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Beer Advent Calendar - Windows 20-24; for completion's sake.

Another Christmas and festive period complete. Another Beer Advent Calendar complete. And another need for a post to round it off for completion's sake.

As has become the norm now after year 4 of this calendar, I was missing a few of the final posts. Really any beer behind any windows succeeding Window 21 are doomed to never have a post produced about them. It’s when the season, the frivolity and the full calendar really makes the chance to write anything down very difficult.I drink the beers, jot down a few tasting notes usually on a smartphone memo app, and then never get to translate them further. That has proved the case even in the first few weeks of this year. I'm a social butterfly.

Yet, for completions sake, I must always provide this January follow up post for those extra beers that definitely deserve the attention. I may not be able to give them the entire build-up they deserve, information on the brewery or feelings of that day, but they deserve something.

I was rather put to shame by others that completed their Advent Calendar posts with ease. Then those joining in with the 12 beers of Xmas managed to keep up-to-date posts each day. I have absolutely no idea how these people manage to find the time in that Christmas week before New Year – I was only not in social situations that week when I was asleep and even that wasn’t in my own house a lot of the time – but hats off to those that achieve it.

I really enjoyed this year’s Beer Advent Calendar and, whilst I fell short by five posts, I hope to bring it back this year and get it right finally. 

A Happy New Year to you all. May this be another brilliant year for beer.

I was so happy to have this Austrian beer, literally meaning Santa Claus, in my festive themed Advent Calendar. It was famous for a long time as one of the strongest lagers in the world, though to its own detriment in more recent years. Titles about how strong you can be are meaningless in such times as the Brewdog/Brewmeister wars nobody cares about. Perhaps it's this old boast that seems to have stopped it talked about much in beer circles recently.

Due to timing, this beer was drunk on the 20th December in Stalybirdge Buffet Bar as it was my only chance. It was good of them to let me, but also gave me the opportunity to share it. 

This is super fruity on the nose, with tonnes of prunes and dates, lots of oak and definite notes of red wine. Not red wine smelling notes - it smells of generic red wine. The initial taste gives a severe alcohol burn that really hits your throat and is certainly unwanted. The heat is in your cheek and throat immediately and it's a little overpowering. But that heat subsides to leave lots of tannins, wet wooden barrels, woodchips and damp ferns. There's something of tiger bread and Christmas cake in there too. It goes on to end in a progressively sweet, dessert wine finish, full of honey and apple sauce. Throughout there is a lip burn to remind you that this is a strong beer so the balance is slightly off. Despite that, it becomes moreish and is actually an exceptional beer.

Advent Calendar Window 21: Ticketybrew - Christmas/Winter ESB 4.6%

Ticketybrew are the only brewery from Stalybridge; the town I lived in for all my childhood and home of the pub I spend the majority of my time in. Having said this, I’ve never actually stepped foot in the brewery. But I have become mates with Andy who works there as he’s often in the pub waiting for the train home at the same time I am. It’s nice to get snippets from the brewery’s happenings from him and chat general beer. Of course, when he brought up the concept of their Christmas ESB brewed and "dry-hopped" with real Christmas trees I pleaded for a bottle to include in this calendar. He duly obliged thankfully as a very small number ever made it into bottles and I may not have had one otherwise, hence the lack of bottle label. (This does of course mean that I received this bottle free, though I did buy Andy a pint in thanks so we’re good.)

Pouring a lovely flat perfectly clear amber, I was not expecting this beer to have this nose. There's so much more tinsel, spice, glitter and earthy Christmas flavours on the nose than I was expecting. All with a rather traditionally British "caramelly" *wink wink* malt background. Ooh this is lovely to taste. It's nice and woody, sticky sweet with malts full mouth covering, with a crisp, green woodland bite. It's not sharp and doesn't have the Belgian yeast sweetness that this brewery's beers traditionally have. It's surprisingly ... traditional... 18 months ago I may not have enjoyed this beer. But as you settle into the interesting bonfire toffee aftertaste that inexplicably makes my mind's eye think of Christmas lights, I realise there's enough of a decent body here to happily sink many. After it warms, a warming sherry fruitiness begins to develop out of the blue, bringing an extra boozy dimension. I genuinely didn't expect to be a fan of this beer (and if I wasn't believe me I wouldn't have bothered including it in this post as they'd never know) but I really have enjoyed it. Deceptively festive but delightfully traditional. 

Advent Calendar Window 22: Wychwood - Bah Humbug 5%

For me it’s a shame that a brewery so iconic with my youth and development of beer has to be thought of so negatively, including by myself. The branding is so synonymous and recognisable. There was a time, maybe ten years ago, that I would snatch any beer I saw with that branding up like a flash. The website is beautifully presented and feels like something out of a Pratchett novel. I don't dislike Wychwood. They deserve their place in our drinking world for whatever they have become and so does their festive treat; Bah Humbug. 

Sadly, Bah Humbug was purchased two years ago and is over 14 months out of date going into this tasting. It will be interesting to see how it stands up. 

It smells like damp. Here's another beer with that mouldy cellar smell I had previously noticed in Super Des Fagnes and asked whether it was a particular problem in some Belgian beers. Here is the answer. 

There's a little caramel on the nose, but mostly this smells like sugared pond water. Hopefully this isn't indicative fn the rest of the beer. 

It is though. This beer has long gone off. It tastes like licking the outside of a white damp plank. It is the first drainpour I've had in any Advent Calendar but is unfair to review based on the beer as I suspect it is entirely my fault. Shame. 

Advent Calendar Window 23: Wiper & True - Plum Pudding 5.9% 

Moving swiftly on, this was one of the first beers bought for this calendar this year. It is beautifully designed and I'm hoping will remind me of a youthful festive favourite of mine - J.W. Lees Plum Pudding, which I've sadly not seen for a few years (though admittedly I've been in very few Lees' pubs recently.) 

Pouring a dark cherrywood brown with thick off-white head, three words bounce through my mind throughout this tasting: cherry, chocolate, coffee. All those flavours are really prevalent on the nose. They are very prevalent on the tongue too, taking it in turns to come to the forefront. There's a heavy dark chocolate bitterness, followed by a fresh roasted coffee earthiness and finished with a deep sweetness that feels certainly more cherry than plum. They keep rotating with each mouthful, held together by a huge body and leaving the mouth dry. It's absolutely delicious work and upsettingly moreish. It's a beer drunk so quickly before I've processed any further opinions. Cherry, chocolate, coffee. I'm still trying to think of further information but that is all that's required. Delicious stuff. 

Advent Calendar Window 24: Brasserie De L'Abbaye - Abbaye des Rocs Speciale Noél 9%

This beer was bought for my first ever Beer Advent Calendar but didn't make the cut. It was put into the following years but was ousted when new releases hit early December. It wasn't even considered for last year's, though I still expected to drink it around Christmas. I did not. Poor beer - with it's strong heritage, high RateBeer score and lovely design. I don't know why I didn't want to drink it. 

Pouring a slightly deep-purple/brown, this beer is much more familiar in scent to the more famous and my favourite Belgian Christmas ales, such as Gouden Carolous or St Bernardus. There's plenty of caramel, brown sugar and dried fruit. The taste is, as I feel I may be learning to my surprise of aged Belgian Christmas ales, a little tarter than I hoped and certainly more than it should be. Yes, those traditional Belgian Christmas beer flavours are there. There's lots of sticky toffee, lots of prunes, lots of burnt sugar, lots of parkin - but it's all weak against an underlying sourness that gives it an odd dimension but isn't an improvement on the beer. Cellared for three years, this is a big Belgian effort that hasn't improved with age. I can tell that, tasted as it was intended, I would be singing the praises of this beer. It is by no means a drain pour and despite its failings it is easily sunk and mostly enjoyed. It could have just been possibly the perfect way to begin Christmas Eve and is instead a little disappointing. 

There you have the end of another Beer Advent Calendar from Beer Compurgation - completed nearly four weeks since the end of Advent. Isn't that a show of how quickly this new year has already passed? It's not an ideal start to this year's blog but still always enjoyable to finish. I'm hoping for a year of well balanced articles buffered with my usual ramblings and opinion pieces. A blog should remain a blog and this one certainly will. Thanks for reading.  


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