Beer Advent 2017: Aftermath of the Belgian Invasion

Friends…..I have a confession.  I needed a day off.  The first eight days hit me pretty hard.  I have never had so many Belgian style ales back to back to back.  Unfortunately, in order to give my system the break it needed, this led to me being a few days behind in the beer advent calendar.  This, in turn, meant that I had to play catch up.  So for the last 3 days, I’ve had to drink 2 beers from the calendar per day.  I’m not sure if it was worth it, but the good news I’m all caught up now, so let’s get right back to it!

December 9 – Palate Trip                       IMG_20171209_202455.jpg

Brewery: 8 Wired Brewing Co.
Style: Sour IPA
Alcohol: 6.5%
Origin: Warkworth, New Zealand

This Sour IPA pours an extremely pale golden yellow colour and stands with a bit of haze.  The smell coming from the glass seems to be fairly standard for an IPA; the hops are noticeable but this beer manages to keep it light.  The first sip reveals an IPA that is hoppy, but instead of the standard bitterness you’d expect from an IPA, this note has been replaced by delightful sour/tart flavour that isn’t at all overpowering.

Thoughts: I’m happy to see that the Beer Advent Calendar hasn’t given up on the idea of delivering a sour beer, and for once they’ve given us something to talk about!  The sour takes the bitter spot from the IPA in an almost seamless way, managing to keep the beer balanced and flavourful.  This is a beer worth trying!!

Final Score: 4.5 / 5

December 10 – ShamansIMG_20171210_200021.jpg

Brewery: Microbrasserie Le Grimoire
Style: White Beer
Alcohol: 5%
Origin: Granby, Quebec

Pours a pale golden yellow with a slight haze.  The head is pretty standard fare for the style.  The beer smells fairly sweet, resembling an apple crumble or apple pie.  First sips reveal tastes of apple and spice, very similar to the smell.  While the beer is sweet in flavour, it is not sugary sweet at all.  The result is a beer that is somewhere crossed with a cider.

Thoughts: Not to my usual taste, but I have to give them points for trying to be creative.  The flavour is on point and I appreciate the fact that they didn’t make the beer sickeningly sweet.  I also have to give credit to their marketing department – the label is an eye catcher and artistic in its own way.

Final Score: 3.25 / 5

December 11 – Dasher and DancerIMG_20171211_192252.jpg

Brewery: Brouwerij De Molen
Style: “Red Ale-ish”
Alcohol: 5.2%
Origin: Bodegraven, Netherlands

As you pour this one into the glass, you will be greeted by a thick and nearly impossible head (seriously, it took me nearly 5 minutes to pour the whole bottle into the glass). As it settles, you’ll notice what appears to be a fairly standard red ale which glows a red amber brown.  The scent is earthy and hoppy – more hops than I would expect in a red ale.  This translates into the flavour, which maintains the hoppiness and bitter, along with some of the malt that I am used to from the style.

Thoughts: This red ale is aptly named, with the “ish” being an important part.  I have a deep love of red ales and this isn’t a normal example.  I’ve tried a few beers that have attempted to label themselves as red IPAs in the past, only to be left somewhat disappointed.  This, on the other hand, seems to fit in that category perfectly.  The hops and bitter blend well with the usual flavour of the red ale.  I would have given it a higher score, but they sacrificed some of the caramel malt, sweet and depth that comes with the territory to make room for the IPA elements.

Final Score: 4.25 / 5

December 12 – Half Bastard Stout IMG_20171212_214330.jpg

Brewery: Nickel Brook Brewing Co.
Style: Stout
Alcohol: 4.5%
Origin: Burlington, Ontario

This beer pours with a bubbly head that can only be described as “eruptive like a volcano.”  In all seriousness, it pours very much like a root beer, so you’ll have to be patient with it.  Extremely dark in colour and the smell will not be unfamiliar to stout drinkers.  The flavour itself is dry and tart, with notes of coffee and toast.

Thoughts: I’ve had a long and bumpy history with this brewery, located in my old hometown, but have since come to enjoy some of their more recent offerings and I’m happy to see it represented in the Beer Advent Calendar this year!  For something that is labeled as a stout, it doesn’t have all that much stout in it – but I guess that’s where it earned its name.  I found it rather light and thin, while the flavour reads more along the lines of a sour ale.  That being said, I still enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing what the brewery comes up with in the future.  Stand By!

Final Score: 3.75 / 5

December 13 – Wee Heavy Scotch Ale IMG_20171213_215111.jpg

Brewery: The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery
Style: Scotch Ale
Alcohol: 8%
Origin: Farmville, North Carolina

Poured into the glass, the beer is a thin amber brown colour with a small fizzy head.  The smell is noticeable straight away and reminds of oatmeal bread, caramel and toffee.  The flavour carries many of the elements present in the smell but adds a scotch and toffee blend that is familiar to the style.

Thoughts: A heavy hitter for sure! Being a scotch drinker myself, this one hit a soft spot.  It did double duty in this regard as the smell of freshly baked oatmeal bread is nostalgic for me.  Beyond its attempts to woo me through those means, it is a fairly basic example of a Scotch Ale with one hell of an awesome label.  Is it a duck …. or is it a rabbit?!

Final Score: 4 / 5

December 14 – Dark Signs (2017) IMG_20171214_214544.jpg

Brewery: White Pony Microbrewery
Style: Winter Ale
Alcohol: 9% / 11.2% (depending on who you ask)
Origin: Padova PD, Italy

This beer is notable for its use of champagne yeast.  The smell strong and deep with no distinct scent that stands out above the rest.  After it’s poured you are left with a thin head and a reddish amber colour.  The flavour profile is that of raisin, toffee, and sweet, rich Christmas fruit.  Manages to remain balanced despite heavy alcohol content.

Thoughts: This is everything a winter ale should be: deep, rich and flavourful.  If this doesn’t conjure up images of sparkling Christmas fruit covered with a light frost, sugar plums and all that jazz, nothing will.  As for the confusion on the alcohol rating, the bottle seems to say one thing and the online profile states another.  I’m not sure who to believe and, quite frankly, I don’t care.  I usually don’t go for these types of beers all that often, but when I do, they should taste something like this!  A Christmas experience in a glass!

Final Score: 4 / 5

December 15 – 2017 Bridge Street Holiday Ale IMG_20171215_202322.jpg

Brewery: Crazy Mountain Brewing Co.
Style: Spice/Herb Beer
Alcohol: 6.5%
Origin: Denver, Colorado

A basic ale that pours with the scent of sweetness and clove.  The taste is rather complex and surprising.  The first sip reveals spices and herbs as promised; spices and cloves.  Further exploration reveals ginger, nutmeg, clove and a cornucopia of holiday spices.  Despite smelling sweet, it isn’t sweet at all and actually has a bit of a hot/spice kick that sneaks up on you.

Thoughts:  This beer has a wide variety of reviews and you’ll either love it or hate it.  After drinking the whole bottle, I decided I was in the “love it” camp.  I found the spice and heat a nice change of pace from the norm and the flavours really sell this as a beer to celebrate Christmas with.  Keeping everything I’ve said in mind, if this sounds even remotely intriguing to you, I would give it a shot.

Final Score: 4 / 5

December 16 – Ditto aviary-image-1513746712242.jpeg

Brewery: Wold Top Brewery
Style: Doppelbock
Alcohol: 7%
Origin: Driffield, England

The last beer in this set of eight is a doppelbock that manages to present itself rather well.  Featuring a thin head on the pour, the beer itself is a nice amber brown.  The aroma from the glass hints at chocolate and malt.  After a few sips, the flavour profiles are of malt, chocolate, raisin, and dates with a touch of sour/tartness while maintaining its sweet nature.

Thoughts: This wasn’t a terrible beer to end this segment with.  Doppels fall under the usual assortment of beers that I don’t make a habit of drinking regularly.  That being said, the flavour was decent and really does manage to advertise the holiday season in its own way.  If there were more of them that taste like this, maybe I would start a slow conversion towards something a bit heavier and thicker.

Final Score: 3.75 / 5

Round 2 Summary:

I have to say, I’m feeling a bit better about this set of eight.  Round 1 made me believe that Belgians could actually take over the world in some sort of unholy beer war.  I’m pleased to see that there are strong alternatives in the face of such an overwhelming force.  For the most part, these beers have been more consistent in score compared to those in the first round.  In addition, they’ve been far more interesting and varied in style and range – which is one of the many reasons I continue to buy this advent calendar year after year in the first place.  There is indeed a glimmer of hope in the face of the uncertainty that is……the last eight doors of advent.  More coming soon friends!  Will I find salvation?  Or will I find doom?  Let’s find out!!!

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