As we approach the new year, you can bet on one thing being completed; yes indeed, I finished all 24 beers of advent. T’is true! I will also confess the fact that I am once again a few days late in posting my final review. Like many others, I decided to use my days off wisely … by eating, drinking and sleeping. I will admit I enjoy the odd making of merriment and spreading of cheer throughout the land o’er the joyous season of Christmas. But I pray you read this now, for I would lay rest the grace in my typing fingers and write plainly. Days like these are far too rare to cheapen with heavy handed words, and so, I’m afraid without any ado whatsoever, here it is – the final moments of Beer Advent 2017!
December 17th – Power Wagon
Brewery: Big Sky Brewing Co.
Style: Wheat Wine
Origin: Missoula, Montana
As it pours into the glass, you’ll notice a light lingering head and a beautiful golden colour. Further inspection reveals what can only be considered a metric crap-ton of sediment in the bottom of the glass. There is very little smell, but what you do get out of it is fairly similar to a slightly off wine/vinegar scent. On the tongue, the beer is sweet and is like a hops and malt version wine……or a wine version of beer. Uncertainty ensues…..
Thoughts: I don’t even know where to begin with this. Maybe I just don’t get it or Wheat Wine just isn’t my thing. I had a hard time doing the more technical and tasting notes part of the review without putting my own thoughts and bias on it. In summary, this was terrible! I don’t mind the odd barley wine, but this was just plain ….. nope! I had to take a peek on BeerAdvocate.com to see what other people are saying about it (an approach I don’t normally like). I was further shocked to find out that this beer had an average score of 3.87 / 5. WHAT?!?! Nobody mentions the funk, the off-putting flavour, or anything else. They don’t even mention the sediment in the bottom of my glass!! How can you not see that?!? Not a good start to the last eight days of Beer Advent 2017.
Final Score: 1.75 / 5
December 18th – Salted Caramel Coffee Stout
Brewery: The Tickety Brew Company
Style: Milk Stout
Origin: Stalybridge, England
This is a fairly normal example of a stout. The beer’s colour is and extremely dark black/brown and it maintains an average head for the style. The scent is a touch sweet and earthy but not pungent. The first sip is about what you would expect – it’s a stout. Decently smooth. There is a hint of the salted caramel flavour that is promised, as well as some coffee notes, but not much else going on.
Thoughts: I was expecting more from this. Any beer that advertises something that stands out (i.e salt, sour, smoke, etc…) I take an immediate interest in. It had some of it there, but not enough to really sell it as a complete package. I can appreciate understated or subtle notes, but it needs to be balanced and work with the flavours you have. This doesn’t really succeed in that department. The salt and the caramel are barely even noticeable. That being said, it is a smooth and easy to drink stout so it’s not all that bad.
Final Score: 3.5 / 5
December 19th – Baltic Porter
Brewery: Sound Brewery
Style: Black Lager
Origin: Poulsbo, Washington
Pours like a stout or porter with a standard head for the style. The beer remains dark in colour and scent is what you would expect from a porter. That being said, the flavours delivered on the tongue are of smoke, sweet, pine wood and chocolate. The better part is that while each of these flavours are distinguishable, this dark beer manages to remain balanced and smooth.
Thoughts: Unlike the previous beer where I expected more and got less, this one manages to the exact opposite; I didn’t expect much from the start and was surprised to get more. The pinewood and smoke flavours that pop out are incredibly well balanced and blend fantastically with the chocolate and natural sweetness. The beer manages to maintain an average base while having a uniqueness unto itself. I loved this!
Final Score: 4.25 / 5
December 20th – Gingerbread Man
Brewery: Biermanufaktur Loncium
Style: Spiced Ale
Origin: Kötschach-Mauthen, Austria
This beer pours a dark brown and amber colour with a thin head that doesn’t really linger. The smell is apparent quickly and hits the nose without delay; deep holiday spices win the day. Without surprise, the scent follows onto the tongue which reveals a nice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. After a few sips more, the flavours begin to mellow out a bit and reveal an element or flavour of toast.
Thoughts: This beer was a nice change from some of the others ones in this year’s lineup. This is a Christmas / seasonal beer through and through and actually delivers based on its namesake. If someone was to take a gingerbread cookie, remove most of the sugary sweetness, grind it up, and turn it into an alcoholic beverage, this would be the end result. A nice beer for a cold, crisp, winters eve.
Final Score: 4 / 5
December 21st – La Debauche Saison
Brewery: Brasserie La Debauche
Style: Farmhouse Ale / Saison
Origin: Angoulême, France
Yet another French and Belgian style beer pours a cloudy and hazy yellow with an extremely foamy head. The scent seems fairly basic for a farmhouse ale, showcasing citrus and pepper notes. First taste reveals floral and citrus flavour with a nice tartness to go alongside. Smooth and not overly alcoholic.
Thoughts: Initially, I was dreading trying this beer due to what happened in the first eight days and the overwhelming Belgian onslaught that nearly made me drink only water for the rest of the year. I’m glad to see my fear was unfounded. This farmhouse ale was a smooth ride from beginning to end and the flavours worked quite well together. The tart aspect is something I look forward to when done well, and this one manages to nail it! A redeeming run for a Belgian beer, but not enough to be fully forgiven.
Final Score: 4 / 5
December 22nd – Santa’s Sac Golden Strong Ale
Brewery: Bridge Brewing Company
Style: Extra Strong Ale (Belgian)
Origin: North Vancouver, British Columbia
Yet another Belgian … beer pours an amber gold colour and has virtually no head to speak of. The smell coming out from the glass is … indescribable … but strong. The dominant flavours are of citrus and bubblegum. Surprisingly not very alcoholic despite high alcohol content. After a few more sips, sweetness starts to overtake the citrus and we’re left with mostly bubblegum.
Thoughts: I tried to be fair, but in reviewing my notes for this blog, the first entry for this beer was quite literally “WTF?!?!?” I’m not exactly sure if that was a reference to something in particular because my past-self decided it wasn’t necessary to provide any context whatsoever. Regardless, I’ve decided this works as a general statement of the beer itself. I can’t even with this ale. I’m not sure who decided that bubblegum was a good flavour for anything! Also, for a beer that advertises itself as hoppy or well rounded, it doesn’t manage to deliver either in a positive or measurable quantity. I will give it a few extra points for being smooth and for creativity though. I also find the label and name hilarious, so the marketing department really brought their A game on this one.
Final Score: 3 / 5
December 23rd – Sweet Baby Java
Brewery: DuClaw Brewing Company
Style: Espresso Bean Infused Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter
Origin: Baltimore, Maryland
This one pours like you would expect for a porter – dark and the head is present but not overwhelming. The aroma coming from the glass is familiar sweet peanut smell with a richness all its own. The first few sips reveal a dominant peanut butter flavour which is followed by undertones of cocoa and coffee bean. The flavour carries through to the last drop and maintains a nice balance of sweet, smooth and bitter.
Thoughts: What a jump from the 22nd to the 23rd! This beer was by far worth the wait and the whole journey in its entirety. Putting the flavours of peanut butter and chocolate in a beer is a brilliant move, and smarter still to add coffee to the mix. This is heaven in a glass and a dessert beer if ever there was one! I won’t say too much more about it beyond that the best way to describe it is a decadent chocolate peanut butter cup. Drink up!!
Final Score: 4.75 / 5
December 24 – Jõuluöö
Brewery: Põhjala Brewery
Style: Baltic Porter / Imperial Porter
Origin: Tallinn, Estonia
This imperial porter boasts flavours of chocolate and vanilla as well as being oak aged. After the initial pour, the beer is extremely dark but there is almost no head at all. In fact, it looks a little flat. After taking a sip, you’ll note that it is not flat at all, and reveals something quite interesting and smooth. The chocolate is the dominant flavour with the vanilla taking a back seat. There is tons of depth in this glass and you don’t taste the alcohol at all.
Thoughts: This is delicious! I’m so happy this was put in the calendar and really helps to round out the selection nicely. I’m not all that familiar with beers from Estonia, but I’m glad I had a chance to give this one a shot. The whole experience was flavourful, smooth and a delight to have on Christmas eve! A good note to end on.
Final Score: 4.25 / 5
Round 3 Summary:
Round 3 managed to keep up most of the momentum regained from round 2. There were a couple of flops, but there were more wins in the mix than let downs and several items I did not expect. Things got a bit rocky there with bringing more Belgian style beers into the mix, but not having them back to back helped and the quality was much higher than some of the earlier offerings. There was also a few nice additions that were extremely seasonal, which is kind of what I’m looking for in a Christmas calendar. In summary, round 3 was a strong finish and a great end to Beer Advent!
Overall, I was pleased with this year’s Beer Advent calendar. It was definitely a roller coaster throughout and the start was a bit rough, but once again, it was a worthwhile adventure. Will I do it again? OF COURSE!! And now a quick review of the winners and losers of Beer Advent 2017!
Best beer of Advent: Sweet Baby Java (day 23)
Runner-up: Palate Trip IPA (day 9)
Most interesting beer of Advent: Baltic Porter (day 19)
Worst beer of Advent: Power Wagon Wheat Wine (day 17)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Only 336 days more days to go until the next day of Beer Advent begin…….
*Sits patiently and waits*