Ale to the King.

Edinburgh's quality beer and ale review and culture site.

Archive for the tag “calendar”

Review: Mr Sno’ Balls – Aledvent Calendbeer 15

Beer: Mr Sno’ Balls
Brewery: Harviestoun Brewery
Type: English Pale Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 15

The one thing we all want a Christmas to be is white. Unless we’re stuck on a train to York there’s nothing better than a blanket of snow covering the landscape, and Ale to the King is a big a fan of snow and the men you can build out of it as anybody.

Mr Sno ‘Balls (yes, the label matches the name) is a fine winter beer from Harviestoun, which is surprising as its not at all a dark one. Its got quite a light colour of copper with a mid level of transparency and a head that quickly vanishes into a bubbly island of white.

The nose is also rather fruity, and not in the way the way a lot of winter beers are. Instead of having the dark, rich cherry notes that’s common of this season’s brews, Mr Sno’ Balls has got a lighter, sweeter smell of grapefruit and dry roast unslated nuts. Its also got definite notes of toffee apples.

There’s a pleasant moderate fizz to this brew and it allows the more delicate flavours to become more noticeable. There’s bitter citrus that comes right the way through the taste, especially of bitter orange on the foretaste. The foretaste is soft and is accompanied by a nice little taste of walnut to compliment it, with the mid-taste giving fully over to the bitter orange and a little spice.

The after-taste is quite doughy and buicuity which nicely offsets the spicier notes. The citrus notes do mellow as the drink goes on but there’s still a nice balance all the way and its this that makes it such a drinkable beer. Its certainly citrus and crisp as described on the bottle and this allows it to remain interesting despite the low alcohol taste and content. If you’re after particularly seasonal session brew this Christmas, this could very well be the one for you.

Review: Scotch Ale – Aledvent Calendbeer 14

Beer: Scotch Ale
Brewery: Black Isle Brewery
Type: Ruby Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.2% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 14

Now Ale to the King only moved the Scotland about a year ago and this reviewer has been made aware that you can’t call everything from Scotland Scotch. Eggs, Whisky, sometimes beef but not people. Well now I can at least add to the Scotch List Ale, which I suppose you could call a gift from Black Isle Brewery.

Befitting the name of the brewery the beer is impenetrable black on the pour with an off-white head. On the nose its very sweet and viscous. Its very like white sugar and a lighter fudge.

Its a dark, smooth taste and reminiscent of those sugary fruit jellies you get people at Christmas who don’t like chocolates. Following onto the mid-taste it becomes very similar to marmite, although I don’t think this beer will have such a polemically divided audience. Also, pronounced only on the mid taste is definite glacier cherry.

On the after-taste you’re treated to a delicious fruitcake sensation complete with the icing and marzipan. It lingers for a short amount of time and unsticks itself from your mouth surprisingly quickly.

Scotch Ale is a beer in stages, the layers and tastes are for the most parts very seperate and defined with little cross over. It also helps all these flavours are delicious and complimentary. Well recommended.

Review: Maid in Leith – Aledvent Calendbeer 13

Beer: Maid in Leith
Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Co.
Type: Golden Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer: 12

The festive season is about home, and Ale to the King has already covered one aspect of that with the Samuel Smith’s India Ale from Yorkshire. But this reviewer may very well soon be buying a home, hopefully in the Shore area of Leith. So if the festive season is about home, then Maid in Leith covers the possible ghost of Christmas future.

On the pour the colour is noticeably bright as sunshine. Its also incredibly transparent and looks like a thin tree sap with absolutely no head at all.

On the nose the summery theme continues (again, this isn’t exactly the most wintery drink); its got dandelions and fresh grass and there’s an unmistakably pollen like smell to it.

The flavour, however, is hard to get hold of. It just comes across as a very generic golden ale that’s not aiming for anything but to please as many people’s palates as possible. There’s a nice fizz on the tongue but the sugary sweetness that goes with it is a little too much for my taste. Its like a little bit too much butter has been added to a recipe and it overpowers the rest of the ingredients.

A little distinction is the slight hints of olive or perhaps olive oil on the mid-taste and especially pronounced by the viscous after-taste. Unfortunately its a little bit of a one trick pony and seems just bland and generic. It only just raises itself above mass produced stuff, but it seems to aspire to be one of those things in itself. A little more alcohol would give this the kick it sorely lacks and it seems a beer designed to fill a nicely designed, trendy label. Its a brew that wants to be sold more than it wants to be a good brew.

Review: Milk Stout – Aledvent Calendbeer 12

Beer: Milk Stout
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Type: Stout
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.0% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer: 12

Well this is a stretch, but for Christmas you might send or receive a charity package to a third world country. Often, this will be in the form of you buying a cow for a village. Cows produce milk, so Ale to the King brings you Milk Stout by Left Hand Brewing Company as its 12th Aledvent Calendbeer.

In colour it’s pitch black with a incredibly light brown head that dissipates quickly.

The nose has the typical coffee notes as most stouts but there’s that hint of black, industrial rubber that’s appeared on stouts before.

On the foretaste you’re going to find that coffee again, but its going to be tempered with slight spices and rum on the foretaste, similar to the more overtly rummy Innis and Gunn Rum Cask.

This merges into a very peppary mid-taste and, appropriately enough, notes of full-cream milk. The milk lasts into the after-taste but seems to recede before coming to the fore after a while. You really only get a subtle hint before it seems to pop out at you. The mid to after-taste is also mixed with a sticky taste of a deep honey, the kind that seems nearly a deep red in colour.

Its a very punchy beer that delivers a real blow to the taste-buds. Its not a wrecking ball of a beer like some stouts, but its certainly not delicate. In all its a well-rounded beer, quite warming at this time of year, with a nice combination of subtle notes. However these come together to create an impact that outweighs the sum of its parts. A good choice if you’re after something to warm your innards this cold festive season.

Review: St. Mungo – Aledvent Calendbeer 11

Beer: St. Mungo
Brewery: West Brewery
Type: German Lager
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.9% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer : 11

If Christmas time isn’t intrinsically associated with St. Nicolas then Ale to the King doesn’t know what is. When selecting the ales from the very fine off-license Cornelius one called St. Nick couldn’t be found, so St. Mungo seems good enough.

Its got an incredibly crisp, fresh nose and is highly reminiscent of chilled, new orange juice.

This fresh taste is carried through to the taste, which maintains a great freshness, even compared other craft lagers, and leagues ahead of the claggy, stale taste left by the likes of mass-produced lagers Stella Artois or Becks.

The taste is dominated by fresh, wet barley which is propelled nicely over the whole mouth by the naturally carbonated bubbles. The fizz is somewhat spikey and complements the slight undertones of nettle. On the after-taste the barley subsides and gives way to the nettle mixed with slight herbs and a little citrus flavour. Its certainly more of a summer drink than a winter one, but its certainly not out of place with the heating on full blast and the fairy lights shining away.

As a lager, its never going to have the depth and character of an ale. But it is a very nice lager and one that does its namesake, the patron saint of Glasgow and a brewer himself, proud.

Review: Nelson Sauvin Hop Trials – Aledvent Calendbeer 10

Beer: Nelson Sauvin Hop Trials
Brewery: Tryst
Type: Blonde ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 10 

The festive season is considered a time to get reacquainted with old friends and family and often return to your parents’ home to celebrate. But its also a time for trying something new as well; perhaps you’re giving someone an untested but we respected single malt, or trying a new recipe for this years trimmings. And while its not particularly for Christmas, Tryst is having a go at something new with its hop trials of Nelson Sauvin.

Its certainly an interesting experiment and isn’t like most beers you’ll have tasted. Ale to the King has never actually drunk an ale that so acutely resembles a single thing in taste. An early indicator of what’s in store is the nose. Here we have wonderfully pungent citrus notes, particularly of dried apricot and clementines.

On the pour the colour is also very fruity and looks like cider. Not your transparent, ultra-fizzy mass-produced stuff like Strongbow or Magners, but proper, real, cloudy cider. Anyone would be forgiven for thinking you’re sipping apple juice. Its a murky blonde with a very bright white head, a lovely contrast.

Its only on the taste you’re hit by its one defining flavour however.

Hop Trials Nelson Sauvin tastes exactly like grapefruit juice. Not a bit. Not a lot. Exactly (well, almost exactly I’ll admit). Its a truly fascinating experience and a great one to remind you of the brilliant diversity of properly crafted beer. This also has some very slight hints of kiwi fruit and elderberry but its very strongly dominated by the grapefruit. There’s a nice dry after-taste that develops as it lingers into a sweetness before disappearing; it certainly sticks around but doesn’t outstay its welcome.

This is a fantastic little concoction, and even if you couldn’t take the taste bottle after bottle (this reviewer certainly could ) its worth it just for the great experience of reminding yourself just how unique and different one beer can be from another. Highly recommended. Go and try out this star now.

Review: India Pale Ale – Aledvent Calendbeer 9

Beer: India Pale Ale
Brewery: Knops Beer Company
Type: IPA
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number:

Christmastime is where you can indulge and shamelessly treat yourself to some of your favourite things. So Ale to the King  included India Pale Ale by Knops Beer Company on the list for exactly that reason. But here’s why this underrated little beauty gets such high marks from this reviewer.

When you pop the cap off the bottled (and as is usually the case  thinner version) the nose immediately delivers a jolt of very sweet yeast that tickles the nostrils.

The colour I was finding hard to pin down; its definitely golden but I couldn’t place what kind. Then I realised I see that colour many, many times, and this might put you off, but if your urinary system isn’t troubled, you’ll see it a lot as well. That’s not to say its a bad thing, it took some time to liken it to something specific, so it shouldn’t put the drinker off.

Clocking in at 5% its perhaps at some people’s higher end of the session scale, but its certainly incredibly drinkable. Very light and refreshing it has a real thirst quenching quality to it. All the way through the taste there are plenty of citrus notes, really homing in on the lemon, which gives it its refreshing quality.

This switches direction on the mid-taste however, to something a little more bitter and tart, which is the yeast kicking into the taste-buds. This plays nicely with the spikey fizz which contrasts with both the citrus and yeast elements and follows right the way through to the syrupy sweet after-taste.

There wasn’t any doubt for Ale to the King already, but its good to point out a really charming beer you might overlook due to the less than exciting label.

Seek this dangerously drinkable ale out and you won’t be disappointed.

Review: Winter Ale – Aledvent Calendbeer 8

Beer: Winter Ale
Brewery: The Brooklyn  Brewery
Type: Scottish ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.1% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number:

No need for explanations as to why this brew was chosen; with a name like Winter Ale Ale to the King and The Brooklyn Brewery are on solid festive ground. Its also got a nice link back to here, Scotland, in that its brewed with marris otter malts.

The colour too is on solid festive ground, its a beautiful shade of dark crimson. I wouldn’t even describe it as brown that’s particularly red. Its easily a red with a lot of brown, not the other way around. The head dissipates quickly, elegantly emphasising this shade.

On the nose you’re first hit by a very fresh, sweet lemon which rapidly and suddenly changes flavour to spent matchwood. Its got a nice lightness to it with plenty of character behind.

Its a hard beer to pin down on the taste. I had to give it a good wash round the mouth to pin anything down. That isn’t to say its muddy like There is No Santa, it would be more correct to call Winter Ale complicated.  Most noticeable on the mid-taste is chestnut, but not roast, more the shell of a raw, uncooked one. Perhaps not quite the Christmassy smell the brewers were going after, but pretty close.

On another good, long taste you get sherbet on the foretaste, right on the tip of the tongue and just faintly the sweetness of a gob-stopper.

There’s also a dominant taste permeating the whole thing of cold, winter rain that brings to mind the wet, shiny tarmac reflecting street lights in December. This is combined with caster sugar which lends almost too much sweetness to the drink.

The after-taste is a bit of a conundrum. Its an an almost rubbery sensation, like when you hit your face on a bouncy castle as a child, but its not an unpleasant one.

And that’s what Winter Ale is, its a puzzle. The flavours are complicated yet not messy and there are sensations in there that shouldn’t be pleasant but somehow are. And I’m puzzled myself. I’m not entirely sure I can recommend this beer as a really good one. A good one, certainly, but really good? It just seems to lack that something special.

Review: Hefeweizen – Aledvent Calendbeer 7

Beer: Hefeweizen
Brewery: Stewart Brewing
Type:  Wheat Beer
Served: Bottled
Alc:  5.5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 7

The thought of a beer from Stewart Brewing doesn’t leave this reviewer particularly excited. Having sampled its other brews including Edinburgh Gold and Copper Cascade, I’ve often found their beers a little characterless and lightweight. But since Christmas is the season of goodwill and generosity I thought I’d give the Edinburgh based brewery another crack of the whip with its rather more upmarket Hefeweizen.

Another beer with a very powerful nose, it hits with the aromatic force of walking into a proper sweetshop for the first time. There’s a lovely, overly sweet smell of those foam banana sweets emanating from its nice frothy white head.

The head contrasts nicely with the luscious body, a very opaque brown, hay colour.

On the taste is straight up proper banana of the fruit variety which dominates all the way through the sip. The foretaste is of bright buttercups and this leads to hints of elderberry and a bitter pear flavour. The whole thing is reminiscent of the smell of a summary farm yard.  The sweetshop creeps back in on the mid-taste which slightly evokes high quality pink marshmallows.

Its a very clean cut beer; there’s almost absolutely no aftertaste, which is a pleasant sensation in its unusualness, like the taste is suddenly cut off with a sharp razor.

So it pays to give another chance, or at least in the case of Stewart Brewing. And while I wouldn’t recommend their regular beers, I’ll definitely be checking out their other, higher tier ales in the future. Hefeweizen has proven to be that nice little Christmas present hidden behind the tree just when you think all the gifts are unwrapped.

Aledvent Calendbeer selection 2

If you haven’t been keeping up, Ale to the King has been counting down to Christmas in the best way it can think of.  While many go for the common or garden advent calendar with chocolate and others prefer the more traditional advent candle, Ale to the King has created the Aledvent Calendbeer. A carefully chosen beer that reflects Christmas in one way or another (no matter how tenuous the link!) will be decapitated, drunk and deliberated over until the big day itself.

Selection 1 consisted of Christmas Ale by Goose Island, Paradox Isle of Arran by Brewdog, Black Lager by Zeitgeist, Finch by Natural Selection Brewing, Samuel Smith’s India Ale by Samuel Smith Old Brewery and There is No Santa by Brewdog.

But that was just Selection 1 and as 007 once said, you’ve had your six.

So, without further ado Ale to the King presents you with Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 2:

If you want to drink along with Ale to the King and compare notes, then you will need:

  • Hefeweizen by Stewart Brewing
  • Winter Ale by The Brooklyn Brewery
  • India Pale Ale by Knops Beer Company
  • Hop Trials – Nelson Sauvin by Tryst
  • St. Mungo by West Brewery

If you’ve not been able to keep up with the Aledvent Calendbeer  then now’s a great time to get on board and even make up for lost time by having a second beer a day from Selection 1!

So charge your glasses and raise it in honour of the ever approaching jolly Saint Nick. Because Christmas is a time for treating yourself as well!

What did you think of the Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 1? Disagree with Ale to the King‘s verdict on There’s No Santa or the praise heaped upon Goose Island’s Christmas Ale? Please, do sound off in the comments below!

Post Navigation