dogs out in our COMPLETELY FENCED backyard.  We have never had a problem with this…..until now.  A few days ago, when my wife was returning home from some training out of town, she was approached by one of our neighbours……and River.  As it happens, after I let him out, he managed to slip through the fence somehow and gallivanted throughout the neighbourhood.  Relieved that he was returned without incident, we examined the entire fence line for gaps that he could have used to escape.  We found nothing.  Then comes the next morning when I was getting ready for work.  I let him out, as normal, and I swear he had been in the yard for no longer than two minutes before I returned to check on him.  River was not in the backyard and I started to panic.  My eyes scanned around everywhere before I noticed something next door.  The weeds and bushes in our neighbours overgrown backyard were rustling and moving, much like a scene out of Jurassic Park.  I called his name and he burst through a thicket of raspberry bushes with a pleased look upon his face.  After re-examining the fence between our two yards, I discovered that River had removed one of the boards around the bottom of the fence, creating a hole just begin enough for him to slip through.  Our neighbours fence also just happens to be incomplete, explaining how he got out the night before. The effort to bring him back into our yard and repair the gap cost me more time time than I care to admit.  Regardless, I anticipate this will not be a problem in the future….

At this point, you are probably wondering why I have shared all of these anecdotes about River.  Well, I was just about to get to that.  I wanted to illustrate that River is a living, breathing being that makes his own choices, has his own personality and, ultimately, his own set of quirks.  He takes a lot of patience.  I wanted to tell you some of his story to show that in a mere few months he has come just short of driving me absolutely nuts!  Truth be told, given a chance, he will misbehave.  He plays with things he knows he shouldn’t be playing with.  He explores places that he should not be venturing into.  He smells.  He’s messy.  He digs in the mud.  He constantly gets carsick.  He annoys his big sister.  He wakes us up at 4:00 in the morning whining because he needs to go pee or he’s hungry.  Is any of this starting to sound familiar?

RiverB2

I don’t want to give you the impression that River is entirely a bad boy though.  We have spent a fair amount of time training him  He’s learned quite a bit of manners since living with us.  He has learned to sit and wait.  He rarely messes in the house (becoming increasingly better).  He shares his toys with Phoebe, and sometimes Phoebe shares her toys with him.  Despite his being annoying, Phoebe is actually quite protective of River.  These are things he may not have learned if it hadn’t been for our efforts in teaching him.  He has come a long way, and he still has much to learn.  Every day is a new challenge and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I do not have children.  Not in the traditional sense anyway.  I have two dogs, and though they are not human, in many ways, they can act childish. No, they do not have a curfew, but they certainly can act out and rebel from time to time.  They can get grumpy with you, no matter how hard you teach them otherwise.  And while I would love to tell you that I have a plan in place to deal with the smell, there are some things that can’t be taught.  Some humans are just as bad or worse anyway.

It’s true that River is not my offspring.  Last I checked, there are plenty of people that adopt humans and they do not share the same genes.  I wouldn’t say that this is a requirement for parenting and if blood doesn’t matter then I could make a similar argument for species.  As we’ve established, dogs may not break curfew or go back on their promise to “say no to drugs,” but they do find their own ways to rebel and get into trouble.  And no, River does not have a college fund, but he does require some basic level of education, which continues to this day.  As to the legacy, a piece of you left behind, or whatever you would like to refer to it as, this is open to interpretation.  Nothing is forever, human or animal.  I am proud of my dogs and proud to introduce them to people.  I am equally proud that we’ve given them a home, shelter, food, care and love.  This is legacy enough.  People will know that these dogs are taken care of when their existence could have been much worse off.

Honestly, if you have to start an article by excusing yourself for being a “bitch”,  you’ve already lost me.  This does not give you free reign to make whatever argument you want. and still make it convincing and coherent.  Also, the claim that me using the term parent when I simply own a dog “belittles” what you do as a “real parent” is a bit extreme.  At no point did I say that either River or Phoebe were human children; they require a different set of needs and a slightly different touch.  I’m sorry you take offense based simply on the level of “difficulty” required.  Truth be told, I have seen some of the outcomes produced from “real parenting” in current generations and I have found them wanting.  Regardless, I try not to judge.  I also acknowledge that your experience may change when you go from having pets to children of your very own.  Everybody’s experience is different.  Despite whatever you have raised, good or bad, if you want to call yourself a parent, who am I to argue with you?  I only ask that you extend the same courtesy and let me have my own experience.

I am a proud pet parent and owner of two wonderful rescue dogs; they are a part of my family.  Nobody can take that from me.

RiverB3

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An Actor’s Journey: Becoming Fender

A week ago I was a pot selling, chain smoking, leather jacket wearing bad-ass who had applied far too much guyliner and enjoyed dumping nerds into garbage cans.  Today, I’m back to my old self; the normal me that is everything opposite of what I just described.  I’ve often wondered how far down the rabbit hole an actor can descend in pursuit of discovering their character.  I can now honestly say that this actor has had a taste of that process and it’s both a scary and exciting ride.

This is the second year I’ve had the pleasure of being in a dinner theater to hep raise money for Waypoints – a local non profit that provides services for those affected by family violence.  Last year I got to play one of the central characters in Fanny and Manny Tie the Knot – I played the part of Manny and it was an experience unlike any other.  My character didn’t have that many official lines in the script and even though the plot was about his and Fanny’s wedding, the story was more about both of their crazy families coming together.  Still, the challenge of staying in character for nearly five consecutive hours for two nights was a fun workout.  So much so, that when I was given the opportunity to audition again this year, I jumped at the chance to join the cast of the Awesome 80’s Prom and was offered the role of Nick Fender – a role I happily accepted.

One of the fun things about theater is trying to figure out your character.  I soon found myself repeating the same process I had last year discussing backgrounds, quirks, relationships and nicknames in an attempt to flesh out my characters – all of our characters really.  The script itself is fairly bare and only has brief descriptions of the characters so it is really up to the actors themselves to flesh them out.  This is especially important since the script is so bare that a good portion of it is left to improvised scenes and interactions that we had to make ourselves.  I followed the process in the same way I had last year and, while it helped me flesh Nick Fender out, I still wasn’t sure who he was.  I will admit, I found the first few weeks of rehearsal awkward, challenging and, at times, depressing.  I was struggling to figure out how to be Fender.  I thought maybe this role was beyond me.  Clearly they had made a mistake giving me this character.  However, my outlook would change rapidly after the Christmas break in a way I hadn’t expected.

Soon after our return to rehearsal, we started talking about what props our characters would have and need.  With the help of one of my cast mates, we decided that during some of the improvised scenes Fender would attempt to sell fake concert tickets in addition to bags of oregano (pot) to those attending prom.  Something clicked in my head and while I still hadn’t figured out who Fender was, I began getting ideas.  The next week I brought a flask to rehearsal and used it gratuitously in front of the school principal, Mr. Snellgrove.  I offered my class mates a hit from it and they responded in character.  I got a taste of who this character really was – a man-teen who acted tough and loved both causing and getting into trouble.  He thrived off it.  I needed more.  The next week, I dumped a friend, playing the role of the nerd, into a garbage can and watched him thrash around helplessly with a look of glee on my face.  More and more, I was getting closer to finding out just who Fender was; who he could be really.  It was exciting and I resolved myself to see just how far this could go.

The following week before a rehearsal, I asked my wife to stop at the convenience store and for the first time in my life, I bought a pack of smokes.  Those that know me will tell you I am not a smoker.  I do enjoy the occasional cigar here and there, but I’ve never been able to figure out the attraction to cigarettes, personally.  However, I had no doubt in my mind that Fender was a smoker and did not hide the fact.  So I hopped out of the car, walked into the store and did what I had to do……..while in character.  It was probably one of the most awkward conversations ever since I was not well versed in the brands or sizes available.  In addition to that, the guy behind the counter had a look on his face that said even though I didn’t look like I was under the age of 18, he should probably ID me anyway.  I’m certain he thought I was nuts.  But I……Fender…..emerged victorious from the store, pack of smokes in hand and into his wife’s ……. my wife’s….  Toyota Corolla.  Bad-ass!20170209_134717.jpg

The pieces had all come together, but I feel like I finally transformed the moment I got into costume and makeup the night of the first show.  The second I finished putting on my thick eyeliner and leather jacket, I ceased to be Chris and became Fender.  That night I sold tickets to rock concerts 30 years gone.  In one evening, I had dispersed my whole stash of drugs (also known as bulk quality oregano).  I had alienated and bullied class mates.  I hit on women with some of the cheesiest and worst pickup lines mankind could ever use and been rejected with a grin on my face that said, “whatever!”  I was constantly taking hits from my flask and cigarettes were littered all over the floor.  I was even confronted by a cop in the audience – my crowning achievement.  That first night flew by and by the time it was over (nearly 5 hours later) I had held a cigarette in the corner of my mouth for so long that my lips began to crack and left blood on the filter tip.  I took of my shoes to find blisters I didn’t even know were there.  The leather jacket I was wearing was insulated for winter conditions; my shirt was soaked with sweat, my eyeliner was streaking and I was a exhausted.  The best part was realizing that I would get to do it all over again the next day.

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Here I am a week later.  The eyeliner is gone.  The leather jacket is hung up.  The cigarettes are in the trash.  Nick Fender is gone.  Now there’s only me and Nick is nothing but a memory.  My social media and e-mail is rapidly filing with pictures and video of someone I have a hard time recognizing.

I have done a fair amount of theater over the last few years and I am proud of the job that did in acting with those roles and what I was able to accomplish with them.  This time felt different.  In the past, I feel like I tried to act the way I thought my character should be.  This time that approach did not work.  I found my character so elusive and challenging – I knew I would have to go further.  I couldn’t just act the character.  It wasn’t enough to simply rehearse the character.  I actually had to get inside the mind of the character; to step out of who I was and into the person I had slowly discovered over the course of two months.  Looking back now, my exchanges with the character have taken a toll on me both emotionally and physically.  I have gone further with a character than I have ever done before.  Now I find myself exhausted, bloodied and worn out…..but extremely happy.

I will always remember my time with Nick Fender……and his magical night at prom.

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Beer Advent 2016: One last hop, skip and drink!

The last days of advent have come and gone; 2016 is now but a memory as a new year dawns upon us.  That being said, it is not too late to review the memory of the last six beers of advent to help ring in the new year.  Let’s not waste any more time and get drinking!

December 19th: Shepherd’s Watch Canadian Edition 2016 – 6% (World Top Brewery – Yorkshire, England)

This beer pours quite nicely and provides a decent thin head.  Fairly dark, the scent is a bit fruity – it actually reminds me a lot of fruit cake.  Despite this, it tastes fairly clean and does not linger in the mouth while maintaining the taste the scent suggests.  At second glance, the darkness that dominated the glass has now become a reddish brown.  While not my usual style, this beer surprised me.  Would pair extremely well with a rich desert.

Final Score: 4 / 5

December 20th: Oud Bruin – 6% (Brouwerij ‘t Verzet – Anzegem, Belgium)

This beer claims to be a sour beer that is a common style brewed in the Flanders region of Belgium.

Disclaimer: if you did not read my previous entries about my experience with “sour” beers, consider this your warning.  I have not liked any of them.  I am still waiting to find one I will like.  I approached this beer with an open mind….

Pouring a red brown into the glass, the beer pours with a tremendous head that takes a while to dissipate.  At second glance, the beer has a very interesting murky red brown look to it….not the clear red brown I was initially seeing.  The scent is definitely sour…..not much else to note at this time.  There is nothing left to do but take a sip.  “Holy hell! What did I just put in my mouth?!?” The flavour I get is sour upon sour upon sour.  Endless sour.  Reminds me of an apple flavoured atomic warhead sour candy.  As I swallow and pucker my mouth, I read the label which literally has the following quotes in the beer description: “Lactic acid dominates the taste” and “wakes up your mouth with a big punch in the face.” Despite everything, I finished the glass (against the sage advise of my wife).  Towards the end, the sour taste kind of reminded me of the acidic qualities in vomit.  Would not recommend unless you are trying to play a mean joke on someone you hate.

Final Score: 0.75 / 5

December 21: La Debauche Cognac Barrel – 9.5% ( La Debauche Brasserie – Angoulême, France)

This beer is actually a barley wine that has spent some time in a cognac barrel – hence the name.  As it is poured, you will notice that this thing has a head that won’t quit.  After you get everything in the glass, it does an amazing imitation of a root beer float (kind of a weird head that is produced by introducing ice cream to anything carbonated – and no I did not add ice cream to my beer). The beer itself is a dark red brown and smells quite alcoholic.  After a few whiffs, the scent does remind me a bit of cognac.  The first few sips are hard to describe as the flavour was quite hard to pin down.  The first tastes were sweet and of caramel and coffee.  Cognac for sure.  Then it went even further with leather and fresh pipe tobacco.  Very complex.  A sipping beer for sure.

Final Score: 4 / 5

December 22nd: Sauerkirsche Stout – 10% (Eviltwin Brewing – Spain)

This beer is labelled as an Imperial Stout with sour cherry.  As it is poured into the glass, there is very little head to speak of – in fact it looks a little flat.  As the liquid settles, what we are left with is a beer with a very very dark black appearance.  The scent is definitely a stout with a hint of what smells like cherry.  Although I wasn’t super impressed with the beer at first glance, the flavour actually resembles that of a black forest chocolate cake.  Not the best thing I’ve ever had, but certainly interesting.

Final Score: 3.75 / 5

December 23rd: Clootie Dumpling – 4.3% (The Orkney Brewery – Scotland)

I had to read the label over and over again.  What a fun name! This tawny ale is supposed to resemble a traditional Scottish pudding of sorts.  The beer itself shines a beautiful amber colour in the glass.  The taste is very much cinnamon and ginger but the label talks of a fruity scent and flavour that simply doesn’t translate.  I was a little disappointed with this one.

Final Score: 3 / 5

December 24th: December Flower – 11.6% (White Pony Microbrewery – Belgium)

The last of our beers, this winter seasonal ale has a scent of oranges on Christmas day.  The label talks about several other flavours that I sadly did not pick up at all – mainly the missing element of coriander.  While the beer is quite beautiful to look at, it was sadly a bit too sweet for my taste and a bit of a let down to the end of the calendar.

FInal Score: 3 / 5

So there you have it! Another year wrapped up….another holiday season blessed with beautiful beers, alluring ales and stellar stouts!  Of course, if there is anything you would like to agree or disagree with, please feel free to respond in the comment section!  Until then, I will finish off the 2016 Beer Advent calendar with an old Irish Toast.

“For every wound, a balm.
For every sorrow, cheer.
For every storm, a calm.
For every thirst, a beer.”

See you next year!

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Beer Advent 2016: Round Three, FIGHT!

We’ve officially gotten halfway through the beer advent calendar; another six beers have shown their labels and been consumed in the name Christmas cheer.  I could waste your time by writing some petty words, but I think we’re beyond that at this point.  How about, we dive on in?

December 13th: Nøgne Ø Adventurous Brown – 10 % (Nøgne Ø – Norway)

This beer opened the floodgates for some heavy hitters.  There was very little head on the pour and you’ll notice a sweet metallic smell coming out of the glass. The beer has a bit of a translucent dark brown look to it; very strange for a dark beer to be as clear as it is.  For the first sip, tastes like wood and molasses become apparent.  Second sip revealed brown sugar and possible pine notes, while the sweetness in the beer actually pulls it towards a similarity with a deep barbecue sauce. A pretty solid winter ale for sure!

Final Score: 4 / 5

December 14th: Bersalis Sour Blend – 6% (Oud Beersel Brewery – Belgium)

Before I get into this, I need to put out a disclaimer that I distinctly remember dealing with a sour beer in last years beer advent calender review, BeerAdvent 2015: I Just Got Run Over by a Reinbeer.  I remember it so well because it wasn’t the experience I had hoped for, to say the least.  It is very rare that a beer leaves me asking myself, “why did I put this in my mouth?”  Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about this one.

As your pour it into the glass, it takes on the bubbling action of a cider pretty much right away.  The head is neither thick or impressive; it pours a bit like a can of no name brand soda.  While it does have a decent pale golden yellow colour, it also has deposits of sediment tumbling around in the bottom of my glass.  On the nose, the beer seems to be mostly of sour lemon.  The flavour isn’t what you would expect after smelling it though.  It actually isn’t all that sour – not as much as the scent would have you believe anyway.  Whatever sourness there is in the beer mellows out to a bit of a indescribable spice.  Really, it comes across as a wheat beer with lemon in it.  Unfortunately, while it does take on characteristics of a sour and wheat beer, it doesn’t really succeed at being either very well.

Final Score: 2.5 / 5

December 15th: Põhjala Öö Imperial Baltic Porter – 10.5% (Põhjala – Estonia)

Ok…..let’s see if I can write more than a couple of sentences about this beer.  There is no head to speak of when it is poured and looks to be a little flat.  The beer is extremely dark, which so far seems to be it’s winning attribute since the marketing of the beer (the label) appears to be largely about night time or darkness.  It is both sweet and bitter and tastes largely of coffee and licorice but not much of either.  I find myself a little bit lost with this beer.  “Meh…”

Final Score: 2.75 / 5

December 16th: Gno More Gnomes (Barley Wine) – 10% (Eviltwin Brewery – Helsingborg, Sweden)

Pours much like a red ale with a nice, thick (but not overly done) head.  Not much to tell about the scent.  In fact, there’s very little scent at all.  Tastes a lot like ……. malt.  Not much else going on here unfortunately.  I was hoping for more and while it wasn’t too bad to drink, I found the substance to be a one note wonder.

Final Score: 2 / 5

December 17th: Black Alligator – 9% (Monyo Brewing Co. – Budapest, Hungary)

First off, I spent a lot of time on google translate trying to figure out what the bottle wanted to tell me about the beer.  This isn’t a bad thing.  I like a good mystery and this bottle delivered.  Since we’re also meddling with a lot of beers from Europe, it was nice to see one of them printed fully in it’s original language.  In terms of the beer itself, it pours dark, tastes clean and finishes light.  Nothing spectacular or earth shattering but what it does do, it does very well without burning my taste buds.  While it does have a fairly high alcohol content, this is a beer I could drink several of with very little difficulty.

Final Score: 4 / 5

December 18th: Molotov – 7 % (Birrificio Del Ducato – Italy)

I was really excited when I pulled this beer out of the box on account of it boasting being made with wasabi.  Pours a nice golden yellow colour in the glass.  As with some of the others in this line up, I have noticed a fair amount of sediment in the bottom of the glass.  There is very little head to speak of.  There is no spice here really and only a faint trace of wasabi flavour.  I was left a little disappointed after what was promised.  This beer is a bit too plain and left me wanting.

Final Score: 2.25 / 5

That’s the end of part three,
Of our beer adventure.
But there’s still mystery,
Don’t leave, madam or sir!

That’s another six done,
some of them were not great.
A few were pretty fun,
So do not show them hate.

If you tune in next time,
We’ll finish off the set.
Hope the last are sublime,
‘Cus this box put me in debt.

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Beer Advent 2016: The Adventure Continues

When last we left our hero, he was tipping back a pint of Sweet Krampus.  Another six days have passed and another six beers have been released from their cages.  What did each door on the beer advent calendar reveal?  Have I been sipping on decadent delights?  Delicious draughts? Disgraceful disasters?  Keep reading as I unravel the mysteries of days 7 through 12 and continue to tickle your taste buds!

December 7th: The Crimson Bird with Raspberries – 6.1% (Naparbier – Spain) 

This delightful raspberry saison pours a slightly pinky amber colour.  As it tumbles into the glass, it can be easy to be put off by the act that it seems to bubble and churn like a cooler that you may have purchased in the mid 90s; don’t let this fool you.  The scent that hits your nose is that of real raspberries – almost as if they were still on the bush.  The head that forms easily and thickly coats the glass and the fizz reminds me of something between a glass of soda and champagne.  On the tongue, the taste is slightly sweet and tart.  The berry notes transfer perfectly from the scent to the flavour.  Overall, this beer is a clean and well balanced offering.

Final Score: 4 /5

December 8th: Silver Bottle Beer – 4.9% (Schloss Eggenberg – Austria)

Really, there isn’t much to say about this beer.  It comes in a really cool metallic bottle.  Looks pretty average.  Tastes clean – I guess like silver.  Other than that, it’s a pretty plain lager.  Nothing remarkable.  Fairly crisp.  Possible touch of apple cider.  Quite serviceable.  Drinkable in large quantities.  Nothing to write home about.

Final Score: 3 / 5

December 9th: Deep Space Foreign Extra Stout – 6.5% (Fabryka Piwa – Poland)

This beer really surprised me.  I love stout and this far surpassed anything I thought could come out of a bottle.  Pours very much like a stout and extremely dark – perhaps part of where it got it’s name.  Scent and taste are pretty much on par here with a good balance between coffee bitter and cocoa flavours.  Very smooth and easy to drink, but a good beer for a cold winter night.  Reminds me of drinking hot cocoa.  If this beer doesn’t get you in the holiday mood, nothing will.

Final Score: 4.5 / 5

December 10th: Biir / Equinox Triple IPA – 9.4% (Brouwerij Anders – Belgium)

Once I started pouring this beer, I realized it was going to be a long night.  The first inch or so of liquid that bit the bottom of the glass produced a head that filled the glass.  And so….I waited.  Once the thick head had allowed me to pour the remaining amount of beer into the glass, I could see the deep golden colour the beer is supposed to be.  Scent is that of something quite hoppy but nothing out of the ordinary for a regular IPA.  Taste is well balanced between hops and bitter at 100 IBU.  Slightly off-putting metallic aftertaste.  Would have rated it higher if it weren’t for that one small detail.

Final Score: 3.75 / 5

December 11th: Winter Saison – 6.1% (Brouwerij De Molen – Netherlands)

Pours a very hazy/cloudy golden colour and leaves some sediment in the glass.  Has a thin persistent head.  The only way I can describe this beer is “weird!”  While the bottle labels some of the ingredients as szechuan and timut peppers, there is very little spice from either of them.  What we are left with is a flavour similar to sweet but slightly lemony bell peppers up front which then transforms to a mustard spice halfway through.  As the spice mellows out, we get more of a traditional saison flavour that isn’t really unique but does it’s job well.  While I wasn’t really sure if I liked the beer at first, I found myself repeatedly sipping it trying to figure it at all out.  So far it has been one of my favourite beers because it offers what most of them do not – a memorable experience.

Final Score: 4.75 /5

December 12th: Pukki – 3% (Browar Wasosz – Poland)

This beer is supposedly a Finnish twist smoked beer.  Having remembered the smoked lager from last year’s beer advent calendar, I didn’t really have high expectations. Poured into the glass, we are left with a hazy and pale gold colour.  The scent is definitely smoke, but almost like it came from something sweet being being burnt – possibly something like spruce.  The taste is dominantly smoke, but, as the beer moves along the tongue, you are left with a clean finish that is surprising.  While not perfect, this smoked beer finally gave me what I was looking for out of the style – an actual smokey flavour.

Final Score: 4 / 5

Another six beers down!
We’ll be back again soon.
There is no need to frown,
Just sing this happy tune!

We still have twelve beers left,
Lots of mystery still!
Some will make you feel hot,
and the others quite chill!

As we count down each day
To a Christmas quite fine,
I now finish and say,
Please do join us next time!

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Beer Advent 2016: Old World Countries, New World Beers

I look outside and I see the sun setting  over the frost tipped trees of the boreal forest; the land around me covered in a powdered layer of pure white snow.  The lights outside are slowly coming on one by one and the world is illuminated again in a sea of various shades of reds, greens, yellows and whites.  Christmas time is upon us again and the holiday season has begun.  Of course, there is no finer way to celebrate than with my drink of choice – BEER!

Last year, you may recall I embarked upon an incredible journey through advent.  Rather than the grocery store advent calendars filled with the cheap but nostalgic chocolates, I acquired a calendar filled with a variety of delicious craft beers.  Continuing in this tradition, I have once again acquired this year’s “Old World Countries, New World Beers” edition of the Beer Advent calendar and I hope, dear friends, that you will join me as I count down the days to Christmas and share in much merrymaking!

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December 1st: APA – 4.8% (Birrificio del Doge – Italy)

This Italian take on an american pale ale was a great start to the season! Pours very bubbly, almost like champagne and has an unfiltered haze in the glass.  Once it settles, a beautiful light rosy amber colour emerges.  Tastes highly of citrus – possible grapefruit.  For those that like IPAs, you might some love here but this beer tends more towards bitterness with little room for hops.  Despite this, it remains a very clean drink.  Serve cold!

Final score: 3.75 / 5

December 2nd: Bavarian Winter – 5.8% (Camba – Germany)

A Bavarian IPA that did not fail to impress.  Golden in colour and wonderfully aromatic.  Hops is the dominant scent which carries through into its flavour while remaining well balanced with the bitterness we normally expect from and IPA.  While the bottle boasts lychee and grapefruit notes, I did not pick up on the lychee at all.  Good thing I love grapefruit though because it becomes the star of this show.  Overall a solid and strong IPA.

Final score: 4.25 / 5

December 3rd: Laiska Jaakko – 4.5% (Teerenpeli – Finland)

This beer was an interesting choice.  The name, Laiskajaakko, apparently translates to “Lazy Jack.”  The label on the bottle shows a picture of one of those novelty beer hats and the company advertises that the beer is organic and uses wood pellet energy in its creation.  Listed as a dark lager, the head dissipates quickly leaving mostly what resembles a slightly flat glass of Coke.  Dark colour with a malty scent that carries through to the flavour.  A touch of smoke maybe, but nothing really beyond.  While the beer has a cool story and marketing, it suffers from a complete lack of anything remarkable.

Final score: 2.75 / 5

December 4th: Rose Wheat Beer – 4.7% (Ticketybrew – England)

A beer that delivers on its promise.  Pours a hazy gold blonde in the glass, the very first thing that hits your nose is the scent of rosewater.  The first sip is tart, but the flavour or rose carries through while maintaining its legitimacy as a wheat beer.  Once its settles on your palate, your will be greeted by lemony notes and a touch of sourness.  Quite an interesting offering!

Final score: 4 / 5

December 5th: De Mons – 6% (Inveralmond Brewery – U.K)

De Mons is, ironically, a Trappist Belgian Abbey style beer.  Pours a golden colour and leaves you with hypnotic bubbles in the glass once it settles.  Smells like an ale with a touch of a fruity scent.  Tastes sweet but remains smooth.  The brewery talks of raisin and fig notes which hold up.  While most of this beer is positive, it does suffer from an alcoholic aftertaste which leaves you with an unpleasant bitterness on your tongue.

Final score: 3.25 / 5

December 6th: Sweet Krampus – 7% (Loncium – Austria)

The second I saw this bottle emerge, I had to laugh.  I recall in the first beer advent calendar I bought, one of the beers was called Krampus and I remember it being interesting and terrible at the same time.  Luckily, this beer does not entirely remind me of that.  Extremely dark and pours like a stout or a porter.  There is a heavy fruity sweet scent coming out of the glass.  The first sip seems light at first but manages to roll into a full bodied heavier beer.  While it maintains its sweetness on the tongue, there is a touch of sourness as well and a flavour that reminds me of brown sugar.  Beats out the last Krampus beer I had but still not my favourite while maintaining interesting qualities.

Final score: 3.5 / 5

There you have it!  The first six beers of advent; 18 more to go!  Check back in a few days when I will reveal the next six mysteries hidden within the advent calendar.

For those that are also partaking in Beer Advent this year, feel free to chime in in the comment section and tell me a bit about your experience.  Agree or disagree with anything I’ve said?  Let me know!

After all, it’s the most wonderful time for a beer!

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