On the first day of Christmas my true love got me drunk...
So a mutual friend and fan of Malts in Your Mouth asked us to put together a custom Craft Beer Advent Calendar for him and his girlfriend to enjoy this holiday season. After putting some thought into it we created a list that we are very happy with. We had enough positive reaction to it that we decided to share it with the whole MiYM community and see what everyone thought. We hope you like it as much as we do!
Notes on the beer selection methodology: The methodology revolved around the fact that we wanted to make a list that was Christmas-y and season appropriate (and a personal request from the friend who didn't want anything with "a ton of hops"). As a result, we steered away from anything that as has a high IBU. This excluded most IPAs, IPLs, many variations of Pale Ales, and basically anything with ton of hops (there might be a few that slipped in, but that’s just how we do). Instead we focused on lighter citrusy, fruit flavors and a light taste to start off the countdown and then we moved into heavier, dark beers as the season approaches draws to close.
There are over 24 unique breweries and beer styles (sometimes if we think a beer might be particularly difficult to find we double-up on options) that comprise this calendar list PLUS a bonus barrel-aged beer for Christmas Day itself (gotta get festive up in here).
The majority of the beers we selected for the list were brands that we could find in our local liquor stores and craft beer sellers (note: these were New England stores and results may vary by location). If you are unable to find the particular brewery or beer that we called out feel free to substitute for something similar based on the flavor profile. The secret is to not stress out about it and just go with what you think you would most enjoy, while trying to expand your horizons. After all, this is supposed to be an enjoyable experience!
If people are interested in this we will certainly consider doing another one for 2016.
HO! HO! HO!
DAY 1 - December 1st
Brewery: Brouwerij Lindemans
Beer: Lindemans Framboise
Flavor Profile: I have been trying to get more into Lambics the last couple of years. One of the ones that has become very popular over the last several years are the Lindeman lines. Lindemans is a good start for anyone not overly familiar with this style. It is an approachable drink with a low alcohol content. It has more of a champagne/wine flavor to it than that of your standard beer with little to no carbonation to it.
DAY 2 - December 2nd
Brewery: Wachusett Brewing Company
Beer: Bella Czech Pils
Flavor Profile: This is one Pilsner that I have enjoyed a few times now and is a very solid choice for in a world of watery, flavorless pils. It is a traditional style Czech Pilsner and is brewed with all German and Czech hops. The combination of European hops and malts help create a noble hop type flavor with an additional spiciness of Czech Saaz.
DAY 3 - December 3rd
Style: Blueberry Ale
Brewery: Wachusett Brewing Company
Beer: Wachusett Blueberry Ale
Flavor Profile: I know, I know, another two beers made by the same brewery, side-by-side. But that's only because these guys, in my opinion, have the best blueberry game anywhere. It has slight aroma of blueberry, balanced by a subtle flavor of malt and light effervescence that ferments into one delicious wheat ale.
DAY 4 - December 4th
Style: Cranberry Ale
Brewery: Harpoon Brewery
Beer: Grateful Harvest Ale
Flavor Profile: Harpoon Grateful Harvest is a beer brewed with Thanksgiving celebrations in mind, which is why we're including it early on in the list. It uses a puree of freshly harvested cranberries, donated by local cranberry farm AD Makepeace, which lends a subtle tartness to the beer. The cranberry flavor complements the malty characters derived by the combination of Munich and Vienna malts. An addition of CaraMunich malt enhances the beer’s reddish hue and adds a touch of sweetness, while Northern Brewer bittering hops complement the slight cranberry tartness.
DAY 5 - December 5th
Style: Gingerbread Ale
Brewery: Shipyard Brewing Company
Flavor Profile: 'Tis the season for sugarplum fairies, snowball fights, and gingerbread, which is why these guys made the list. It's a really unique brew that, surprisingly, does in fact taste like gingerbread cookies in a bottle. There are a lot of molasses and brown sugar flavors to be had in this beer along with a strong presence of ginger (obviously), cloves, and cinnamon.
DAY 6 - December 6th
Style: Sour Beer
Brewery: Boulevard Brewing Company
Beer: The Tell-Tale Tart
Flavor Profile: Like most good beers this one is based on the concepts of madness and murder...wait a second. Seriously though, this is a solidly good beer and is named in honor of the Edgar Allen Poe short-story, "The Tell-Tale Heart". If you like your sours to pucker your face and take away your ability to breath (like some people we know) then this one might not meet that bill. BUT, if you like a beer with complex flavors and a nice tartness that enhances the flavor then you will be a happy camper. The Tell-Tale Tart is a solid introduction to the sour ale style for anyone who is looking for a gateway beer. It has a nice acidic flavor that is complemented by the biscuit-y malts used during fermentation. It'll be a nice tart addition to your Christmas wishlist.
DAY 7 - December 7th
Brewery: Down The Road Brewery
Beer: Rasenmaher Kölsch
Flavor Profile: These guys might be relatively new to the beer scene, but they have hit the ground running . Everything I have had from is absolutely top notch and this Kölsch is no exception. They brew using German hops and malts to create a crisp, clean taste that is both light and smooth.
DAY 8 - December 8th
Brewery: 3 Floyds Brewing Company
Beer: Drunk Monk
Flavor Profile: There are a lot of really good Hefes in the market today (for which I am particuarly thankful) and 3 Floyd's brew certainly rises to the top. This is an aromatic Bavarian-style beer with mild herbal flavors, banana, and a light honey sweetness.
DAY 9 - December 9th
Brewery: Clown Shoes
Flavor Profile: There are a few wheat beers on this list, but sine we've already enjoyed aGerman hefe, let's blitzkrieg eastward towards Belgium. Witbier literally translates to: Wheat Beer. But the primary difference between a Witbier and a Hefeweizen is that the Witbier is crafted in the Belgian-style. Clementine is a light and crisp beer and has a nice zesty flavor to it. And instead of an extract, it is brewed with actual clementine peels in it. That little bit of extra loving really comes through in the flavor and is complimented by the addition of coriander.
Brewery: Allagash Brewing Company
Flavor Profile: Another tremendous option is Allagash White. Slightly clouded with yeast goodness and packed with HUGE flavor. Allagash is one of my all-time favorite breweries and this is one of their best beers. But you have probably had this, while Clown Shoes is a little less main stream. So I will let you decide what you want, comrade."
DAY 10 - December 10th
Brewery: Ommegang Brewery
Flavor Profile: This a Belgian-style Saison, which makes sense since these guys are inspired by all things Belgian. What this means for us the honored beer drinker is that we get a nice spice that you don't always see it the French-styles. It has champagne-esque qualityto it and is packed full of ginger, orange, and toasted grains. Honestly a fantastic beer. Ommegang is just one of those breweries you can't go wrong with.
Brewery: Down The Road Brewery
Beer: Fée des Fleurs
Flavor Profile: This is a French-style Saison and is one of my all-time favorite Saisons (check out our podcast review). The only that this is a secondary option for this style is because we had already included Down The Road earlier in the list. It has a high alcohol content and very cloudy, yeasy finish to it. If you don't like yeast in your beer then you might not enjoy this option. Because you will definitely get the yeast. I personally recommend agitating (basically rolling it gently in your hand at a 45-degree angle before opening....that's what she said) the bottle and saving the very last pour in a separate glass as a taste comparison. Doing this will really help to give you an appreciation of how much yeast can affect the flavor.
DAY 11 - December 11th
Brewery: Wasatch Brewery
Flavor Profile: I have always found that Ambers and Reds can be, in general, very hit or miss in regards to overall flavor and complexity. To me, Evolution is definitely a hit. It has a beautiful amber coloring that grabs you immediately and the aroma of malt that melds together in a complex, though not overpowering experience.
Brewery: Maine Beer Company
Flavor Profile: If you can't find Wasatch (they're out of Utah) grab Zoe. This brewery is awesome. All their beers have super simple designs on them and are complimented with great flavor. This one is no exception and is one of my favorite ambers. It is named in honor of the head brewer's daughter, Zoe. You will get raisins and chocolaty notes as well.
DAY 12 - December 12th
Style: Brown Ale
Brewery: Smuttynose Brewing Company
Beer: Old Brown Dog
Flavor Profile: I am putting in a brown ale to break up the yeasty beers we have had the last couple days with something a little darker and maltier. This is an American-style brown ale fits the bill. Because it is an American-style you'll get additional hops and a fuller-bodied beer. It is a rich, flavorful brown that is at once comforting enough to get your through the cold winters, but not so heavy that you can't put away a six-pack.
DAY 13 - December 13th
Brewery: Troegs Independent Brewing
Beer: Troegenator Double Bock
Flavor Profile: You couldn't have a complete holiday list without Troegs to round things out. This is an independent brewery that is within spitting distance of Hershey Park in Hershey, PA. They put out some darn fine brews, if I do say so myself. This is a strong lager that has flavors of caramel, chocolate, and fruit. It feels so indulgent that you'll think you opened your presents early. This brew comes highly recommended.
DAY 14 - December 14th
Brewery: Brauerei Aying
Beer: Ayinger Ur-Weisse
Flavor Profile: Dunkel-what? A dunkelweizen is a Bavarian-style beer and while similar to a Hefe, in regards to yeast, it uses far darker (and often roasted) malts. In this beer you should get deep notes of caramel and perhaps a little smokiness. And while it features yeast heavily it tends to have a far more prevalent malt flavor.
Brewery: Spoetzl (Shiner) Brewery
Beer: Shiner Dunkelweizen
Flavor Profile: If you have problems finding Aying (they're out of Germany after all), then try something a little closer to home. The Shiner Dunkelweizen has a very similar flavor profile, but is much more readily available in the continental United States.
DAY 15 - December 15th
Brewery: Mayflower Brewing Company
Flavor Profile: Pain and simple, Mayflower Brewing is awesome. If you haven't had anything by them then do yourself a favor and get on right now. In fact, you should get this one. The Mayflower porter is a very dark, comforting beer with a hint of smokiness to it. It will have tastes of coffee, chocolate, and caramelized sugars. (note: there are a couple stouts and porters on the list, but they have different emphasis on an element that they feature (e.g. coffees porters are more coffee and chocolate porters is more chocolate). The majority of the flavors that you are getting on this one come mainly from the the roasted grains and types of hops that are used.)
DAY 16 - December 16th
Style: Chocolate Porter
Brewery: Boulder Beer Company
Beer: Shake Chocolate Porter
Flavor Profile: Named Colorado's first craft brewery, these guys have been churning had delightful drinkables for years. The Shake Chocolate Porter? Well, it's a chocolate shake masquerading as a beer. It is incredibly rich and creamy. The flavors are milk chocolate, milk chocolate, milk chocolate. So if you don't like milk chocolate…well I feel sorry for you. Also, don’t drink this beer. But it is one of my all-time favorite porters and hopefully (soon) will be one of yours.
DAY 17 - December 17th
Style: Coffee Porter
Brewery: Atwater Brewery
Beer: Vanilla Java Porter
Flavor Profile: One of the best things coming out of Detroit in these days. Atwater produces some solid beers, but this is by far their best. It is a robust brew with hints of chocolate. They brew using actual coffee beans and it really shines through. The vanilla helps to balance everything out and avoid bitterness. Pro-tip, it mixes really well with chocolate porters.
Brewery: Berkshire Brewing Company
Flavor Profile: This beer is difficult to compare to Atwater because it is just so different. It is a rich, dark porter that is both robust and aromatic. If you can't find the Atwater this is another great beer option.
DAY 18 - December 18th
Style: Chocolate Stout
Brewery: Harpoon Brewery
Beer: Chocolate Stout
Flavor Profile: When I first started drinking beer, back in the day, I didn't care much for porters and stouts. I preferred IPAs, wheat ales, and brown. At that point, super dark beers were simply outside my wheelhouse. This is the beer that changed all that. It got me into stouts and porters and made me realize that there are some really great dark options out there. This is a tremendously tasty beer and the chocolate come right through. And here is another pro-tip: try mixing Harpoon's Raspberry Hefeweizen UFO with this Chocolate Stout. It will change your life and make you question everything you have ever believed in. Give it a try and thank us later.
DAY 19 - December 19th
Style: Coffee Stout
Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
Beer: Breakfast Stout
Flavor Profile: The Breakfast Stout is brewed with oatmeal so don't drink this with a big meal; you will get full. That being said, this is a hearty and delicious beer that gives you a hint of oatmeal, malts, and chocolate. It's flavored with coffee beans from Hawaii and Ethiopia and can substitute as a meal. Best enjoyed with friends!
DAY 20 - December 20th
Style: Oatmeal Stout
Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company
Beer: The Poet
Flavor Profile: Ah, another homage to Edgar Allen Poe. There seems to be a theme here. Does the dead-poet inspire the artists within brewers themselves or is his brooding literary machinations present a template best enjoyed whilst drunk?...Anyways, as you've probably guessed from drinking the Breakfast Stout beers made with and/or from oatmeal can be quite filling. You're not going to be drinking a six pack of it, but you will enjoy it. It's dark and creamy, with a taste reminiscent of toasted marshmallows.
DAY 21 - December 21st
Style: Scotch Ale
Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery
Beer: Old Chub
Flavor Profile: Not to be confused with a Scottish Ale, this is a strong, dark, and slightly slightly sweeter beer. Old Chub is pretty unique and they brew it with beechwood-smoked malts. This gives it an unexpected smoky flavor that's really quite good. Goes great with bar-b-q.
DAY 22 - December 22nd
Style: Milk Stout
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Beer: Milk Stout Nitro
Flavor Profile: If you're asking yourself if milk stouts (also called cream stouts) are brewed actually using milk, the answer is: sort of. They use the lactose that they derive from milk in the brewing process. Because the sugars in lactose don't ferment (unlike most other types of sugars) it allows for greater control in overall sweetness (fun history fact: milk stouts were originally consider to be "nutritious" and were given to nursing mothers). Left Hand's Nitro is a pretty intense, but delicious beer. It has an aroma and taste that is brown sugar and vanilla cream. It is very low in bitterness and is fairly heavy.
Day 23 - December 23rd
Style: Oyster Stout
Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery
Flavor Profile: Flying Dog may have won the "Best Pale Ale in America" award at one point, but we're focusing in on one of the more interesting styles they brew: oyster stouts. So believe it or not this beer is made with actual oysters. The briny, saltiness works surprisingly well with the maltiness of the grains and subtle hops. It is definitely dark and smoky with a bit of a bitter finish. Plus all proceeds from sales go towards the Oyster Recovery Partnership. So you can get drunk knowing you contributed to a good cause.
Day 24 - Christmas Eve
In preparation for the big day, let's get a our formal wear on and head over to visit our good friends, the Czars.
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Brewery: North Coast Brewing Company
Beer: Old Rasputin
Flavor Profile: As we know from our podcast on this style, Peter the Great loved him some English-style stouts that he discovered while traveling there on diplomatic functions. But he found that when he tried to ship them to Russia they always spoiled first. In a stroke of genius, they discovered beautiful solution. In went hops, along with their preservative qualities; up goes the lifespan of the brew; and Russian Imperial Stouts were born. Old Rasputin represents the very best things about this style. It is a complex beer with rich flavors that will warm you in the coldest Siberian winters. Drink and enjoy, comrades.
BONUS BEER(S) - Christmas Day!
We've finally arrived! Presents are under the tree, cookies in the oven, and Santa left a cask of barrel-aged beer. So let's crack the cask and get the festivities going.
Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged
Flavor Profile: Pretty much everything from the wizards at Allagash is going to be fantastic. Honestly, you really can't go wrong. But their crowing achievement is their barrel-aged Curieux. They age their already delicious Tripel Ale in Jim Bean bourbon barrels and then blend it back with a portion of fresh Tripel. This way they infuse a smoky, barrel flavor to it without it becoming overpowering. It is super smooth and features flavors like coconut and vanilla. Over the years it has become much easier to find, but it is super popular so they go fast.
Brewery: Jack's Abbey Craft Lagers
Flavor Profile: If you can't find Curieux then Framinghammer is a fantastic runner up. Jack's Abbey brews exclusively Lagers (which in the commercial beer world is extrememly rare) so this is a barrel aged lager is a rare treat (due mostly to the length of time it takes to complete). The flavor is roasted malts, bourbon, and vanilla. It's incredibly good, but again can be hard to find.
Flavor Profile: If all else fails this Kentucky aged beer is a solid third place. They age their ale for six weeks in bourbon barrels from all over Kentucky. While I would take the first over this any day of the week this is still a very solid contender. In this instance there are no wrong choices. It's just that some choices are more right than others.
Hope you enjoyed this calendar. Please feel free to leave us feedback on what you thought. Did you think maybe should do something else? Did you have trouble finding something? We want to hear it all.
Malts in Your Mouth