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 recently by some of the younger crowds for their traditional style of brewing and other quirks, especially the shire houses. I find this all a little disrespectful to our heritage. Old Hooky, for example, is an institution in itself. If you do need to educate yourself, do browse their excellent website which is one of the best from any brewery I've seen. Hook Norton happen to be a favourite brewery of my Uncle Dave who I've written about before in unfavourable terms regarding some of his Triassic views. But then some of that traditionalism has helped me understand an enthusiast's world a little better and it was in fact he who bought me this beer in 2010. Cheers to you, Dave.
"Let every heart, prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing..."
Still dark and pouring with similar carbonation to last year, this is clearly a beer that has aged well. It has proven me wrong and right though from the first sip. Maybe last time I wasn’t accustomed to such a style so was blown away by those spices. Like when we all first tried Jaipur and thought it was the hoppiest beer that would ever be created and now it almost feels comparable to Landlord when placed alongside more recent efforts. This is what I wrote last year and it does seem to be a palate change that has caused my rethink. Of course Twelve Days was never packaged as a spiced or mulled ale. It was always a Nut Brown style porter with malty focusing so why I considered it to be such a fantastic spiced beer 3 years ago is obviously due to a shift in tastes. It is malty but terrifically well balanced by a chestnut warmth and light holly greenery. It's warming yet drinkable and does have undertones of caraway and sage. But it is nothing like I was expecting. Call it a little inexperience on my behalf from 3 years ago. At least we can say that Hook Norton clearly condition their bottles excellently as this tasted as fresh as could be. A lovely experiment even if nothing was proved.
Received as a Christmas gift, December 2010.