It was with great trepidation that I signed up for the GTA Brews Advent Calendar. Even though I am in the brewmaster program, most of these people have way better homebrew game than I do. Dedicated space, keezers, fermentation fridges – most of them have way better toys.
But I decided what the hell, and did it anyway. I needed to do a second trial of the chai winter warmer, so bought bottles and supplies, and bit the bullet.
Everything went well, until time for fermentation. My fermentation chamber is a space under a kitchen counter…no temperature control there. It’s normally 18-20C in the space, and normally gives good results even though a little on the warm side for most yeast.
I could not have anticipated a highly unseasonal warm front just after the building turned off the air conditioning. The temperature under the cupboard got closer to 24-26C.
I opened my beer on December 2nd with everyone else, and was disappointed but not surprised to taste bananas phenols. Dammit.
Some people still liked it, saying the spice blend was nice and robust. Others weren’t keen, citing too much spice, and said they dumped it.
I was in the latter group.
Edit: I now have this. Suck it, fermentation off-flavours!
I finished my advent calendar a little late. Ok, a lot late. Between one thing (illness) and another (food coma courtesy of That Damned Canasian), it went a bit (a long bit) past the 25th. And then I forgot that a blog draft does not equal a blog post.
Belatedly, here is what was in my advent calendar, in numerical order:
3. Neustadt Springs Big Dog Porter: a gift from a derby friend, it was lovely after the taste bomb that is the Mikkeller Black. The red wine added gave it an interesting tang, but I’m not sure I’d run out and buy more of it.
4. Bellwoods Roman Candle IPA: Lots of citrus and pine, with some lemon pepper on the tongue. While I’ll never be an IPA disciple, I would drink this again.
5. Weyerbacher Insanity: A bourbon barrel aged barley wine gifted to me by a classmate. What’s not to love? Lots of vanilla and dark fruit, with whiskey and anise notes.
6. Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break: I will freely admit to already being a tad tipsy when I tried this, but I do remember a great sweet malt and biscuit flavour, with vanilla and chocolate playing nicely together. Need to find some more.
7. Geuze Fond Tradition: I keep coming back to this very drinkable sour when I want something to break to my winter desire for dark and sweet beer.
8. Black Oak Triple Chocolate Cherry Stout: this was inadvertently cellared for a year, as I forgot it in the back of the beer cupboard. Oops. The year treated it well, bringing out more cherry and chocolate while smoothing out some of the bitterness I noted.
9. Great Lakes Brewery Canuck: It was in the fridge, left over from something or other. I know there are many who enjoy it, but the pink grapefruit bitterness is too much for my palate.
10. Brasserie des Quatres Lunes Saison Automne: I spent 20 minutes trying to get the cork out, breaking the corkscrew I bought while on our anniversary trip in the process. I was really too pissed off to enjoy it by the time it hit my glass.
11. Double Trouble French Press Vanilla Stout: Where other coffee/vanilla stouts come across as sweet or cloying, this one is nicely balanced between the smoothness of the vanilla and the bitterness of the coffee. Definitely buying more.
12. Barley Days Yuletide Porter: This beer had stuck in my mind all year after drinking it with Jen at The Hole in The Wall last holiday season, so I was pleased to see it in bottles at the LCBO. I feel that the cherries are less prevalent in the bottle than I remember the draft to be, and it has a great chocolate taste that works well with a trashy novel and a bubble bath. Just sayin’.
13: Tea Time – English Bitter with tea (homebrew): I had made this last year as a test for Emma Christensen’s upcoming book. There was a wee bit of an issue with over-carbonation, and I was left with about 2 ounces of beer once it stopped foaming. The English bitter style beer was quite dry, and the black tea addition gave it a nice lingering aftertaste without any tannins.
14. Mort Subite: I drank this after the work holiday party where the evening finished off with cheap tequila shots and other things. I’m going to assume it was true to the brand, with a strong cherry tartness.
15. Coconut Porter (homebrew): A donation from a classmate. He had warned me it might be a little light on the carbonation, and he was right. There was lots of sweet coconut and chocolate in the aroma and taste – it was like drinking a Mounds chocolate bar. Delicious!
16. Smoked Cherry Ale (homebrew): I made this in late summer. The recipe said to let it age 6 months; at this the 4 month mark the cherry and the smoke seem in a good balance. Can’t wait until February, will compare it with the batch with just the regular malt.
17. Wellington County Dark Ale: Really malty with mild fig, nuts and chocolate notes. Really glad I drank it instead of cooking with it (although I’m sure it would make a nice fondue addition).
18. Omnipollo Nebuchadnezzar: It was a crappy kind of a day, so I drank rather than tasted.
19. Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball: My mid-week landlord brought me back a bottle from his Vegas trip, because he thought of me as soon as he read the name on the label. Liked the strong malt backbone of caramel and biscuit, offset by a moderate hop bitterness. Lots of alc0hol heat in the finish.
20. Rochefort Trappistes 10: Yes. Oh gods, yes. So wonderful.
21. Nogne O Underlig Jul: A wonderful seasonal, with herbs and spices blended in a way that just say Christmas to me.
22. Turtle Island Squashed Pumpkin: Note to self – drink the beer, don’t hoard the beer. I’d kept it too long and the wet cardboard smell of oxidation was prevalent.
23. Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout: Drank this by a roaring fire in a snow-covered Northern cottage. It was perfect for that perfect moment.
24. Sawdust City Red Rocket Stout: Love the chocolate and espresso, but the cayenne is just too much burn for me.
25. Renaissance Tribute Barley Wine 2012: I could not have picked a better beer for Christmas than this one. Boozy and full of dark fruit smells and tastes – just like my grandma’s christmas pudding!
It was supposed to be Ingredients class first thing today, but this happened:
Which meant that instead of Ingredients, Comm, Math and then work, I got to meet a very nice tow truck driver, take the train in to Toronto, meet my beloved and go shopping for this:
I pick it up on Saturday. I am now more of a broke student than I was before, but at least this one won’t blow upon the Garden City Skyway.
Note: It didn’t so much blow up, as make an increasingly loud noise, like someone was shaking a spray paint can near my ear, then suddenly make a loud THWAP noise that was echoed a bit as something that wasn’t supposed to come loose, did. At least the noise stopped as I coasted down the other side of the bridge.
Today is the first day of the beer advent calendar, and I am so very glad I did this. I needed a nice surprise.
This Mikkeller K:rlek Pale Ale pours a nice hazy sunny-gold, with a great tropical aroma of pineapple and lemons. There’s more citrus and some mango in the taste, followed by a slight sour tang that morphs into a lingering hop bitterness at the back of the tongue.
It makes me think of a warm summer day, which is not a bad way to end today.
I have never had an advent calendar for the holidays to the best of my recollection. I wanted one though. The thought of little count-down treats to be unwrapped each day before the big day of Christmas appeals to me. I do love opening presents of any size. The closest I have gotten was last year when my younger brother bought me a beer advent calendar as a Christmas present. It was one of the most generous and thoughtful gifts he has ever given me.
However, he lives in Calgary. We thought long and hard about how to get the box of beer to me, but there was just no way. So, being the generous sister I am, I instructed him to drink them and tell me about them.
Apparently they were good.
They had just released the 2014 edition when I was out there in October. I’ve read about the possible negatives about this kind of collection, about old and oxidized beer with numerous off-flavours. It didn’t matter. As soon as I saw it, I coveted it. If I wasn’t so broke and could have figured out a way to get it on the plane, there would be one sitting in a prominent place in my apartment, waiting for tomorrow.
Fast forward to last weekend, when Jordan St. John wrote a post on his blog about beer advent calendars, why we can’t have them under the current liquor laws (stupid outdated LCBO/Beer Store rules), and a few suggestions to make your own.
Wait, what? Make my own? Cue well, duh, forehead-smacking, I-could-have-had-a-V8-esque moment.
I have gone through my stash of beer-I-bought-and-should-drink-instead-of-hoard and bought some new and interesting (to me) bottles and cans to augment it. I had my beloved randomly package them in numbered LCBO bottle bags to maintain the element of surprise. They’re not pretty, but I am broke and they were free.
Tomorrow is December 1st, and I can’t wait to see what the first one will be!