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Advent Calendar Introduction and Window One

Here we are. What was once my favourite time of year; the most wonderful time of the year. Of course, this year, for the first time in my life, I haven’t been jumping from the fairy lights with glee  at all. I haven’t counted down the days until the 1st December or spent 11 months hunting mercilessly for any beer with a tinsel scented lid. This hasn’t been a Mark Johnson Christmas (and if you want to read what that's like, just read my unrestrained excitement ahead of last year’s calendar, or even more so in 2012.)

There’s plenty of factors that have led to this change of heart, but rather than swing from the chandelier I’ve decided to proceed with my Advent Calendar that lends itself to the consumption and critique of Christmas themed beers exclusively. Due to my general scathing nature – and wonderment as to whether I would be around come December – I was aided greatly this year by 13 suitable beers already in my possession following last Christmas. I’ve topped up the tally in a bit of a hurry over November, so this year’s line-up isn’t anywhere near as impressive as the previous Advent. However, they are still twenty four Christmas themed beers and, three years in, I’m certainly relying on new releases to keep this concept alive.

Previous years have focused on the hunt for perfect Christmas beers that suit the time of year. Whilst I still look for similar characteristics in festive drinks, this year I’ll try to focus more on what the beer is, rather than what I think it should be. With this in mind, for a little light-heartedness, I’ll give each beer a Christmas Spirit rating. This isn’t a ratebeer score or even related to what I might give it on Untappd. This is just determined by how it makes the broken baubles of Mark Johnson personally feel as he tries to find his own Christmas Cheer.

I was more determined come the middle of December 1st to make this happen again this year after reading a few disparaging and insulting comments about people that do Beer Advent Calendars. I admitted two years ago that the idea wasn’t original – although most others were concentrating on drinking “special” beers rather than singularly Christmas ones. This year, however, the idea is much more popular especially since pre-made Advent Calendars have been popping up much more, including the intriguing one from Ales by Mail. The increase in popularity may have made me retire the idea, but that is what I said when the whole world and his third cousin started wearing Christmas jumpers again – and that didn’t stop me wearing them still!

It’s true that my blog comes to a halt in December and no important posts and issues are written or discussed. Perhaps it undermines my other writing, but I care not. This is for me more than it is for you (though I’d still like you to enjoy it.)

I may well be moving house during December which may become too disruptive and bring this idea to a crushing end. But for now, let’s give it all we’ve got. I’M MARK JOHNSON, GODDAMNIT, IF I DON’T LOVE CHRISTMAS THEN THE SEASON MAY AS WELL NOT EXIST!

You may not think you know Brouwerij Verhaeghe, but you almost certainly do. Laying in the Belgian town of Vichte, this West Flanders town is perhaps best known as the home of Duchesse de Bourgogne – see I said that you knew it. The brewery dates back to 1885 but was hugely disrupted by fighting in the First World War which saw the brewery dismantled. A large number of dead from the war are buried in Vichte, showing the town's involvement at the time.

Noel Christmas Weihnacht is a strong Christmas beer that I purchased last December, just a little too late to be included in last year’s calendar.

Pouring a bright, fizzy golden with bubbly white head, there's a lot of the traditional Belgian Blonde on the nose. It's bright, punchy, with huge amounts of peach and a little lavender. For something that is so powerfully carbonated and continues to bubble away in my glass the whole time, this tastes incredibly smooth. There's an interesting champagne fruitiness on the tongue that is brought together by a clementine bite and sweet yeastiness. It dances around with a Saaz-like zest but is mainly mellow and drinkable. It's quintessentially Belgian - heavily sweet and well carbonated, which is always familiar, welcome and endearing; but it doesn't do much else. The finish is just a little spruce and peach at the back of my throat, but all too soon this 250ml bottle has gone. It was… nice, but probably just as well suited to any time of year without pining for another.

Christmas Spirit Rating: 45%. I want to go to Belgium after drinking this, but I hardly want to belt out a carol.



John Clarke said…
It's years since I've had this one - brought back a few memories of good times at the defunct Belgian Belly in Chorlton. An excellent start (even if the beer didn't tick too many boxes).
Mark Johnson said…
Cheers John. Now there's a bar that I certainly never got a chance to get to that sounds right up my street

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