Keeping it real … Real Ale
Next April I turn 30 and although I’m well past the target audience age for chocolate Christmas calendars I have yet to have a Christmas without one! This year however, instead of opening up my daily window to reveal an oddly shaped chocolate piece I will be opening the door of my beer calendar and pulling out some top quality bottled beer. Although unlike my chocolate calendar I don’t plan on consuming my treat when I wake up!
I love Christmas, for me it’s all about the time spent with friends and family. Beer obviously is a big part of Christmas history so I am really excited to be taking part with Ales by Mail Christmas beer advent calendar activities. I have kept the beer selection a surprise, so every day I have that excitement not knowing what beer it will be that I open up. Last year I missed out on the calendar fun, which left me feeling like the Grinch!
Along with Ales by Mail I will be talking people through what beers we will be drinking each day. I also hope to be partaking in a mini #craftmas #beerybits for those who can wait till 8pm. We will be using the hashtag #beeradvent and #craftmas for all Christmas beer related chat. Each week we will have a roundup of everyone’s #craftmas tweets and photos as we discuss if each beer is naughty or nice.
1st December – Hardknott Figgy Pudding
Starting #beeradvent with a real #craftmas treat here with Hardknott’s Figgy Pudding. As the name suggests this is full on Christmas taste. Unsurprisingly this beer is brewed with your Nan’s favourite Christmas treat …figs! Along with the figs is all those Christmas spices you love, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. This beer is Hardknott’s first Christmas beer they brewed. Popularized by the line in the famous Christmas carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” Figgy Pudding recipes go back to the 16th century, baked with figs and looking a slightly lighter version of the Christmas Pudding we see now.
Figgy Pudding is without doubt full of those Christmas flavours, heavy on the cinnamon and nutmeg. Maybe not for everyone but if you enjoy these type of Christmas beers then you wont be disappointed.
My rating 3.5/10
2nd December – The Celt Experience Silures
The Celt Experience is a brewery you have probably seen often over the last two years or so. Born from years of home brewing and based in Caerphilly Wales, Celt has rightfully so won lots of fans. Silures is named after a historic Celtic tribe, who were based in modern day South Wales. Silures apparently stood their ground when being invaded by Romans but it is not known if they won the battle or just agreed with the Roman terms!
The beer pours a hazy pale golden colour with a big frothy head. They’ve powerfully hopped this beer with Atlantic and Pacific hops, which you can tell from the strong tropical aroma on the nose. The malt flavours are perfectly balanced with their bitter citrus flavour, think punch grapefruit. The bitterness lingers in the mouth long after drinking.
Over all a very decent session beer indeed!
My rating 7/10
3rd December – Unseen University Boathouse Brewery – Blewlows Silence
Part of the official Discworld Ales collection Blewlows Silence is a 5.5% IPA. As with all Discworld Ales the beers are named and based on characters found in the writings of Terry Pratchett.
The beer pours a dark murky golden glow with a solid lasting white head. Sweet aromas of marmalade mix with a slight tropical fruity smell. You are first greeted by quite a powerful punch of bitter burnt toast when you first sip this. This then leads into a slightly wooden zingy orange feel. Somewhere in the middle there is a dank pine base, I can’t help but feel this beer is slightly unbalanced. This beer uses Chinook and Simcoe hops which can be told by the lingering grapefruit bitter finish. As a whole the beer is pretty powerful and one that personally takes a bit to get into.
My rating 4/10
4th December – Hogsback Montezuma’s Chocolate Lager
There was a bit of a big push with this beer last year, Hogsback Brewery based in Surrey wanted to push boundaries on beer flavour. Hogsback have been brewing ales and lagers since 1992 and have won some awards along the way. They brew classic traditional beers such as their TEA but also dabble in the newer world of craft beer. Montezuma’s Chocolate Lager certainly falls into the latter.
When pouring this beer there is no other word to describe it as “surprise”. You think chocolate beer and instantly you think of a deep rich dark beer, not this time buddy! It pours a crisp clear yellow that you would expect from a lager. The smells of sweet milk chocolate are invading all surrounding air space . The flavour is hugely chocolate, maybe with a hint of a vanilla then finishing with that crisp mildly hopped crisp dry lager taste. If a beer was ever a bit of fun it is this beer. OK It might not be a beer I want to drink all night long, however I don’t think it is meant to be. It is meant to showcase extremely talented craft brewing.
Seriously this beer impresses me, when I first saw it I will be honest everything screamed “DON’T DO IT YOU WONT LIKE THIS BEER” I mean.. chocolate.. lager.. what am I thinking?!?! But I am so glad I ignored that as it really is a great beer and one that plays with the mind.
My rating – 8/10
5th December – Hawkshead Brewery Sundown
Really excited about pulling this beer out of the calender today, recently my beer buddy Paul visited the brewery on the way home from a weekend away and he spoke very highly of them. I was lucky enough to be brought back a bottle of their Black IPA Hop Black and oh boy that was good!
Hawkshead Brewery is based in the Lake District and they have been brewing fun flavorsome beers since 2002. They have collaborated with some top breweries recently and also taken part in the hugely popular Rainbow Project. Some of their artwork (like on this bottle) are instantly recognisable, it is this kind of odd sketches of hop cartoon characters which although fairly simple really looks great.
Sundown is part of their limited edition range of beers, it is a American hopped red ale. It pours a deep ruby red colour with glows of orange, with a small white head which dies down fairly quickly. On the nose is this inviting bitter orange peel aroma. When you take a sip you are instantly hit with this big punchy pineapple and orange flavour from the big “C” hops used to brew. Instantly I like this! It has a great balanced mouth feel to it with no spiky flavours. Toffee and caramel sneak through from the malt backbone of the beer. Before you know it the beer has gone.. sad face. I would have happily had another few of these beers… Luckily I have that bottle of Hop Black to follow it up!
My rating 8/10
6th December – Brecon Brewing Cwrw-istmas Beacons
Another Welsh brewery bringing us a Christmas themed beer today. Brecon Brewing are (unsurprisingly!) based in Brecon, a market town in mid Wales, and is run by one of Wales award winning best known brewers Buster Grant.
Cwrw-istmas Beacons smacks you in the face with cinnamon aromas as soon as you pop the bottle, constantly letting you know that you are about to get your Christmas on! Along with the cinnamon aromas you can pick out nutmeg and cloves, completing the Christmas spices collection.
Surprisingly though the strength of aroma doesn’t match the taste. You have this subtle level of all those Christmas spices in the flavour of the beer. The tastes swirling around your mouth falls away towards the end into a smooth easy drinking beer. As you continue to drink the bottle you start getting dried fruits and caramel flavours also.
A really nice easy drinking well balanced Christmas themed beer, which lets other breweries know that you don’t have to really ramp up the Christmas flavours to make a festive beer.
My rating 7.5/10
December 7th – Alechemy Brewing Tailsman Lager
After a career in the pharmaceutical industry James Davies turned his home brewing into a business when he started up Alechemy Brewing. They brew a large range of really decent beers which are well worth seeking out.
Tailsman Lager is part of that collection. It pours a glowing orange colour with a small white head that leaves lots of lacing around the glass. On the nose you get sweet honey and biscuits. That sweet honey aroma carries through into the taste, maybe even reminding me of a crunchie bar! It has a crisp finish with a tiny yeasty after taste. This lager is much to my liking as I prefer my lagers on the sweet side.
After co-hosting an Alechemy #beerybits with Ales By Mail earlier this year and now again for #beeradvent I think its best to say that the perfect pairing for an Alechemy beer is me!
My rating 6.5/10
December 8th – Five Points Brewing Co Railway Porter
As soon as I opened today’s door on my #beeradvent calendar and see that green bottle cap with the 5 logo on it I knew it would be a good day!
The Five Points Brewing Co are an independent brewery from Hackney, East London. Brewing since 2013 Five Points have been providing Londoners and beyond with fantastic unfiltered and unpasteurised beers. Including today’s offering, Railway Porter. I love this beer, its that simple I have a small stash at home! Last year as part of my Golden Pints online awards I said that Railway Porter was my favourite keg beer that I drank that year, now this year it is battling at the top for cask.
The beer pours a deep dark slick black with a big beige head. On the nose I get big roasted malt, espresso coffee and a tiny bit of plum. Once you take your first sip you get those big roasted coffee bean and chocolate tastes. As you finish your mouthful you get this lovely lingering smoky aftertaste. Its smooth, its rich and its gorgeous!
If you ever get the chance to try this on keg or cask then you should do so.. straight away!
My rating 9/10
December 9th – Tiny Rebel Cwtch
Hands up if you love Tiny Rebel… *Both hands firmly held up* We go from one of my favourite beers yesterday in the #beeradvent to today and a beer from one of my favourite brewers… Oh stop it Ales By Mail ; )
Based in Newport Wales, Tiny Rebel is the brewery that introduced me to Craft Beer. Their new world attitude to brewing classic beer woke me up to big hoppy flavours. Their branding is instantly recognisable with the bear mascot and this bottle of Cwtch looks great.
Fans of Gavin and Stacey may recognise the word Cwtch as it used in the program and is Welsh slang for a little hug or cuddle.
This Red Welsh Ale only went and won Champion Beer of Britain this year at the Great British Beer Festival, making it an award winning #beeradvent tonight! It pours a deep ruby red with a big white frothy head. Aromas of caramel biscuits, tea and tropical fruit. Great balanced flavours of tropical citrus fruits that transform into a lovely bitter finish makes this beer incredibly quaffable!
Its very good and possibly one of the only beers this year that I have instantly ordered another pint of once I had finished my first. Just sit back and let this perfectly balanced award winning beer give your taste buds a little cuddle!
My rating 9/10
December 10th – De Molen Op & Top
One thing I hate about Christmas parties is that more than likely I am going to have to drink shit beer all night… Luckily I had a bottle of De Molen Op & Top with me at work! I quickly went through the #beeradvent so I could get to my Christmas work do (and did indeed drink shit beer). But thankfully I started off the night with this great beer.
De Molen brew their beers in Bodegraven in The Netherlands, they host the famous Borefts Beer Festival which one day I would love to attend. They have a very simple bottle design, which sometimes can be very difficult to read and work out what the beer is actually called! But what you will know that the beer inside the bottle is generally more often than not a really decent drop.
Op & Top is lovely bitter that pours a deep amber colour with a big frothy white head. You get pine, citrus fruits and orange peel on the nose. The taste is this beautiful citrus hop flavour with spicy caramel backbone which leads into the big awesome bitter finish. I could easily drink a few pints of this! What a beer to start the party with…
My ratings 7/10
December 11th – Camden Town Gentleman’s Wit
Gentleman’s Wit is a great Belgian Wit beer that I have been lucky enough to drink before. In fact I had it at the brewery taproom once, somewhere that if you haven’t visited then you really should.
Camden Town have grown to a really great size in the recent years and are one of the top breweries leading the London Craft Beer scene movement. Not long ago you would walk into a pub in London and be presented with a pretty rubbish selection of beers, but thanks to Camden Town you can now walk into a lot of pubs in London and be able to get a decent pint of beer.
I had one of my best pals over Friday for a bit so I thought I would share the beer with him (Xmas time is for sharing right). Gentleman’s Wit has this lovely lemon and coriander aroma on the nose, I seriously love coriander so anything with it in I am going to like. This was a fairly carbonated beer and the lemon citrus flavours continued from the smell into the beer. Classic Belgian wit taste with all the flavours balancing out well. This beer would be perfect served cold on a nice hot summers day!
My ratings 6/10
December 12th – Harviestoun Schiehallion
Once a year my old college buddies meet up for a Christmas drink. It happened to fall on this day and I aint going to lie by the time it reached 8pm for the tasting we were all feeling the effects of a heavy afternoon session! We all met up in Leyton and worked out way through all the beers at Signature Brew taproom.
I have had this lager before and its a good lager, clean well balanced with nice sweet flavour, lagers don’t excite me at the best of times but I would be more than happy if this was a beer I had to drink on a night out. My friends I was with all got to have a small taste and they all really enjoyed it, they are not all big beer drinkers so it is always cool when they enjoy something decent.
Due to being somewhat intoxicated I feel that it is unfair to give this beer a rating though…
My rating ? ? Drunk level 10/10
December 13th Freedom Brewery Organic Dark Lager
I know Freedom Dark Organic Lager really well as I drank it for an Ales By Mail #beerybits this year. Again this was a #beerybits that I co hosted… Which makes todays beer another perfect pairing of Freedom Brewery, Ales By Mail and myself!
We had a good night when doing the #beerybits so I was looking forward to revisiting this beer again. It didn’t disappoint either, it was as enjoyable as I remember. It is great by the pint too as I found out while eating at a Vegan restaurant in London for my sisters birthday this year.
The beer pours a dark red-ish brown with a cream head. You get lots of toffee on the nose with an added bready aroma. When you sip the beer you get this chewy dark caramel taste with hints of raisin. You can also get lots and lots of toffee and again like in the aroma you pick up dark bread flavours. Perfect evening drink to help me recover from the previous days festivities!
My rating 7/10
December 14th – Brains – I Sea Santa
The artwork screams fun with its Christmas imagery. Santa with his binoculars out… hopefully behaving himself! This beer was a collaboration between Brains brewery, Nicholson pubs and beer writer and SommALEier Melissa Cole. Just reading all of this got me excited to try the beer later in the evening.
This beer has so many interesting ingredients in it, six malts, Fuggles and Mosaic hops with a blend of spices, treacle and Welsh laver bread. I have never had laver bread but it tradition to the South of Wales and has seaweed in it (really want to try this). I love seaweed but for me I didn’t pick that up in the flavour in the beer. However fear not because although I didn’t get seaweed I did get everything else! Treacle on the nose big time, along with cinnamon breaking through. So many interesting flavours in the taste, again the dark treacle is strong but also there is a subtle taste of all those Christmas spices. You also get a bready flavour but just not that seaweed, the bready flavour is the best bit though as it brings together all the other flavours in perfect harmony making it a very drinkable beer.
My rating 7.5/10
December 15th – Anarchy Brew Co Xmas Chaos
I am a big fan of Anarchy’s crazy, messy, rebellious artwork. This one has to be one of my favourites though, making a Christmas label work for them very well.
Xmas chaos pours a deep dark brown with lighter brown highlights around the edge of the glass. When it first pours it creates this huge head but it almost instantly dies down to almost nothing. On the nose I get smoked bacon?! No one else seemed to get this but I certainly did… or maybe I was hungry! Flavour wise I was surprised by the smoky character to it, it was also big on the rum and raisin and also had a taste of brown bread to it. It had a great mouth feel to it and the bready raisin flavours hung around for a while.
What I liked about this beer was that it felt like a beer to be drunk at Christmas time but it didn’t have all those typical Christmas spices in them. It was dark, rich and slightly boozy, which is perfect this time of the year.
My rating 6/10
December 16th – Atlantic Brewery Early Grey PA
I have to say right at the start that I don’t drink hot drinks. Nothing to do with flavours it is the heat, my chubster physique just cannot handle no more heat as it equals sweating! I like coffee flavoured things, ice cream, cake, beer (of course) and chocolate but when it comes to tea I just don’t know it. I am not accustomed with tea tastes I have no idea if I like it! This may be why tonight I just didn’t get along with this beer at all.
It poured a murky range colour with a massive frothy head. On the nose I got orange peel and some lychee fruit I think? I found the taste unbalanced (but maybe this was due to no recognising early grey tea flavour) I picked up hints of orange peel and a slightly bitter middle to the beer.
What I love about beer is you always get thrown a curve ball, no one.. no matter how long they’ve been drinking beer or how well known they are can hand on heart say they know and tired it all. I hold my hands up and say I didn’t understand this beer I didn’t get the flavours that others got. Others enjoyed it and got the tea flavours which is great. This is a good thing, it just backs up my love for beer. It is great that we don’t like everything… otherwise it would be boring right?
My rating 2/10
December 17th – Siren Calypso (Batch 474 Huell Melon & Citra)
Juicy-sour-candy-tart-sugar-mmmmmm. Let’s just get this out there straight away… this beer is lip smackingly tart and delicious!
It is hard to express how good this beer was… the same level of difficulty it takes to find out which edition this beer is! Each batch is slightly different using different hops and ingredients, this time is Huell Melon and one of my favourite Hops Citra.
I first had Colpyso (although I cannot remember which one) back in Barcelona at the start of the year, in the brilliant beer bar Biercab. Michelle is not a fan of sour/tart beers at all and she ordered it and in a moment of luck we swapped beers, I 100% got the better deal!
It pours a bright glowing pale wheat yellow with a white fuzzy glowing head. Lemons on the nose… lots of lemon! Tartness up my nostrils that is for sure! But also there is hints of that Citra hop aroma that I have grown to love. LOOOADS OF LEMON.! When you sip this you get that crinkled lips feeling you get with strong lemon,. Sweet sour candy sweets taste too. You do get tiny bits of the juicy melon in the after taste too, a propa treat. A real contender for the best beer in the box so far!
My rating 9/10
December 18th – Hiver The Honey Ale
Now I have seen this beer around so many bars over the last year but I have never tried it. I must admit I thought it might be some commercial attempt at a gimmicky beer to appeal to the masses (Sup Crabbies what you saying!). For all I know it could be BUT I went in blind and I come out fully surprised and a big fan!
It is no secret I like a sweet beer, Belgium made me this way! But wow this beer is sweet and I love it. The best way to describe this beer is basically a big jar of honey, the aroma is like you just put your nose in a jar of set honey. The taste is this big melted sugar honey taste with a hints of fudge in there too. It isn’t something that I would knock back by the pint but this bottle went down a treat. I bet Winnie the Pooh would get bang on a night of Hiver!
My rating 6.5/10
December 19th – Fourpure Pils
Anyone else confused with this bottle from Fourpure?? Usually we see this in a can! Thanks to M&S upping their beer selection this beer has turned into a beer often seen in my hand late on the train home from London!
Tonight is the first night that I slipped up… After a disappointing 1-1 draw with Orient I finished up at the Leyton Orient Supporters Club and travelled over to 40FT brewery to pick up a bottle of their stout. Well that was the plan anyways! After having a few more drinks than planned with the guys at 40FT and a few other brewing faces from London I realised the night had gone, I had forgot to bring out the bottle with me and it was 1AM!!! Instead this got opened Sunday evening once the hangover went!
The beer pours a pale yellow with a small lively bubbly head. The carbonation is strong and fast in the glass too. On the nose I get hay, subtle malt and I find it a bit buttery?! (anyone else get that!?) The taste is one of a very clean pilser, easy drinking, bread crusts with slight bitterness.
My rating 5.5/10
December 20th – Meantime Brewing Pale Ale
So it has been quite the rapid few months for Meantime, being bought out then your new boss being taken over then being put up for sale. I got to say I feel for them a bit. But lets celebrate what Meantime have done for the London beer scene in the last few years. Just like Camden they have changed the sight of London bars. You would have never have dreamed 5 years ago to be able to get Meantime beer so regularly around London.
Meantime Pale Ale is one of those beers you can now find regularly. Pale Ale pours a clear amber colour with a big fizzy head from the high carbonation the beer has. Very floral aroma to this beer with hints of grapefruit, pine and citrus. It has a well balanced sweet/bitterness to it, you get this herby citrus/orange taste with a smooth grapefruit bitter finish.
I hope Meantime secure their future soon, and return to those high targets they set for themselves.
My rating 5/10
December 21st – Discworld Ales Hix’s Darkside
So today was my granddads birthday so I popped over his place with a big bag of fish and chips in hand. He is 96 now and it doesn’t matter how many beers I make him try I cant get him to turn away from his brandy and lemonade! Tonight’s beer may not have been to his usual Remi Martin taste but for me it was one of the best beers in the box so far.
We had a Discworld Ales beer at the start of this #beeradvent which I wasn’t too found off, however this time Hix’s Darkside is right up my street! When I first opened the beer though I thought I was in trouble… the beer instantly started to fizz out the bottle neck! However I got control of it and managed to pour it into my glass. Unfortunately not every one had this much luck as there were a few gushers out there tonight… which is a shame.
The beer poured a deep black with a glowing dark brown around the edge of the glass. A big beige head sat perfectly in my glass. The smells were deep rich dark fruits, prunes, raisins and plums with a hint of sweet dark sugar. Those dark fruits carry through into the flavour of the beer along with chocolate malt. Really good! I wish I had another bottle because I drank this beauty up really quick. I must admit it is the best of the Discworld Ales beers I have to date. Oh yeah and excuse the glass… limited glassware round Granddads!!
My rating 8/10
December 22nd – Cerveceria Mexicana Hop on or Die IPA
Where Oh where was you when I was in Mexico 5 years ago! I loved Mexico.. I tell you now if I had the money I would get up in an instant, finish my bottle and go straight to Mexico this very second! From the sun, to the chilled out people, to the cracking food, I loved every moment there. One thing though that I had to put up with was constant bottles of Corona and cans of Dos Equis… Yawn!
I have had a couple of Day of the Dead beers before and always found them very good. I am a big fan of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival and the artwork that is associated with it. Unsurprisingly then I really like the DOTD bottle labels.
This beer pours a murky glowing amber with a bit of a dead fluffy white head. I personally like sweet beers and I get big sweet caramel malt from this with a bit of pineapple. Tonight was an interesting tasting as a few people got very different things.
A few people thought it was big on the hops but I did not find this, I thought it tasted again sickly sweet malt with big punchy pineapple and peach flavours. Not in a bad way though! Don’t get me twisted (just like the twist cap!) I do like this beer, I just don’t like it as much as their other beers I have had from them. At 6.8% though, if I had spent the entire time knocking these back 5 years ago I think I would have had an even messier holiday in Mexico!
My rating 5.5/10