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The Hobby Drinker Blog

swimming

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On the seventh day of Beermas I went and got for me
A taste of one of seven seas
Six alarms a-ringing
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

As I have said before, there are a damn lot of birds in this song. Although there are quite a few breweries or beers that have a bird on the label, after a few years it gets a little bit difficult to find a new one. Gotta be creative. Swimming, right? Number seven? Everybody’s heard of the Seven Seas and that’s water. It fits! Maybe it’s also kind of an excuse to sit down with a Basqueland, and a Baltic porter at that. Hopefully Baltic Storm wouldn’t sink a flock of swans braving the elements.

Just the stream of it out of the can is tootsie roll brown, but it collects into a handsome near-black beverage in the glass. Head is somewhat scanty but aroma is strong. It has a firepit quality to it, very smoky and nose-tickling. Maybe the wood that could have built a ship, or a plank, is in the background too. The smoke doesn’t quite translate into the flavor, coming out as toasted but still grainy bread. I feel like there’s something chocolatey too, but not bitter baking chocolate and not sweet and rich spreads. Maybe it’s a sugarless mocha that I’m imagining. As always with Basqueland, it’s well-made and a pleasure to drink. If the rum runs out it’s a foolish sailor that would complain about this tempest in a cup.

alarms

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On the sixth day of Beermas I went and got for me
Six alarms a-ringing
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

There was a lot of hemming and hawing over what would best represent geese a-laying. Finally, it seemed to me that the most important part was the awareness, activity and energy of doing a job, which might be an early-morning or first-thing job. Caleya has provided me with birds in the past, but this time it’s only the feeling with Hurry Up DDH IPA. Get up in the morning, get to work, use the early morning hours to get ahead and “lay” your plans for success. You don’t have a golden egg laying goose and you sure as hell aren’t one either, so get hustling. Or don’t, lazy ass, see if the Christmas ghosts care?

Extra-light, transparent, well-formed head, it’s a good looking beer from the start. The aroma is not super strong, but there are clear notes of tropical and citrusy hops, giving the beer a wake-up aura. The taste isn’t excessively sharp, but there is definitely fruit. More melon or even bland apple than orange or tangerine, and certainly not grapefruit or mango. It seems very light and delicate for a DDH but not all hops are flavor bombs; some can leave hints and nudges towards a flavor rather than kicking you over a cliff. The brightness of the beer could wake you up after a round of heavier, darker beers, and get you thinking about…whatever you need to think about. I think Caleya could give Fairweather Farm’s Profaniteas (and Tranquiliteas) a run for their money. Not only do you get the get the eff up punch, but there’s a rosy and warm feeling of calm down and do things without stress. Despite the sharp colors, the name of urgency, Caleya has made a beer that helps you focus and relax. I don’t think they get as much of a push as they should, if what you’re looking for is a pale ale or IPA, they’re one of the most reliable breweries around. Sixth day down!

flames

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On the fifth day of Beermas I went and got for me
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

For some reason the golden rings are even harder to match than all those damn birds. I feel a little creative this year and was inspired by the label of Lo Vilot’s Gazoleum. Flames can be golden and barrels have rings, so there ya go. A brandy barrel aged imperial stout is definitely high powered fuel, one that will burn bright and propel you far. You might get five miles away, see five counties (or whatever) from the air, or get your rockets to work in five stages. Lots of ways to get to five, and lots of ways to see rings. I think I might be subconsciously looking for ways to attach myself to stouts, one way or another.

Chocolatey color but little head, and there’s a mild hint of wine to the aroma. Maybe I’m just equating wine with alcohol in my head. The taste is heavy on the licorice, with a slight coffee aftertaste, and a slippery, oily mouthfeel. I was expecting a sweeter flavor from the brandy, maybe it contributed more to the aroma, but this has a definite modern stout experience about it. It doesn’t weigh on you too much, it feels like you could take it down without much trouble in not much time, which distinguishes this beer from many other barrel-aged ones. I’m not 100% sure that I mean that as a compliment, since we are looking at more than 10% alcohol, and even during the holidays we want to consume responsibly. This smooth mo-fo will go down a little faster than you might want, leaving you with an empty glass and a full head. Full of praise for stouts, that is. If you’re really lucky, maybe somebody will trade you a ring for the last sip. Fifth day down!

moths

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On the fourth day of Beermas I went and got for me
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

I wavered between the four moths and something louder for calling birds, but the moths wouldn’t let me push them aside in the end. They’re fine, too, all four of them staring into the middle of the design. The silence is deafening I’m sure. It’s a helles bock from Naparbier, very reliable for good stuff, in collaboration with Mahrs Bräu. Getting an authentic German brewery to help on a German style beer may just be a selling point for Napar, which has produced excellent beers of almost all styles, as mentioned. Maybe Motte have some extra Teutonic touch.

The brightness of the beer contrasts with the shadowy glumness of the can, but is appropriate for the helles style. A nice cap of head comes up while pouring, although it dissolves quickly. The aroma is very subtle, but I can pick out some grain and fresh bread. The mouthfeel is oddly thick and heavy, there’s even a little whisper of licorice, so this is the bock experience coming out. It leaves hardly any aftertaste. In spite of the weight of the beer, it goes down very easily and cleanly. It has a depth of flavor I associate with bocks more than with helles, and in spite of the sunny appearance, I can feel a gravity around it that goes with the season. Fourth day down!

parrots

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On the third day of Beermas I went and got for me
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

I had some trouble deciding where the parrots should go, and in they end they got day three. There are three of them after all, not to mention I couldn’t find a better match. Maybe we could imagine them in French Polynesia. As befits the tropical label and the habitat of many parrots, this is a fruited sour, made by the geniuses at Basqueland. Parrot Head Punch, they call it. Actually, punch is a pretty seasonal drink, so in spite of being bright, light, and probably full of papaya, this might be a fitting beer for our season.

There’s the sulfur I often get from fruited sours, but the color is very happy and carefree. It’s pinkish with a hint of orange, looks like an expensive cocktail actually. Up close there’s a clear aroma of sesame, which I think is a first for me. It’s definitely sour and fruity, and I don’t think I detect any sesame seed taste. What fruit could it be? It has a dryness that some berries give you, and the snappy sour makes me think of cranberry. It’s a clean tasting sour, without any extra stickiness or candy-sour, and very light in body. It might be a good party beer, although for just having a drink in winter, it’s a little too unsubstantial for me. I know, picky, picky. Third day down!

toucan

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On the second day of Beermas I went and got for me
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

This beer is calling out to be second, it’s very name is Tukan! Two…can. And it’s in a bottle. Is this one too cheap, too easy? At least it’s a bird! It’s also an IPA, so maybe we’ll have some tropical sensations to distract us from current weather. Attik has been included in beer Advent calendars, so I trust it will be up to the level of this special group.

Tropical breezes waft out immediately and the glass fills with roiling gold. There’s a pretty good head on it, very white and fluffy. With closer inspection, the aroma also contains some spicy and salty notes, caraway or rosemary maybe? The taste hits with fruit first, much like the scent, but doesn’t bring out the other spices very strongly. An aftertaste with some balancing savoriness starts to build up within a few sips, but the beer is mostly bright and sunny, with a touch of mango and melon. Day two down!

perry

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On the first day of Beermas I went and got for me
More than half a liter of perry

Oh, that’s a big bottle, quite a size for a gift! It’s also a little bit of a lazy start – perry from the pear tree, not a lot of imagination there. But just wait, there will be twisted justifications coming. This is Samuel Smith’s Organic Perry, with a very traditional looking label and lettering. It isn’t a 7 or 8 percenter, like some of those seasonal beers, but even at 5% the amount of 550ml will do a little something to ya.

Looks a lot like champagne, actually, very bubbly and frisky. It’s a little darker than most champagne you come across, though. It has a winey smell to it too, which ought to make sense given that it’s also fermented fruit. There’s a hint of sulfur lurking in that aroma, and just a puff of it in the first sip. Otherwise, it’s on the sweet side of cider, not tart like some apples will give you. The carbonation adds a little sharpness to it, pulling back on the sweetness. It’s nicer than a lot of apple ciders, having a good balance in flavor, and although it loses plenty of carbonation over time, it stays light and easy to drink, not coalescing into syrup. First day down!

winter woolly

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The big day has arrived, and in spite of my own control over the situation, I did not keep a special stout for the last day. I guess I’m feeling comfortable with pulling bottles and cans out of the fridge as they come. And anyway, this is a special Christmas beer, so you can’t say it’s not fitting. Winterbinkske makes me think there’s a lot going on in that bottle, the whole experience of the end of the year in one cold drink. It also makes me think there’s going to be a lot of herbs and spices. The brewery Kerkom sounds like they have quite an interest in doing things a little differently from everybody else, but still top quality.

It is an extra dark Belgian beer, with extra fluffy head, and a surprisingly low amount of aroma. It’s toasty and charcoaly, but only hints. The taste is much bigger, with a good mix of licorice, plum and apple. It feels heavy, with a smooth body that does not go by unnoticed. A kind of woodiness grows with time, giving even more power and roughness to the beer, although the flavor doesn’t change much. It has a touch of something foresty and wild, but it’s much more delicate than you might expect from most craft beers. It gives you a handmade sensation, but from a very skilled maker. Not a stout, but good enough for Christmas, no question.

Supplier: La Mundial
Price: €4

dark as the new moon

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Ever since being denied on International Baltic Porter Day I’ve been on the lookout for them when I go beer shopping. It seems like they used to be a little easier to find. Well, I have had a few recently, and now I have an Imperial Baltic Porter, which has to be a step beyond. The can has a minimalist but artistic look, with a shining full moon over a desert. What could that have to do with porter? Well, this one comes from Polish brewery Moon Lark and contains Ugandan vanilla. Actually, I don’t know if Uganda has US Southwestern-like desert landscapes…I’m shamefully ignorant of African geography. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be Ceylon (or Sri Lanka), but maybe Poland has some rugged terrain that reminds one of Arizona. Eh, probably not. Must be somebody’s dreamscape.

It pours out very calmly, little fizz or head, and kind of a red highlight to the blackness. Although it’s not overpowering, there is definitely vanilla aroma there, perhaps a little more subtle than, say, Vanilla Coke. The taste is a lovely mix of luxurious sweetness, vanilla, cocoa, the smooth feeling of a high quality hard candy. I don’t get cinnamon right away, but it starts to come out after a couple of sips. The texture is interesting; like I said, it’s glassy like a good candy, but obviously liquid, with a syrupy, mouth-coating feel. It definitely is a fancy beer, with a fancy feel and nothing but deliciousness about it. Maybe it isn’t specifically Christmas-y, but it’s a gift that anybody would love to find in their stocking.

Supplier: Más Que Cervezas
Price: €6.26

no milk this year then?

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Closing in on the end and I let one more unblack beer into the line-up. It is officially a Christmas beer, though, so still legal! It is in fact an “Xceptional Xmas Beer” according to the label, and Santa certainly seems to be ready to enjoy the season with his new tree…oh wait, that’s a hop flower. So Tiny Claus or Giant Hop or getting ready to celebrate the season. I’m not sure if the name, Père Noël, means the beer is from Santa or for Santa. Could well be both, I guess. The brewery De Ranke is a relatively recent addition to Belgium’s beer landscape, but by all accounts it is a worthy follower of tradition as well as handling a good amount of innovation.

It has a look very much like other Belgian Christmas beers, light colored but not transparent. Quite a well-formed head too. The aroma does not offer much in the way of hops, being more of a lager type of scent – grain, meadow, maybe a little honey. The hops make their appearance in the first sip, with a deep and smooth bitterness. Some of the malt still finds its way to the top, but it’s swimming through a sea of Hallertau. There’s a similarity to some classic IPAs in the taste but to lagers in the feel. It’s clean and easy to drink but still weighty. There’s a good amount of alcohol, but not excessive when compared to some other seasonal beers, or some of the stouts I deliberately sought out. Maybe the fluffiness of the head gives it a connection to snow, but somehow there’s a feeling of winteriness and fireside coziness that makes you think there might be footsteps on the roof any minute. Well, it’s probably your upstairs neighbor, but if you’re in a good enough mood it doesn’t really matter.

Supplier: La Mundial
Price: €3.60

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