Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2013

Advent Calendar Window 24 - Stille Nacht and St Bernardus Christmas Ale

Let us end Christmas on a high. Let us do so because my calculations are poor and patience even worse. Let us rejoice in the coming of the Lord and Saviour and therefore we get crap loads of presents because some preacher was born 2013 years ago. Hark, for a 14-year-old woman has got knocked up and the only defence there is to claim it's because God has impregnated her. And I am a Christian and a Christmas lover before the pitchforks are sharpened.   Today the Advent Calendar comes to an end. I've really enjoyed it this year, where as last year's had become a chore by the end. Family casualties and endless work merriment made some of the posts published late, but I endeavoured and still am glad to keep mine solely Christmas ale exclusive. Last year I vowed never to do such a calendar again. This year I find myself already looking forward to December 1st 2014.   Somehow this year I ended with two beers left come December 24th. Perhaps it is due to the moving around

Advent Calendar Window 23 - Winter Yule Smith

Well this is truly very good. Just like the beer yesterday, Alesmith, Winter Yule Smith 8.5% has had to battle through my brutal seasonal cold to form part of my Advent Calendar. I'd been really quite looking forward to this one and considered forfeiting today's beer as, not only did I have a feeling this would be good, it was also rather pricey and it seemed to be wasted on a cold that has numbed both my sense of smell and taste. Luckily, this happens to be good enough to fight through it all.   This is, of course, the Winter Yule Smith where this beer is brewed as a big Imperial Red Ale; the Summer Yule Smith is a Double IPA that I have sadly never tried. It's not a traditional choice for a festive beer, but this is more of a celebratory beer for the season, just like Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale . Prior to tasting that beer in Window 17 I was disappointed to think that this Alesmith beer was going to be a big hoppy affair, rather than a warming winter tre

Advent Calendar Window 22 - Leffe Biere de Noel

So here's a brewery everybody hates. Everybody hates words like Budweiser, Stella Artois, Anheuser-Busch and InBev to the point wh Leffe . Whatever they've done for the sustainability and success of their business doesn't change the fact that Leffe was the first real Belgian and Abbey beer I started to drink when I was 18 and that developed my tastes away from the traditional British cask ales I was used to. Anyway, you can buy Leffe's Blonde and Bruin in Aldi these days and they still taste as I remember so who am I to complain. ere we'll argue over everything they produce and associate with until our laptop keys are broken from the ferocity of our typing. I say "we" but you can count me out as I love   This little bottle of Leffe Biere de Noel 6.6% was intended to be Window 22 of last year's Advent Calendar. It was due to illness and a hectic schedule that no beers were drunk last year for either Window 22 or 23. It is by complete coincidenc

Advent Calendar Window 21 - Twelve Days (2010)

Today is the day of my first ever re-review of a beer. This Advent Calendar has tried to avoid repetition on last year's and I certainly found enough different Christmas beers in order to do so, but I have made an exception for Hook Norton Brewery's Twelve Days 5.5% which popped up in Window 21. This same beer made up Window 15 of my Calendar last year in which I used the majority of a short review to compare the 2012 bottle I had to one I drank in 2010. So why the re-review? Well, this happens to be a bottle of this beer from 2010 that has been unintentionally sat in the back of a forgotten box for all that time. I stated last year that it wasn't as good or nearly as "Christmassy" as I remembered and was therefore a tad disappointing. I'd like to see if it was the beer that had changed or my palate.   I needn't give much backstory into Hook Norton as any self respecting beer enthusiast should know of them and their beers. They've been maligned

Advent Calendar Window 20 - Tsjeeses 2011

I wrote about my little bit of history with De Struise when I had the X-mas Zinnebir in Window 3 of this calendar which I very much enjoyed. I picked up this bottle of Tsjeeses 2011 Vintage 10% in Beermoth after eyeing it for a while and it forms Window 20 of this Advent Calendar. A "Winter Triple" that delights, as so many De Struise labels do, with it's depiction of a stoned Jesus in a Father Christmas hat. I picked up a 2013 version in Gent last month too (for a quarter of the price it's sold in Beermoth) and considered doing a side by side tasting. That decision was revoked with the 20th being by Christmas work's do, so this beer had to be drunk in work hours before we all departed on our night out.   "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel" Pouring light amber with a big, frothy head, there's an initial surprising hit of a cherry hop nose as it pours, like an Ame

Advent Calendar Window 19 - Julebryg

Here's a little bad boy I picked up in Gent recently...   Whilst on the scout for anything Christmas and beer related, Amager Julebryg 2009 8.0% found its way into my basket almost effortlessly at De Hopduvel in Gent. The whimsical cartoon label appealed to me before all else had been considered. When I thought about it, Amager are a very well respected brewery that I do not have enough experience with. Despite  acouple of their ales, their Imperial Stout collaboration with Hoppin' Frog stands out as their most notable work to me, though I do have a few of their recent exciting brews in stock. Altogether, this Danish brewery have an impression to make on me almost starting from scratch. "It's in the giving of a gift to another A pair of mittens that were made by your mother It's all the ways that we show love - that feels like Christmas..."   With a lovely off black deep brown colour, this beer initially smells like wrought iron. You could sha

Advent Calendar Window 18 - Christmas Ale 2012

Window Eighteen in this quickly progressing Advent Calendar is Goose Island Christmas Ale. It turns out I was lucky to experience Goose Island Christmas Ale as it no longer exists... OK it DOES exist but is now renamed Sixth Day for its 2013 release . Mine was the 2012 release and final under the name Goose Island Christmas Ale. It's had a fair while to age, bottled in May 2012, but being not entirely sure of the beer style I can't be sure this will be a good thing. This particular year is 7.3% and I see the first version of Sixth Day, this year, is 8.3% but apparently each year of Christmas Ale has been different. Let's see how this compares.   "It's the warmest time of year, Your Christmas whiskey means good cheer, A greedy smile from ear to ear..."   Goose Island Christmas Ale 2012 7.3% is a Nut Brown Ale that pours with a thin carbonation and rosewood Hue. It smells near sickly sweet with a spicy, earthy underlay and a piney hop hit. Y

Advent Calendar Window 17 - Celebration Ale

I could continue my opinions, rants and arguments about what makes a good Christmas beer long into the night, but then aren't I drinking 24 of them this month to make a point? Still, I maintain that is idiotic to say that you "don't like Christmas beer filled with spice" when nobody is forcing you to drink it. Maybe Christmas beer doesn't like YOU! So when is a Christmas beer not a Christmas beer but still great? The answer is when it is Window Seventeen's Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2012 6.8%. This is a celebration beer; a  joyous brewing thanks for the first arrival of the year's fresh hop harvest in early Autumn to create a holiday ale that has been brewed longer than I've been alive. Despite being a celebration of fresh hopping, I still allowed this to wait until December, despite purchasing it in June and knowing it was bottled the previous year. Will this have any effect on the celebrations?   "Whose got a Big Red Cherry Nose ?(S

Advent Calendar Window 16 - Criminally Bad Elf

This is one of the oddest series of beers I think I've come across from one of the oddest breweries. Ridgeway seem to release this series of Elf based beers with full label back story every year and, as last year proved with two entries on the Advent Calendar , to very good effect. Yet they still remain a brewery with no official website or social media presence that I can find. I rather like that fact though. What little I have found about them is listed here explaining how they were founded ten years ago by a former Brakspear head brewer and like to specialise in bottles, though this doesn't explain why they are still so reluctant and shy about adding their name to the said bottles.   Whilst drinking this particular bottle I randomly recalled that this series of beers was introduced to me by an assistant at Beer Ritz in Leeds in 2011. I wasn't getting to the shop frequently at the time but, now I think about it, this assistant was probably Ghost Drinker . It was b

Advent Calendar Window 15 - Holly Green

Bless my dear girlfriend for accepting my beer interest for what it is and supporting it in every way. It was never proven more than her happy, gleeful face when she bought me a bottle of Lincoln Green's Holly Green 5.5% knowing it would be perfect for my Advent Calendar. Her excitement was heightened more when I told her the honest truth that, not only had I  never seen this before, I'd never heard of Lincoln Green Brewery . It was the truth.   As I've found out since, Lincoln Green were only founded last year and seem to be trying to get in that unusual modern micro brewery market of being both "legendary" (according to their own bottles) and CAMRA approved. Rare, but not unwelcome, considering the stature just having a CAMRA approved Bottle Conditioned Ale provided just six years ago.   Holly Green gives little away about it's style from it's label and only hints at being a festive treat in it's endearing snowman induced label. Another murk

Advent Calendar Window 14 - Hoppy Christmas

This will be an odd post based on certain reviews I've read recently. Prior to my first tasting of anything from Conwy Brewery I'd heard that they were producing good things. Then the Stalybridge Buffet Bar started to see a few of their ales on cask, as well as Mossley Organics getting their bottles in. With reluctant hope I tried their beers and found them rather good, especially the Celebration Ale that was part of my Halloween tasting .   Since those initial favourable reviews though, I have seen Conwy slated, not least by the rather well respected CAMRGB website. I came across their review of the Celebration Ale whilst trying it for myself and was shocked. Reading the reviews of the other Conwy beers surprised me further. Still, it was my girlfriend who picked up my bottle of Conwy's Hoppy Christmas 4.3% knowing I love Christmas themed beers and I added it to me Advent Calendar. Since then I read a CAMRGB review that tore this beer to pieces too. I started t

Advent Calendar Window 13 - Special Holiday Ale

I bought this on my first ever visit to B eermoth back in March , spotting the three wise men on the label and instantly grabbing it for this year's Advent Calendar. At this point, it was the first I'd heard of Special Holiday Ale 8.5% -  a collaborative brew between Nogne O, Stone Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin. Research into this shows that this a collaboration that has taken place each year since 2008 using the same recipe, but taken in turns to be housed at one of the 3 breweries each year, allowing for different brewing and aging practices. I like the premise and this particular is the second time the brew has taken place at Nogne O. A collaboration between three giants of brewing, Jolly Pumpkin were the only brewery I wasn't a huge fan of on purchase, but exploits into their Luciernaga and Noel de Calabaza in this very Advent calendar have made me a convert.   "Things are different since you've been here last Childhood dreaming is a thing of the past May

Advent Calendar Window 12 - There is NoeL in Christmas

For whatever valid reason, I'd begun to worry in previous years that some of are more modern and respected micro breweries were not embracing the festive season. With Christmas beers getting an undeserved bad reputation and not requiring a fistful of late hopping for style, I think many of them felt it was a tradition not for them. I've been proven wrong, of course, with this year I've discovered Christmas delights, whether new or old, from the likes of Red Willow, Ilkley , Hawkshead, Partizan and Revolutions to name a few. The Hop Studio are another usually hop focused brewery that have joined the seasonal spirit with There is NoEL in Christmas 4.5% . Having been launched just last year, the evidence seems to suggest this is the first year the brew has been released.   "We'll see the days of glory, We'll see the days when men of good will Live in peace, live in peace again."   The beer pours chestnut brown and is noticeably thin. The ches

Advent Calendar Window 11 - Noel de Calabaza

It's hard to begin a blog post with a mop in your hand. It's hard to really consider the depth or complexities of a beer when you are wiping dregs of it from your ornaments, books and plug sockets. It's difficult to consider a beverage's place in your festive line-up when all you want for Christmas is replacements to your personal possessions it has just damaged.   I speak, once more, of a gusher. Like it's previous American resident in this Advent Calendar, Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza 9% was so eager to escape from it's glass bottled coffin that it gushed all over my floor. Although, in fairness to it's predecessor, this did not just gush, it erupted, continuously building volcanic eruption until more than half of it was emptied, either onto laminate flooring or into a drinking glass.   In truth I was looking forward to this beer perhaps more than any other in my Advent Calendar. My recent sample of Jolly Pumpkin' s Luciernaga only made m

Advent Calendar Window 10 - Paradox Christmas 2012

I still love BrewDog . I do. I know I shouldn't and there are so many opinions I'm supposed to support - I already wrote about all the reasons you hate BrewDog here - but I don't. There's lots to disagree with and lots to discuss , but at least they have you talking. Tomorrow I'm off to a Christmas dinner at BrewDog Manchester and I'm very much looking forward to it. I was so pleased and fortunate to get the chance to drink this Christmas beer before Wednesday (it's the luck of the calendar) in preparation for that event. This is a beer I've held onto since January, after spotting it on the Beers of Europe website. An Imperial Stout aged in Rum casks sounds perfect for the season. Yes, it comes in a presentation box and no I don't care if this makes the cynics sick because I love my stupid, little pointless box unashamedly.   I wish not to give any backstory on BrewDog's Paradox series, aside from my own. I've enjoyed the ones that

Advent Calendar Window 9 - Julebryg

  I'm beginning to question 7.5% as a percentage gravity. It seems a little too  common and predictable. Are they sure it's not 7.4% or 7.6% - how is it always 7.5%?   Needless observations aside, Window 9 has a beer I picked up in Belgium assuming it was a Christmas beer based on the term "Jule" in Det Lille Bryggeri's Julebryg 7.5%. Quickly shoving the beer into my basket having never heard of the brewery, I expected to find Det Lille Bryggeri to be a French brewer from Lille. However, as it turns out what we have here is a Danish brewer from the island of Zealand. New to me, whilst I'm not a huge fan of the branding, I like the look of the styles of beers they brew from their website. Discovering a new brewer when judging them at Christmas time seems hardly fair but needs must.   "Oh my love we've had our share of tears Oh my friends we've had our hopes and fears Oh my friends it's been a long hard year But now it's

Advent Calendar Window 8 - Santa's Private Reserve

Gush. Gush gush gush. I have to get it out of the way. For, whether it is the long journey it has voyaged, whether it is the age it has sat in my stores, whether it is that it always gushes. half of this Rogue Santa's Private Reserve 2012 6% felt that it should gush over my floor and electrical plugs. Does it need commenting on in the grand scheme of things? Perhaps not, but I have paid plenty of money for a beer that has mostly gone on my floor rather than in my gut and nearly caused a fire. I am venting.   Let us move on from that avoidable catastrophe to focus on another exciting Rogue beer that has a large focus on hops rather than spice. This post is going to seem a little contradictory, close to some American ass-kissing, over my usual thoughts on hop focused Christmas offerings. Certainly, before reading about Santa's Private Reserve I was expecting a dark, sullen, spicy and aromatic experience; perhaps an Imperial Stout like bite with a mash of hops at the end. Re

Advent Calendar Window 7 - Mary Christmas

Oh Ilkley Brewery , why would you even describe a beer to me as Christmas in a glass? On purchasing Mary Christmas 4.7% I am hit with that odd mixture of emotions; dread and excitement. The two contrasting feelings are based on the same pre-judgements about this beer. It says it is a blonde Christmas beer. It says it has a good dose of American, German and Australian hops. It says it is shoved full of spice. It says it is "Christmas in a  glass." All reasons to be cheerful. All reasons to be set for failure.   I have mixed feelings about Ilkley brewery. Drinking in Yorkshire frequently and seeing their beers cross the Pennines means I spot them regularly. There have been some in their core range, particularly the renowned Mary Jane or Joshua Jane, that have been decent but not lived up to excessive hype. Yet other beers, such as the Lotus IPA or The Mayan, show me what a great brewery this is. Whether they are just well marketed remains to be seen. Whether this beer di

Advent Calendar Window 6 - La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux

I wanted La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux 7.3% (2012) for last year's Advent calendar but never came round to purchasing it. Eleven months on, seeing that it was still in stock in Beers of Europe, I decided the time had come to add it to this year's, knowing that it had time to age and develop. The large, 75cl bottle, and delightful artwork intrigued me. I'll admit that this beer's brewery, t he Artisanal Brasserie de Rulles from the Luxembourg province of Belgium's Walloon region, is a new one to me. Research shows that brewery only opened in 2000 and this beer has only been brewed since 2005. Too young, perhaps, to have reached these shores frequently and earned famous stature. Still,  a Belgian Strong Ale brewed in the Christmas ale tradition should be right up my street.   "I'm sure you're hiding something hot You want to give to me And not another pair of socks From underneath the tree"   A deep Byzantium purple pours deligh

Advent Calendar Window 5 - Rudolph's Tipple

It may be that Window Number 5 of this Advent Calendar sees my first defeat against a beer's Best Before Date.   For the past few years, Greenfield Brewery's Rudolph's Tipple 5% has been on of my favourite seasonal ales I've had on cask. I've found it a few times due to this brewery being located around 3 miles from me. It isn't a biased point of view, it's a fact that the warm, mulled spiced flavouring in this porter fits perfectly into my Christmas beer ideal. I saw it in bottles in Mossley Organics in January of this year. I picked up a couple of bottles, thinking I'd have them in the cold Winter months. Eventually I decided they would be acceptable for ageing, being strong Posterso despite having a best before date of June 2013.I generally ignore these dates on my bottles of beer as, aside from some cans of Boddingtons when I was 19, I've never noticed the affects.   "I'll protect you from the hooded claw Keep the vampires f

Advent Calendar Window 4 - Holly Daze

So day four leads us to Scotland's own Fyne Ales and their Holly Daze 5% . The earliest recollection of the beer I can find is 2006 which may well be the case for a brewery that opened in 2001. A brwery with a very solid core range, the fact that the colleague who picked today's beer said "Oh, it doesn't have a funny picture of the label" in disappointment only pleased me and reminded me of how good packaging like this can be. What isn't exciting me is the bottle's description of "Fruity Hop flavours" and the website's "No Strange Spices" for this seasonal beer. "Later on, we'll transpire As we warm by the fire Face unafraid, the plans that we made..." Holly Daze lands a quite thin, rusty amber colour. You initially get a traditional hit of malts to the sinus' before finding orange peel, nutmeg and shortbread. On tasting, the oily mouthfeel is rather immediate combined with flavours of gentle orange hopping

Advent Calendar Window 3 - X-mas Zinnebir 2013

Window Three was picked by a colleague today and it's a rather odd fellow this, or at least a secretive one. I'm quite a big fan of regular Zinnebir , after having it recommended to me by a member of staff at 57 Thomas Street, Manchester (in a pre-drinking build-up to a Snoop Dogg concert in 2011 - my memory is famous.) My experience with the  Brasserie de la Senne , Brussels has been sporadic moments such as this. I had their Taras Boulba first around seven years ago in my student days. I know for a fact it was purchased simply because of it's label and I doubt I as the first or last to do this. In fact, I love De La Senne's labels and this Christmas beer tonight is no different.   I only found out such a beverage as X-Mas Zinnebir existed this past few months so I have the 2013 version that I picked up at Beermoth. The translation of Zinnebir appears to be Little Bastards. This is often a reference to stray dogs in Belgium that may explain part of the canine

Advent Calendar Window Two - Ch'ti de Noel

The Ch'ti series of beers from the  Castelain Brewery near the Belgian border in Northern France were most likely amongst the first French beers I ever drank. It was in the stages where I would pick blindly from the, then mostly European dominated, bottle menu in the Grove, Huddersfield . I think I believed the beer to be Belgian at the time but can always remember finding their Ch'ti Blonde to be outstanding, long before I knew what a Biere de Garde was. In recent years, I've rather forgotten about this series of beers and was very surprised to find Ch'ti de Noel 7.5% at Beers of Europe just last week, making this the youngest addition to this Advent Calendar (in purchase age.)   "I came across a fallen tree I felt the branches of it looking at me Is this the place we used to love? Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?"   The Brasserie Castelain Ch'ti de Noel has, for starters, a delicious looking label and appealing, tradi

Advent Calendar Window One - Commemorative Ale

So this Advent Calendar didn't get off to the greatest of starts. I meant to follow up the introduction with a part 2 yesterday, but due to having a gay old time in wonderful Macclesfield I didn't get round to it. It was a post about a beer tasting of some of the beers I'd bought for this Advent calendar that were ousted by others. I'll maybe post it after Christmas.   Anyway, Window and Beer one in this calendar is Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale 8% . I bought this beer much earlier in the year so I'm assuming it's the 2012 edition, but this is not stated on any part of the bottle I can find. It's actually brewed as A New Year celebration beer, but falls into the Christmas theme just for being generally festive.   "You'd see that today holds something special Something Holy not superficial So here's to the birthday boy who saved our lives...."   Commemorative Ale sits in the glass a thick, hazy orange and