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
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
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
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
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
Style: Belgian IPA
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
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
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
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!