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Beer Advent Calendar Window One - Humbug

The beginning of this blog's Beer Advent Calendar begins with a beer from The Hop Studio; a brewery that made a previous calendar appearance in 2013 with There is NoEL in Christmas.  

The Hop Studio are based in York and were founded in 2012. Their minimalistic branding, simple styles and thirst-quenching strengths seems to have appealed well to a cask market, without ever dominating the "craftier" circles. I can't see them invited to the next Rainbow Project, nor can I imagine they would want to be. 

(I e-mailed Hop Studio asking for more information regarding the thought process behind the beer. They have politely replied explaining how they're busy away at the minute but will reply with details ASAP. I'll update this post with new information then.) 

"You know I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems. And why should they have all the fun? It should belong to anyone. Not anyone in fact but me, for I can build a Christmas tree," 

The Hop Studio - Humbug (A Smoked Milk Porter) 5%

Pouring a very dark mocha shade with little head, there are huge dominating roasted coffee notes on the nose, with a little milk chocolate, bourbon and woody bushes. The taste is surprisingly boozy for the ABV; the liquid from cooked, sugared berries, sherry soaked raisins, bramble bushes and then powdered chocolate milk. A continual long sweetness seems to block any coffee notes you're expecting after the nose. There's a warming toasty smokiness in the finish from the rauch malt. It gives a nice full oily mouthfeel even if the body is a little thin. This would be really good amplified to a higher percentage at this time of the year. It's a very drinkable, full flavoured beer, a brilliant start to this calendar and something I can highly recommend for Christmas. 

Besides the flavour of the beer, there are other aspects of this beer I'm impressed with that should be noted. Firstly, I've been saying for a long time that I'd like to see more British brewers experimenting with smoked beers. Certainly this isn't as smoky as I like, though the lactose in the beer will play a part in that, but a Smoked Milk Porter is certainly a style I've not seen before, so it wins points for originality. 

Secondly, this is a beer that's label (pictured above) features everything I wish all British Brewers included on their labels. It has a clear description of this beer, without unnecessary hyperbole, a list of types of hops and malt used, the small obligatory brewery information and the bonus food match, that I don't consider a requirement but is a nice touch. Even the "Contains Lactose" sticker is clear too. I could peel this label off and send it to all British microbreweries. 

Best Paired With: That First Mince Pie you allow yourself after weeks of saying "it's too early" 


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