My Beer Advent Calendar 2011
I‘m enjoying a different beer every day in advent.
Kids get a calendar with chocolates or other goodies hidden behind each date; I get a beer!
What is an advent calendar? I posted all about that, in 2009 – Rob’s Advent calendar
This is the fourth year of my beer advent calendar. I’ve enjoyed sampling a few beers I might not otherwise try and there’s been an element of excitement as I open each bottle, not knowing what I am going to discover.
I score the beers between 1 and 10. Assuming ALL beer is drinkable so there is no zero and 10 is the best. Normally I wouldn’t buy a beer rating under 6 and more preferably over 7. My ratings are between the 24 beers tasted and don’t relate to any previous year.
Last year My Beer Advent Calendar 2010 I sampled several beers from Aussie Boutique Brewery Beers. There were some pleasant surprises and some nasty shocks. This year I am going to attempt a PERFECT calendar with no beer scoring below 6.
Day1: Carlton Draught
The first day of my Advent Beer calendar YAY! I choose to open a bottle of Carlton Draught. This is my kind of beer, a crisp full strength Lager, consistently good. It pours with a perfect amber colour and has a smooth full bodied flavour. I drank this one and wished I’d bought more!
Verdict: Very Drinkable Score:7.6
Day 2: Dry Dock
Dry Dock is made by the Sail & Anchor brewery, now partly owned by the Woolworths group. It poured a lighter yellow, with a little head. The taste was light lager with a slight vanilla note. The bottle is only 330mls; beer consumers are being conned to buy less for the same price as 375ml stubbies.
Apparently Dry Dock is brewed to compete with Tooheys Extra Dry. I think the vanilla note would turn me off after drinking a few of these, but this bottle passed above the ‘drinkable’ rating of 6.
Verdict: Perhaps a lighter taste than I prefer Score:6.5
Day 3: Boags Draught
Boags Draught, brewed in Tasmania, has a good reputation for taste and pureness which this bottle supported. It poured into the glass golden amber with a good head. It tasted good with slight caramel note and a pleasant mouthfeel.
This was a tasty drop, with gentle carbonation. I might try a carton sometime, as a change from my favourite beers, which are VB and Coopers Pale Ale.
Verdict: Drinkable Score: 7.5
Day 4: Gage Premium Lager
I tried this one last year and suspected I had an ‘off’ bottle, I wanted to see if that was the case so I grabbed another 330ml bottle for this 2011 Advent Beer Calendar. I poured some into a glass and took a sip – it wasn’t ‘off’ but there was an overall feeling of a beer that hadn’t brewed correctly. There was an obvious hop taste, which I think is Hallertau, different to the usual Pride of Ringwood, which is the mainstay hops of Carlton Breweries. There was also an obvious Malt taste, as if the ingredients hadn’t fused together. Not what I would call a refined ‘Premium Lager’.
The nose was a little bit skunky, not the expected clean beer smell. I rated this just above my bottom line of 6, I would buy it, but it’d be about last choice.
Verdict: Just above my accepted level Score: 6.3
Day 5:Bluetongue Premium Lager
Last year I enjoyed Bluetongue Pilsner very much so I decided to give their Premium Lager a go and I wasn’t disappointed.
The taste was perhaps plain but there was nothing to dislike. Aroma and mouthfeel about what you’d expect from a Premium Lager, with a slight floral aroma.
The recipe was conceived by former Toohey’s head brewer Bruce Peachey and that makes it as Aussie as they come!
Verdict: good Score: 7
Day 6:Bulimba Gold Top Pale Ale
This beer was given to me by shed mate Bob. I think this is a beer that was brewed by Carton united Breweries in the Brisbane region a while ago and this new batch is to commemorate it. It was very tasty, I could easily drink more of this brew. It showed some similarities with VB while not being the same – colour , head, taste aroma all perfectly matched.
A Fine drop
Verdict: Very drinkable Score: 7.5
Day 7: Spitfire
This is my favourite of the UK beers imported here. It is more carbonated than a UK draught bitter and maybe even more bitter than a ‘bitter’, especially in the after taste. It’s the closest thing I have found so far to my favourite beer, which would be a pint of bitter in an English Pub.
Taken from a professional review -” It is a classic Pale Ale and now brewed by Britain’s oldest brewery, Shephard Neame. The beer has a deep amber colour with lots of bold and traditional pale malt flavours. Clean and hoppy with high carbonation and honey-flavours combined with a woody malt. Long, bitter finish.”
Verdict:Excellent Beer!! Score: 9.2
Day 8: Budweiser
Self titled, “The King of Beers” !! Bud is highest selling beer in the world, but that may be due to it’s large market place in the US, plus it’s low price there.
I enjoy drinking bud occasionally and it was a tasty drop after a hot day. It poured into the glass with a pale straw colour and quite a good head, which it retained. It’s a light tasting, light bodied beer.
I’ve noticed when drinking 3 or 4 Buds that there is a slight sourness in the after taste of this otherwise mild tasting brew. The alc by vol is 5%, but the bottle is small and also full of small print which mentions ‘Beechwood Ageing’ and that Rice as well as the more traditional Grain and Malt is used in the brewing process.
I enjoyed this bottle of Bud, it’s an easy to drink beer.
Verdict: Good Stuff Score: 7.5
Day 9: Crown Lager
This could easily be called the King of Aussie Lagers. Brewed since 1919, originally it was only available to an exclusive group of diplomats and visiting dignitaries. Release to the general public in June 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the brew.
Crown Lager has a good bitter taste, firm amber colour, a creaminess to the mouthfeel with a malty mid-palate and crisp clean hop finish that are all blended together to perfection. This is the Aussie Lager all other lagers aspire to be.
I often think Crown Lager is like an upmarket VB- they have similarities, both use Pride of Ringwood hops, are close to the same colour etc but after this Crownie I had a VB and there was a definite difference. VB is my beer of choice, though Crown Lager would be if it was cheaper!!
Verdict: Buy me a carton- Please!!! Score:9
Day 10: Boston Lager
I discovered this beer last year. It reminds me very much of English Bitter and is very enjoyable to drink. It pours a golden orange colour with good head. It has a strong malty flavour with a nice degree of bitterness.
I never expected this American Lager to remind me so much of a UK Bitter. Boston Lager is smooth to drink, medium bodied and uses Hallertau Mittelfruh and Tettnang Tettnanger hops which give it just the right amount of bitterness. This beer is expertly brewed to combine all the favours.
The recipe is actually one that owner Jim Koch’s great-great-grandfather Louis Koch brewed in St. Louis in the 1870’s. Jim Koch first brewed Samuel Adams Boston Lager in 1985 and distributed it in the Boston area. he soon had a wide distribution area and a high demand on both coasts.
Verdict: Very drinkable Score: 8.4
Day 11: Stella Artois
Yesterday a GREAT THIRST met a GREAT BEER!! I know Stella is a good beer but somehow this Stella was OUTSTANDING. Perhaps once in 9 months I have a beer that just tastes perfect – it must be a combination of a fresh brew and my palate that day. Anyway it happened with this beer!! It was incredible.
The Stella poured pale straw colour into a glass showing a good head. The aroma captivated me, it was fantastic. It reminded me of European lagers I had enjoyed 30+ years ago!! I kept smelling and enjoying the aroma without tasting a drop!
I’ve enjoyed Stella many times before but this bottle and the moment were exceptional. The taste is similar to Carlsberg – there’s some citrus, some bitterness but also some sweetness.
Brewers Description: Stella Artois was first brewed as a Christmas beer in Leuven Belgium. It was named Stella, from the star of Christmas, and Artois after Sebastian Artois, founder of the brewery.
It’s brewed to perfection using the original Stella Artois yeast and the celebrated Saaz hops. It’s the optimum premium lager, with it’s full flavour and clean crisp taste.
It is still brewed using only natural ingredients, with the same process of mixing and fermentation as in the old days.
I would normally score Stella around 9 but this was an exceptional experience.
Verdict:An EXCEPTIONAL BOTTLE!! Score: 9.8
Day 12: Fursty Ferret
This English Beer from the badger brewery in Dorset tastes much better than its name suggests. It pours dark orange, with a good head and smells complex. It has a full bodied mouthfeel and the taste seems more concentrated than it needs to be. However, this is an excellent UK beer, very enjoyable and up there with my other favourite imported UK beers. The bottle is a good 500ml size.
The taste overall is bitter and malty with several other unidentified, subtle but well blended, ingredients. The bottle label suggests, ‘A Tawny Amber Ale with a sweet nutty palate and hoppy aroma with hints of Seville Oranges’- so that must be it. I don’t always get all that, I’m too busy drinking and enjoying it!!
Verdict: Highly Drinkable Score: 9
Day 13: Coopers Mild Ale
This beer is no stranger, it’s a favourite of mine. In fact it’s the only mid strength beer I enjoy drinking. In typical Coopers fashion it’s secondary-brewed in the bottle and there is a lot of sediment.
Shed mate El Rasheed put me onto Coopers a few years ago. At first I handled the bottles very carefully so as not to disturb the sediment but after a time I decided it was better to shake the bottle and spread the sediment so that it wasn’t all there at the end.
The beer pours a light golden colour, with a good head. It has a strong mouthfeel and more carbonation than perhaps an ale should have. There is that distinctive yeast taste that I associate with homebrew although it’s no-where near as strong. The mouthfeel is good; there’s some substance to this beer which tastes great and doesn’t suffer from being a 3.5% alc mid strength.
Sweetness slightly outbalances bitterness although there is no added sugar. The smooth malt character is balanced by a triple hopping with Pride of Ringwood and Saaz hops and Coopers Mild Ale is brewed with a selection of barley and wheat malt.
I’ve always thought I drink beer for the taste not the alcohol and this beer proves that.
Verdict: Excellent Score: 8.3
Day 14: Tiger Lager
A lovely drop which remind me of a mild version of Dutch Lagers. Not surprising because it’s brewed using an exclusive strain of yeast that is cultured in Holland. The hops are imported from Germany.
It’s a thinnish beer, easy to drink with a mild taste of corn and pale malts.
Tiger is a clean simple lager with a light corn yellow colour and a small head. Unfortunately the bottle is a small 330ml yet the carton costs more or the same as the brands with 375ml bottles.
Tiger has been compared as a Budweiser with more taste, both beers have a lighter taste than Aussie lagers, and sometimes I enjoy that change. Tiger is brewed in several countries, the original brewery being in Singapore, where this bottle was brewed.
Verdict: Enjoyable Dutch style beer Score: 7.5
Day 15: Adnams Bitter
I grew up in the UK not too far from the Adnams brewery in Southwold. I’ve tried and enjoyed their ‘Broadside’ but hadn’t seen this Bitter before. Most imported UK beers in 500ml bottles or cans are around $7 here, but this bitter was under $5 – good value.
It poured into a glass with a one finger head that quickly disappeared and left lacing on the glass. The colour was a dark coppery golden and the aroma was all malt. There is a good hoppy bitterness that lingers and as I continued to drink this beer I began to notice a slight honey aftertaste.
From the Adnams brewery – “Brewed with the finest East Anglian malted barley, sourced locally to the brewery, and some Crystal malt to give a malty backbone to the beer. We use a blend of hop varieties at the start of the boil and then add Fuggles late in the boil to preserve the aroma of this traditional English hop. This hop adds herbal and grassy flavours to the beer. We add more Fuggles to each cask so that the flavour of the hops infuses into the beer.”
Uk draught bitter is one of my favourite beers and I enjoyed this Adnams bitter, but I wonder if they have added anything to make the brew last longer for export because there appears to be a more complicated taste than I remember UK bitter to be, but that could just be comparing bottle beer to draught.
Verdict: A great UK Bitter Score: 9.1
Day 16: Heineken Lager
Another familar brew. I poured half the bottle into a glass and the delicious aroma could be smelled from up to a metre away! The distinctive green bottle contains a pale straw coloured liquid, brewed in Sydney under ‘supervision of Heineken Amsterdam’.
This is a tasty beer, light bodied and not over carbonated, which I’ve always enjoyed drinking, despite the little 33oml bottles. The aroma suggests the hops are Saaz. There is some bitterness which overbalances the sweetness of the barley malt producing a respectable hop bite which I’ve found grows after a few bottles.
Verdict: A Good Dutch Lager Score: 7.6
Day 17:Coopers Original Pale Ale
There’s something about this Pale ale that has got me hooked. VB has been my choice for a long time, yet recently I tried some Coopers Pale Ale and loved it – refreshingly different to VB and I do prefer the Ale taste to Lager. At the moment it’s my beer of choice – I’m addicted!!
The beer is naturally produced, with no additives and as usual with Coopers, undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. This produces slight sediment, nowhere near as much as in Coopers Mild.
The light amber liquid is highly carbonated, with a great malty tasty that has some tartness, and a crisp finishing bitterness thanks to Pride of Ringwood hops.
Who can say what makes us like one beer more than another? Since discovering the joy of Coopers Pale Ale I have read that it has inspired a new generation of ale drinkers. I notice shed mate Bob has been enjoying Coopers Pale Ale recently too.
As I go through another year of my Advent Calendar, I see more clearly the difference between top fermented Ale and bottom fermented Lager and the variations by country in the definition of those two styles, for instance there is the German style, bitter Pilsner Lager, the Dutch style aromatic Lager, the Aussie Lagers which are so different from the European.
There you go, who said education and enjoyment didn’t go together?? haha
Verdict: A Top Drop!! Score: 8.8
Day 18: Oranjeboom Premium Lager
Typical light golden colour Pilsner style Lager, possibly a shade darker than most other Dutch style Lagers. It pours with a white head that soon disappears. There is a sweet malt taste at the start which is followed by a crisp dry bitter finish.
This bottle was brewed in Germany and wikipedia tells me “The brand was originally brewed at the Oranjeboom Brewery in Rotterdam (founded 1671), but that closed in 1990 and production shifted to the Breda brewery. In 1995, the Breda brewery was sold to Interbrew. In 2004, it was closed by InBev, Interbrew’s successor. Production was moved to the Dommelsch brewery where production techniques shifted and new ingredients were used.” – which seems unusual and suggests Oranjeboom has a strong following, otherwise it would have disappeared by now.
The name Oranjeboom literally translates as “Orange Tree” in English and symbolises the Dutch Royal Family tree.
Verdict: Subtly different Dutch Style Brew Score:7.5
Day 19: Courage Directors Special Premium Ale
Wow this might be the best of the UK Imported beers – the taste was malty, the head was solid and lasted, the colour a darker amber, the lightest of brown – a typical UK bitter colour. All the UK beers imported here seem to have a slight unidentified taste, which I call ‘preservative’ although it probably is something else. Thankfully that was missing from this brew.
It’s brewed with English Target hops, burnt Pale and Crystal malts. The aroma was slight and of malt. The taste was just perfect, no particular component standing out, malt and hops perfectly blended. The hoppy finish was lasting, there was a thick mouthfeel and it seemed like a beer I could drink a lot of!!
The label explains that this beer was originally brewed exclusively for the Directors of the Alton brewery, but following demand, the beer was made available to the public.
I doubt anything is going to beat the score I gave the Stella Artois on that exceptional tasting, but this directors impressed me with it’s clean taste and it will be hard for another UK import to beat it.
Verdict: A well blended, great tasting UK Beer Score: 9.5
Day 20: Hofbrau Original
Shed mate Bob gave me this beer to try. It’s brewed in Munich and on the bottle it proudly states “Brewed according to the German Purity Law”. In 2009 we discovered a German beer brewed specifically for Oktoberfest – Erdinger ‘Oktoberfest’ Weissbrau, and we loved it. Ever since then we’ve scoured the shelves for something similar. This beer was not similar to that Oktoberfest beer, so our search continues.
It poured with a thick, brilliant white, head that quickly dissipated. There was a strong fragrance of Noble hops, I thought Hallertau and/or Saaz. The beer was a clear golden colour in the glass.
The taste was of a typical German lager – the mouthfeel was thin, and for me the malt was overbalanced by the hop bitterness throughout the drink, leaving a bitter finish. An alcohol volume of 5.1% is balanced by the small 330ml bottle. In Germany they serve it in Liters, that’s the way to drink beer!!
This was a good beer to have with cheese and salami, its sharp taste and bitterness cutting through and cleansing the palate….for more!
Verdict: Too bitter for me Score: 6.3
Day 21: Carlsberg
This is a very good European lager, certainly one of my favourites. The Carlsberg brewery is in Copenhagen, Denmark, but this bottle was brewed under license by Fosters in Victoria. It is a pale yellow colour with a distinct aroma of noble hops but without the German style bitterness. It’s brewed using pale lager malt, bittering hops, aroma hops and Carlsberg bottom fermenting yeast.
It’s the yeast and aroma hops used make it unique. It has medium body and the taste has a good balance between sweetness and bitterness.
Carlsberg do have their own hop variety called Jacobsen Hallertauer. I’m not sure if it’s used in this brew, I think it’s possible and it’s an interesting story – The brewery discovered hop vines barely surviving in a small area of the vast Carlsberg brewery grounds. They transplanted the cuttings and nurtured them. Called Jacobsen Hallertauer these hops were probably original Danish hops which Jacobsen himself had brought to Denmark and nurtured from cross breeding of German and English varieties over a hundred years ago. They are now grown on very small acreage in Denmark exclusively for Carlsberg. These hops are rich in oils (great for flavor and aroma) and with about a 4.5 to 6% alpha acid (bitter resins) rating, which is somewhat mild.
Verdict: My kind of European Lager Score: 8.5
Day 22: Chang Beer
Another beer that I’ve enjoyed before, this one comes from Thailand. Poured into a glass, the Lager is light coloured and looks hazy. There is a familiar but slight European Lager aroma and the mouthfeel and taste are thin. This is an easy beer to drink with only a small bitter aftertaste which isn’t overpowering.
Chang pours with a good head that quickly disappears and overall it’s well balanced with a slight bitterness that doesn’t linger. Although the alcohol is 5% it’s a light tasting lager that’s brewed from Malt and Rice with ‘natural’ water.
Chang Beer only began production 1995 and is the top-selling brand in Thailand. In December 2000 Carlsberg and Chang established a 50/50 joint venture, Carlsberg Asia, but this was dissolved in 2005.
I enjoy drinking Chang sometimes for a change. I like the Dutch style hop aroma and that it is a simple tasting beer that doesn’t take over.
Verdict: Enjoyable beer Score: 7.5
Day 23: Grolsch Premium Lager
This Dutch beer is brewed under license in Australia. Famous for it’s swingtop stopper lid, I bought the capped bottle because it was cheaper 😉
In the glass it looks pale yellow and watery but the taste is firmer than it looks, with a bitterness that grows as the glass empties and is similar to a German style Lager. From this evidence I would guess there are both aroma hops- Saaz or Hallertauer Mittelfrüh and a good dose of German Bittering hops, perhaps Hallertauer Magnum or similar. Update: Grolsch use Hallertau Perle hops for aroma, which may explain the low aroma strength.
This is a light tasting lager with only a small aroma of Dutch style lagers and a strong German style bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is thin and confused by the strong carbonation and the bitterness that develops while drinking it. that is to say I enjoyed the first few mouthfulls more than the last few. I would place this lager closer to German Style than Dutch style and because of that it would not be a choice beer for me.
While there is nothing wrong with the beer it’s not my personal preference and have rated it accordingly.
Verdict: Drinkable but not my favourite Score: 6.5
Day 24: VB
This is my daily choice of beer. Victoria Bitter is actually an Australian Style Lager and is constantly a good drop.It’s brewed by Carlton & United Beverages and is Australia’s most popular beer, accounting for almost 25% of domestic beer consumption.
In a glass VB pours with a thick white head and is golden coloured. The initial taste can show woody notes and the mouthfeel is medium. Hops yeast and malt are finely balanced and I think of this brew as ‘smooth’ when compared to most other Lagers.
Although I usually buy VB in cans because of the discounted price of a 30 tin slab, there is a subtle improvement in an already good beer when it’s in a bottle.
It has a stronger taste than American beers but softer than the strong European Lagers. Best serve well chilled, it’s an easy drinking beer.
Taken from a review at about.com “VB – It’s about men dripping with perspiration and schooners dripping with condensation; it’s about a few tinnies in the dinghy with some mates out for a fish; and it’s about taking a long, satisfying gulp and then wiping your mouth with a masculine forearm.”
This is the view the TV ads have promoted for several decades, the most famous TV ads featured Aussie actor John Meillon, who voiced Victoria Bitter commercials until his death in 1989. After his death, his son took over the role briefly, before using computer enhanced voice of John Meillon to voice over the commercials. To this date (14 years after his death), he is still the voice of VB.
Verdict: Always a very good beer Score:8.9
Here we are at the end of another Advent Beer Calendar. It’s been another enjoyable trip through many beers, some that I only have occasionally and a few new brews as well.
I have succeeded in my mission to have PERFECT calendar with no beer scoring below 6. For those interested in my rating system, I would never buy a beer under 7 unless there was no choice and then 6 would be my bottom line.
It’s impossible to fairly rate Lagers against Ales because some days I feel like an Ale and some days a Lager. so when rating a Lager I’ve compared it to other Lagers I’ve had this month, and the same with Ales. Looking back it would seem that overall I prefer Ales to Lagers, but it’s always pleasant to have a change.
This year I have focused a lot on the hops used. Hops make such a difference to a beers Aroma and Bitterness. There is Early hopping, Late hopping & Dry hopping- all make various adjustments to the aroma and taste of a brew. Most of the breweries use their own special yeast and this too affects the taste, as does the type of malt, the addition of crystal Malt and even Rice grains to some of the beers sampled.
As any home brewer knows, brewing is a complex process and it has been a pleasure to sample ALL of this years beers- I’m looking forward to next years Advent calendar already!! Thanks for reading.