Ale to the King.

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Archive for the category “Aledvent Calendbeer”

Review: Christmas Ale 2011 – Aledvent Calendbeer 25

Beer: Christmas Ale (2011)
Brewery: Anchor Brewing
Type: Spiced Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5.5% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 25

Merry Christmas! Here we are, the final beer in Ale to the King and possibly, hopefully your festive countdown towards the big day itself. Just going by the bottle and label itself I knew immediately this would be the one that would see us out in style. With bold, red capitals declaring MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR surrounded by a very nice, old fashioned tree this not only celebrates the big day but also welcomes in the new year.

Very appropriate I thought, but I’m pretty new to a lot of the world of ale so I was very pleased to hear this was even more in the spirit of Christmas than I’d thought. Turns out Anchor Brewery has brewed a special  Christmas ale every year since 1975, entirely unique, a different, closely guarded recipe every time. And this year’s is a cracker (pun entirely intended).

The nose is absolutely delicious, very unique and very defined. Its brilliantly spicy and immediately hits with strong crystal ginger. Its a great sensation that’s slightly backed up with mulling spices.

On pouring the head is a creamy tan and has real staying power way down to the glass. The colour is a very dark chocolate or heavily varnished old wood.

On the taste you’ll notice its incredibly dry, the driest I’ve ever tasted that really sucks the mouth together. Unfortunately the taste is a little more muddled and undefined than the nose.

The foretaste is of dried figs mixed in with the spices is not unpleasant but isn’t entirely a treat. The mid-taste is rather more pleasurable and the spices, which dominates right through to the end, compliment the sweetness and dryness of the roast chestnut tones.

On the after-taste the spices come together with remnants of the crystal ginger, dried figs and chestnut into a melange of notes which is where the dryness really kicks in. Unfortunately this is a warm, cottony flavour which leads to a certain clagginess that’s perhaps overly-emphasised by the dryness.

So, ultimately its a beer with a lot of promise that fails to deliver on that, but its still something very special and unique regardless. In a way, it sums up one of the most iconic things of Christmas, a knitted sweater from your grandma. You hope its going to be something great, and despite being what it is, you just have too much goodwill and appreciation for the effort that’s gone into it to regard it with anything other than warm feelings. Merry Christmas.

Review: Delirium Christmas – Aledvent Calendbeer 24

Beer: Delirium Christmas
Brewery: Delirium
Type: Belgian Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc:  10% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 24 

The end is in sight and the big Two Five of Christmas day approaches. But many people say Christmas Eve is more fun than the day itself. Not exactly Ale to the King‘s view but one that’s entirely understandable, especially given the excellent Delirium Christmas. The bottle is exciting enough itself, with a beautiful and fun label that utterly reflects the brewery at first glance while also gives it a very unique Christmas spin. I’ve always been a fan of Delirium bottles, with their grey speckled glass and pink elephant and this version does them proud.

As soon as you release the bottle cap you’re struck immediately with a hit of very ripe, soft banana to begin with but then you get a an absolutely delicious and unique ice cream soda. I’ve never detected that in a beer before while I’ve been properly tasting but its a sensation I hope crops up much more often. Beyond that there’s also a nice sublte note of shredded wheat.

On the taste the entire thing is dominated again by that delicious soft banana and there’s some great fizz that stays with the beer all the way to the end, which is a real sign of quality.

Into specifics however the foretaste has a nice, bitter tang of Copella apple juice that seems particular to that brand. The mid-taste begins as nettles which morphs into the tingle of warm spiced cider. Its a Christmas taste that’s very particular to the season, particularly the kind served in the cold of a German market, but is rarely replicated in a festive beer and its an unexpected treat here. As the after-taste matures it becomes a pleasingly sweet sensation.

The colour is also very appealing as well, a rich, hearty ochre-red that pours not just cloudy but has globulized tiny floating particles of yeast that pepper the entire drink and never float to the bottom. The head is a tan, off-white and quickly dissipates, but the floating globules are the mesmeric show that’s almost magical; how apt for Christmas.

This is a lovely treat and one you should pick up when you can.

Review: Gordon Xmas – Aledvent Calendbeer 23

Beer: Gordon Xmas
Brewery: Anthony Martin
Type:  Belgian Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 8.8% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 23

Interesting one this. Gordon Xmas isn’t the most Belgian of names. No surprise, Anthony Martin isn’t a Belgian brewery; however this Belgian style beer was brewed for a British company in Benelux, an economic union area of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.   A belgian style strong ale, brewed for a British company, in an area defined by economics as the province of three European countries.

The nose is great, very obvious and blatant; a very pure bonfire toffee that’s very sweet and smoky. You can smell the charcoal too, like its a home-made version of the sweet eaten as you breathe in the fumes from the bonfire. Its a cliché but its a very sugar and spice smell.

Ale to the King has seen this before in similar kinds of beers, a foretaste that’s hard to describe as anything other than coca-cola. The drinker wants to search harder but what’s obvious is obvious; its a matter that comes down to how it doesn’t dance across the tongue. Now usually this is an admirable trait in a beer, but here the fact it doesn’t work that way. In fact it works in its favour; the flavours come very clear and what’s more intriguing is that its a beer you can hold at various stages of taste. Even more so that its a strong beer at 8.8%; the yeast doesn’t fizz along your tongue yet its powerful stuff.

On the mid-taste, which you can hold in that stage for much longer than the fore-taste by perhaps sheer viscosity, and it is a very viscous beer, there’s clear spiced nuts. But its also got an elusive something extra which Ale to the King can only put down as a little dried apricot.

The after-taste is way easier to detect; in fact it practically shouts at you; dry almonds in a sticky sweet, viscous texture form. It holds your mouth such is its thickness and lingers with great sweetness.

The colour is a nicely tempting dark bronze while the head a quickly dissipating creamy white. This is a fine beer and Ale to the King would recommend it to absolutely everyone.

Review: Christmas Porter – Aledvent Calendbeer 22

Beer: Christmas Porter
Brewery:  Brewdog
Type: Porter
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.2% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer: 22

Ale to the King has had a run in with a Brewdog Christmas beer in the past and compared to its regular output it didn’t come off too well and was less of a Christmas cracker than a damp sprout.

This one’s colour reflects the cacao element of the ingredients, that make up the three advertised extra special additives along with chilli  and festive spices. The festive spices speak for themselves, but the chilli? Who knows. Because its Christmas I suppose, that’s why. The head is white but dissipates quickly.

The nose is surprisingly light for a beer of these ingredients and strength with a definite overriding vanilla tone.  You won’t pick much up on the fore-taste however; its annoyingly nothingy and can only really muster the taste of celery. On the mid-taste the taster will initially get a strange minty sensation but later on down the drink those festive spices you’d find in a cheap mulledwine reveal themselves.

On the after-taste the chilli does manifest itself nicely and quite powerfully and sets the tongue abuzz in a way a perhaps more fizzy, yeasty flavour should have done earlier. To spend a little longer lingering on the taste one will find the spices more resemble that of a curry, or tumeric. It’d be quite a nice experience but one can’t help feeling it betrays the festive spirit its trying to convey.

Its very admirable to try and mix it up a bit in that way in a limited edition, but am I just a stick in the mud by thinking experimentation is good, but if it veers so far away from something so explicitly Christmas, has it missed its own point?

Indeed this seems to be another case of too many chefs spoiling the pot as with Brewdog’s other festive beer reviewed this season. Thinking about it a couple of recent releases seem to have been made just for the sake of it to capitalize upon their meteoric rise to success; is our beloved Brewdog losing the plot and letting success go to its head?

It remains to be seen, but its the festive season, the season of forgiveness and the season to go a bit crazy, so despite this rather poor showing Ale to the King will let Brewdog have its moments of madness.

Review: Santa’s Swallie – Aldevent Calendbeer 21

Beer: Santa’s Swallie
Brewery:  The Inveralmond Brewery
Type: Scottish Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.3% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 21

Santa’s Swallie is this reviewer’s birthday beer, so lets hope it  The Inveralmond Brewery’s ale gives me a nice surprise instead of a let down.

Its a much paler beer than those of late on the Aledvent Calendbeer and the colour of lightish amber and the white, steadily dissipating head reflect this. It also got a noticeably sweet head, with a strong flavour of sugared almonds.

This is a beer that doesn’t want to reveal itself too fast and on first tastes has that sweetness of very ripe apricots walking all over the flavour. But once you give it a little explore there’s a few flavours to be had in between this initial blandness. There’s a bitterness on the foretaste, one of bitter lime drink without any gin. The mid-taste is one of the kind of wheat-grass one gets in those health drinks and for this reviewer to compare it to that isn’t a shining commendation.

The after-taste is just somewhat stale and I hate to say this but reminiscent of mainstream, claggy lager. Its a good job this reviewer’s birthday presents have been so damn good this year, because this ends a run of some very good beers with something that’s not just disappointing but a downright bad beer. To be fair the label does reek of ‘Christmas cash in beer’ and doesn’t seem at all like a quality brew and the beer only confirms that. If you want a happy Christmas its best stay away from this particular brew.

Review: Gouden Carolus Christmas – Aledvent Calendbeer 20

Beer: Gouden Carolus Christmas
Brewery: Brouwerij Het Anker
Type: Belgian Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 10.5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 20

Well if Ale to the King thought it was on good ground with last nights 9% beer (this reviewer invariably prefers the taste of higher content beers) then we could be on for a winner with  Gouden Carolus Christmas from Brouwerij Het Anker, weighing in at a potent 10.5%. Yes, we’re in double figures now,  a scary place to be, but don’t we all like to step outside our comfort zone a little at Christmas?

This is a very dark brew, night on black; like an incredibly old, antique varnished wood. The head is pale off-white and dissipates quickly.

The nose smells of licorice, freshly split sapling and frankly alcohol. Perhaps a little too much on the latter part, but perhaps that’s my social predjudice of things smelling overtly of alcohol being considered tramp-fuel.

On the taste things are comparatively straight forward. Nothing hits you straight away and that’s perhaps because the yeast isn’t overly active and doesn’t make any taste dance across your tongue. The alcohol is fairly settled in and thus doesn’t kick you in the teeth like a lot newly infused cheap ‘supers’ and ‘extras’.

Its because the beer has a very simple taste. The fore taste is a very simple heavily salted butter note which matures into a very potent root beer profile. It merges rather unceremoniously into a very straight forward resin on the mid taste. On the after taste you get licorice. Some have said this is a the definitive taste of the beer but I think there’s a little more to it than that.

You’re left searching for something else, looking for something beyond these three flavours but you don’t really notice the alcohol until further down the drink. And that’s the trick. Its like hiding in plain sight, you totally bypass the alcohol through looking so hard and so its allowed to work its magic subtly, unnoticed. Its an undercurrent than runs through the entire beer, affecting and altering each of the three flavours without you noticing it.

Its almost like the beer is performing a magic trick which you don’t notice before you really examine it. Is it a great tasting beer? No. Good, yes, certainly. But that’s not what’s to be appreciated here. What’s to be really appreciated is the magic that Brouwerij Het Anker have pulled for Christmas time, just like Father Christmas.

Review: Cuvee de Noel – Aledvent Calendbeer 19

Beer: Cuvee de Noel
Brewery: St. Feuillien
Type:  Belgian Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 9% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 19

Its been an up and down few ales during Aledvent Calendbeer recently, but we’re firmly back on track with this festive treat. Its a promising 9% on the old fashioned bottle, but I’ll come to this later.

Its a very satisfying drink to pour, the smell hits you as you drop it into a pint glass, the nose immediately hitting yours and a very dense foamy head bubbling up a light yellow/amber; this colour, for this reviewer, is nearly always a good sign. You can smell the yeast working away as well mixed in with the banana and butterscotch notes; from this you can tell this is beer that lays it on thick with a trowel from a brewery that clearly knows what its doing.

The colour itself is a rick chestnutty brown and the persistant head you’ll notice after a moment or so starts to be speckled with dense dots of dark orange.

As soon as you taste it that yeast comes in to play again, so much so its almost prickly to the tongue; its a fantastic sensation. You can really taste the yeast on the foretaste as well, giving it a very coca-cola style hit of sweetness. This sweetness follows on through to the mid-taste of caramel. The after-taste then melds this into a butterscotch that dominates the mouth a long time after the taste. It holds on fantastically and actually gums the lips a little. Its deliciously sickly and the whole thing tastes like a coke float. But its that strong, 9% punch of alcohol that really works the magic here, really offsetting and contradicting the sweetness.

This is a fine beer and the first I believe I’ve tried from this brewery; I’ll definitely be checking more out from the makers of this in the coming year.

Review: K-9 Cruiser – Aledvent Calendbeer 18

Beer: K-9 Cruiser
Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery
Type: Special Stout
Served: Bottled
Alc: 7.4% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 18 

The Flying Dog Brewery certainly know how to make distinctive labels for their bottles. Often a downright barmy looking beast is shown doing somthing that isn’t altogether sane. Their K-9 Cruiser is certainly no different to that with its beserk snowboarding canine.

Its a beer as powerful as its label as well. Its got a lovely deep oak colour that looks like its going to promise a lot. it certainly delivers. The nose is sweet, like treacle and thats a sweetness that carries on through the beer.

On the sip you’ll notice its really lively on the tongue as all the finest beers seem to be from these little unconventional craft breweries. The alcohol is also extra punchy because of this, and it’d be fairly potent by itself.

This is combined with a malty, sweet syrup on the fore-taste which leads through to a marvellously chewy experience. there’s a lot of caramel here along with the syrup and deep notes that are almost impossible to define for this reviewer; I’d have to liken it to the sweetness of potato roasted in goose fat.

this is followed by a very malty, sticky aftertaste that clings to the mouth, more so than most beers. It really gets inbetween your teeth and sticks to the palate to leave a very, very powerful sensation of marmite.

A delightful beer, and one that at this strength will definitely put you in the festive spirit!

Review: Joker IPA – Aledvent Calendbeer 17

Beer: Joker IPA
Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Type: IPA
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 17

This is going to sound odd, but for this reviewer, Christmas is intrinsically linked with Batman. Without fail I will get something Batman related and Batman Returns is my favourite Christmas movie.

So for me the link to Christmas time is clear with Joker IPA. The colour is pale golden, very clear and perfect and the nose is dry and hoppy. A little one-one note you may think but its such a sharp, singular smell its unusually so and smells a little of cushions or feathers.

It starts out a little flat on the tongue but there’s a definite repfreshing citrus taste of lime cordial at the back of the teeth to keep things interesting which is preceded by a decent nutty taste. The mid-taste also taste like slurping a frothy head of beer which is a nice sensation which doesn’t hinder or complement another taste; it kind of sits there on its own at the side.

On the middle and back of the tongue there’s clear gooseberry as well and as it goes down the beer seems to wake up and begins to dance nicely on the tongue.

Its a very nice session-tasting type beer then, even if the alcohol content is stronger than session level. Well worth your time and a beer that’s not laughing matter.

Review: Schneeweisse Winterbier – Aledvent Calendbeer 16

Beer: Schneeweisse Winterbier
Brewery: Erdinger
Type: Wheatbeer
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5.6%
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 16

Not only is the label of Schneeweisse Winterbier appropriately wintry but Hefeweizen is known for often being a crisp, off-white colour.

This isn’t nearly as pale as some of the other wheat beers at the lighter end of the spectrum, in fact its a dark orange of old, dry straw.

There isn’t a great deal on the nose, but there are slight and sweet citrus notes.

The Erdinger brand often carries with it notions of a very dark, heavy beer but I think that’s something that’s just cultivated by the dark brown glass, the name and the rather conservative labels. However this isn’t the case and this is a perfect example of the beer not completely matching the marketing. There’s some very soft opening notes of malt which then morphs into banana on the mid-taste.

As this follows through it becomes a little spicy but nothing overwhelming. Some might call this an elegant beer, and perhaps I just like mine big and boisterous in general, but this just lacks a little spark. There is a nice complementary tone of chives and slight garlic in the aftertaste and this isn’t a bad beer at all, just perhaps not as special as it could be if the flavours were a little more pronounced.

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