A month of waiting and December is finally here.
It means that I can finally start cracking open my Honest Brew Craft Beer Advent Calendar.
A selection of 24 hand-picked beers from around the world, ranging in styles and strength.
Mixing bottles and cans with some snacks thrown in for good measure.
As the month progresses you will be able to find the tasting notes from the breweries along with a little micro review to bring it all together,
Join me every day to get my thoughts on the beers lurking within each day of the calendar
Day 1 – Northern Monk, Northern Star • 7.2 % ABV • Leeds, England
Northern Monk describe Northern Star as being a mocha porter which takes the timeless combination of coffee and dark malt flavours to a whole new level.
It’s brewed in collaboration with North Star – master coffee roasters based in Leeds.
A balance of roast bitterness with a touch of hazelnut as well as chocolate for richness and natural milk sugar for a smooth creamy mouth feel.
The perfect Winter warmer for the coldest of seasons.
Northern Star produces a lively tan head which settles quickly, leaving in its wake a beer of dark brown to black.
The aroma is packed with deep roast coffee and sweet chocolate malt with a really warming sensation as you breathe in.
The flavour gives plenty of coffee grounds, sweet malt and chocolate. I was able to make out a subtle fruity hop right at the back before a lasting and smooth bitterness kicks in.
A brilliant beer to kick things off and a brewery I hope to visit towards the end of the year with my annual pilgrimage to Leeds for the festivities.
Day 2 – Eight Arch, Corbel • 5.5 % ABV • Wimborne, England
Bringing with it a reminder of #craftbeerhour at the beginning of December, is Eight Arch Brewing’s Corbel. Described as a highly hopped India Pale ale.
Its brewed with huge amounts of US Mosaic to give a huge hit of tropical fruit aromas and flavours.
It also scored a gold as the Regional winner in the SIBA Cask Beer Competition 2016 for strong bitters and pale ales.
Corbel is pale gold in colour and produced a 1cm small white head on pouring which settles quickly. A touch of haze is present too.
The aroma pushes out lots of sharp fruity hops which takes precedence over the malts. A little sweetness is hidden there at the back to smoothen things out.
The hops really take centre stage in the flavour too. Fruity and juicy along with a subtle sweet and caramel flavour from the malts.
There is an easy bitterness at the end which levels out quickly.
Another great beer and even better was the opportunity to enjoy it once more. Crisp, fruity and refreshing. I’d take another!
Day 3 – Wylam Brewery, Hickey The Rake • 5.6 % ABV • Newcastle upon Tyne, England
A cheeky cold seems to have settled in, but this will not stop me from enjoying a beer from one of my favourite breweries of the year.
Hickey The Rake from Wylam Brewery is described an a limonata pale ale which packs in copious amounts of citrus zing along with masses of lemon, lime and tropical pineapple sherbet.
A beer, pale straw in colour poured from the bottle. Offering with it a hazy appearance along with a big white head which lasts for some time after pouring.
The aroma gives plenty of tropical fruit such as grapefruit along with lemon and lemon zest. The citrus starts strong then offers a little sweetness.
Lots of tangy lemon and drier lemon zest really kicks off the flavour which moves into a sweet and almost sour tangyness.
Lemon really is the name of the game with this beer (Or so I believe with my limited senses.
A crisp, refreshing and really vibrant beer which is powerful enough to offer some flavour and aroma with my damned illness.
Day 4 – Chapel Down Winery, Curious IPA • 7.2 % ABV • Tenterden, England
Next up is Curious IPA which has a far more traditional label than those I’ve found in the box so far.
Described as a powerfully hoppy IPA which makes use of Goldings, Brambling Cross and Citra hops to offer a range of flavours from fresh\sweet, to spicy blackcurrant aswell as clean and fresh. Pale malts bring it all together.
Curious IPA poured pale amber in colour producing a small white head which settle quickly. A really nice colour and perfectly clear.
In the aroma I was able to get plenty of fruity and spicy notes which moves into a sweeter and maltier background.
The flavour really shakes things up giving a subtle hoppiness of spiced fruits. Toffee from the malts really takes over leading you into the bitterness with plenty of sweet notes.
A good IPA but differs to other variations that I’ve tried. Certainly hop forward in the aroma but malt forward in flavour.
This may be the use of mainly British hops over the more powerful American varieties.
Day 5 – Thornbridge, Chiron • 5.0 % ABV • Bakewell, England
A busy day of menu building, brewery visiting and a little travel has come to an end. Day 5 is here and a chance to try Chiron from Thornbridge brewery.
Described as a pale ale with a subtle but spicy aroma with citrus notes from the hops. Balanced by biscuity malt and tart citrus fruit.
Chiron is certainly golden in colour and produces a small white head which settles pretty quickly. The beer itself is crystal clear and has with a few rising bubbles shortly after pouring.
The aroma balances sweet caramel malts with plenty of citrus. The same can be said of the flavour where the addition of a hoppy spiciness also kicks in. The hoppiness in the flavour is big,citrussy and fruity but you still get plenty of the sweeter malts.
A light but lasting bitterness comes in at the end to finish things up nicely.
A nice light beer with lots of carbonation.
Probably the first beer I’ve had from Thornbridge and if this is anything to go by, it won’t be the last.
Day 6 – Ticketybrew, Jasmine Green Tea • 3.5 % ABV • Stalybridge, England
Time for another beer from the craft beer advent calendar.
Today I thought I’d change things up and let my wife open up door number 6.
Quite the surprise she found inside, with a beer that I would more likely have passed on due to the style.
Ticketybrew describe the beer as being a light ale with added jasmine green tea phoenix pearls. Lemon peel adds freshness and helps produce a balanced bitter finish against the delicate floral aroma and flavour of the jasmine.
A special yeast is used too, but no info provided on this.
The beer itself is a light gold to straw colour with plenty of haze. A lively white head forms on the initial pour which settle fairly quickly.
Being bottle conditioned, there is plenty of sediment in the bottle which the brewers kindly remind you is perfectly drinkable.
The aroma gives a subtle hint of jasmine with a light malt graininess. Elements of wheat beer come in towards the end, along with some yeasty esters.
The malts offer the prominent flavour with biscuit and wheat. Again, the subtle jasmine adds a refreshing flavour to the beer without being overpowering.
A zesty flavour guides you into a light bitterness which levels off quickly.
I was expecting the beer to have more tea like qualities but it was actually far more crisp and refreshing. Plenty of carbonation really carries the subtle flavours and leaves a tingling sensation on the tongue.
I’m glad I had an opportunity to try this one as it was very different to what I was expecting.
That’s the great thing about these mixed cases, they force you to try options out of your comfort zone.
Day 7 – White Hag Brewery & Honest Brew collaboration, American Pale Ale • 6.2 % ABV • Ballymote, Ireland
My next beer is a collaboration with Honest Brew and White Hag Brewery.
Packed with large quantities of hops such as Simcoe and Amarillo as well as Irish malt all the way from Cork, Honest Brew’s American Pale Ale is described as offering a smooth base for the dense juice aroma and flavour of the hops to really shine through.
The American Pale Ale was light golden in colour with a little haze, producing a small white head which settles quickly.
Lots of tropical fruit aromas hit the nostrils straight from pouring along with a little sweetness from the malts and a touch of graininess.
The flavour is really juicy, pushing those tropical flavours along with the addition of some tangyness right at the back. Mixed with the sweetness of the malts, I swear I was able to taste Barratts Fruit Salads.
A nice powerful bitterness carries you into the finish which lasts.
This was a great APA. Playing it safe with a full flavoured and juicy notes but the main difference here was the tart tangy flavour that hits you at the back of the tongue.
Mixed with the sweetness, it gives a tart candied flavour which certainly differs from the norm.
Day 8 – Dark Star Brewing, APA • 4.7 % ABV • Horsham, England
Today I give you Dark Star’s APA or American Pale Ale.
A mixture of Maris Otter , extra pale & black malts are paired up with Cascade, Centennial & Chinook hops. They are then brought together with a yeast strain specially imported from the USA to produce a crisp beer seriously full of hops canned ready for some serious APA drinking action.
Another APA, light golden in colour. Dark Star’s offering produced a small white head and out of the can was perfectly clear.
The aroma edges more towards the citrus spectrum but still offers plenty of tropical fruit along with a little sweet maltyness.
Opting for a drier flavour than mass of fruity Pale Ales I’ve been coming across recently and less of the juicy. The malts are really obvious in this one two, giving a hit of sweet biscuit to lessen the blow from the dryness of the beer.
Finally, you hit a long-lasting and strong bitterness.
Lightly carbonated, light to medium mouth feel and surprisingly smooth in texture.
Another great APA and even better was the fact that Dark Star opted for something a little different in their take on an American Pale in my opinion.
Day 9 – Roosters, Modern Way • 4.3 % ABV • Knaresborough, England
This time a beer from Roosters based here in the UK.
I’ve had one of their beers a few months ago through Beer52 and it’s nice to have an opportunity to try a little more.
A limited edition beer, Roosters describe Modern Way as a sessionable pale ale that delivers the hoppy power of an IPA.
Offering crisp, fruity hop flavours with a gently malt base which is balanced with a moderate bitter finish.
Modern Way produces a lively white head on pouring which sticks around for a while.
The beer itself is straw in colour and just a touch hazy.
There is a clean aroma loaded with citrus, zest and sharp tropical notes. A little sweet caramel malt is there at the back too.
The flavour throws big hoppiness, as you would expect in an IPA including citrus, tropical, orange and spice. Mixed with the light yet sweet caramel, the pale ale balances out nicely.
Modern Way is more on the drier scale and offers a strong bitter finish at the end.
A medium bodied beer with a smooth creaminess along with a good level of carbonation.
I quite like Modern Way.
A crisp, lively and refreshing pale with plenty of juicy and fruity notes.
I like that Roosters make use of some more unusual hops such as Jarrylo and Motueka
Day 10 – Eight Degrees Brewing, Sunburnt • 5.0 % ABV • Mitchelstown, Ireland
I’ve popped out an Irish number from Eight Degrees Brewing today
Not a brewery I’ve come across before but a beer style that I’m rather fond of.
Eight Degrees Brewing describe their Irish red ale as being a traditional Irish style with a twist. Mixing subtle caramel notes with fragrant hops from New Zealand and Australia.
A lively beer straight from the bottle, Sunburnt fills the glass with a beer that is medium amber in colour, clear and produces a small off white head which lingers.
The aroma is pretty subtle, offering a slightly sweet and graininess along with some earthy hops which are fairly balanced.
Changing things up, the flavour gives a mixture of caramel and red berry which leads into a spicy finish before ending with a light and easy bitterness.
Sunburnt gives a seltzer like quality in the carbonation yet offers a smooth and medium-light body.
Eight degrees have produced a pleasant beer in Sunburnt. More subtle in flavour and aroma than I have come across in other variations but perfectly drinkable and easy drinking at that.
Day 11 – Rascals Brewing Company, Pacific Secret • 4.4 % ABV • Dublin, Ireland
Onto Day 11 where I have uncovered a dry hopped saison by Rascals Brewing Company called Pacific Secret.
Pacific Secret makes use of lager and wheat malts for a light body, Vic Secret and Motuekaand Pacifica hops for a spicy, tropical fruit flavour and is brought together with a French saison Yeast.
Pacific Secret gives a massive white head on pouring which lasts and lasts.
It gives a pale straw colour with lots of haziness and seemed to offer little to no lacing.
visually, it looked really appealing.
Straight from the can Pacific Secret gave tart, tangy citrus notes but with a little agitation from the glass, I was able to pick up floral notes along with a candy like sweetness and a touch of graininess.
When compared with the aroma, the hops gave a smoother and fruitier flavour whilst the malts gave a caramel sweetness.
I was able to pick out a spicy, almost light menthol flavour through the mixture of flavours (I don’t believe this was an off flavour) towards the end along with a light bitterness at the end.
A medium bodied beer with an effervescent carbonation which leaves a little prickling on the tongue.
With the abundance of pales in the calendar, it was nice to have a pleasant saison in the mix. A good mixture of flavours ranging from dry and sour to sweet and spicy.
I really liked it!
Day 12 – Redchurch, Paradise Pale Ale • 3.7 % ABV • Bethnal Green, England
Behind this next door is a Pale Ale by Redchurch.
Paradise Pale Ale is a light American style pale, brewed to ensure a sessionable strength of 3.7% whilst holding onto its body and depth through an intense hop character of Columbus, Chinook and Mosaic hops.
Paradise Pale Ale produces a small white head which settles down quickly.
A straw coloured pale with a little haziness but allows you to look right on through.
The aroma was fairly subtle, giving citrus and tropical fruit from the hops along with just a touch of sweet malt.
Paradise Pale was quite a dry beer a touch of sweet caramel as well as more citrus and zesty notes from the hops. The flavour itself was light and ended with a smooth bitter finish.
A light and easy beer when compared with its stronger and dry hopped cousins.
It’s nice to have a more standardised pale ale where the malts and hops in the initial brewing process do all the talking.
A light, smooth and easy drinker.
Day 13 – Stewart, Hollyrood • 5.0 % ABV • Edinburgh, Scotland
Next from the calendar is a World Beer Award winner in 2010 for the best blonde/golden pale ale.
A pale ale with a light body, moderate bitterness as well as offering plenty of citrus peel, light grain and tangy tropical fruit.
Hollyrood is pale golden in colour and pretty damned lively. Producing a big, white head which lasts and a little showing a little haziness.
I was able to get a light aroma of hopped up grapefruit, orange and citrus with minimal malt notes.
The flavour was also subtle, giving a mixture a grapefruit and citrus which leads to a lightly sweetened malt before moving into a medium bitterness which doesn’t overpower.
Hollyrood is definitely light in body and smooth with a low-level of carbonation.
Another pale where the aim hasn’t been to hop things to the max with a dry hop technique.
A light, subtle and crisp pale where the hops do a good job of adding the sharp and fruity notes whilst the grain offers plenty of body.
Day 14 – Harviestoun, Bitter & Twisted • 4.2 % ABV • Alva, Central, Scotland
Onto Day 14 and a brewery who do a great range of cask aged beers under the Ola Dubh name.
This time I’ll be trying Harviestoun’s Bitter & Twisted which is described as a balanced and lively beer. Offering plenty of malty sweetness along with floral and fruity hoppiness. The perfect marriage of sweet and dry.
Another World Beer Awards winner in my palms!
Bitter & Twisted pours with a gold colour and produces a small white head which holds its form for a little then settles out. The beer itself is crystal clear.
The aroma is mild and hoppy with a little graininess from the malts. I was able to make out distinct floral, citrus and honey.
The flavour airs more on the side of citrus and zestiness, edging into dry lemon territory.
Light and crisp with a mild bitterness at the end that leaves the tongue tingling.
A solid golden beer which offers subtle flavours and aromas to deliver a light and easy drinker.
Day 15 – Fourpure Brewing Co, Skyliner Wheat • 4.8 % ABV • Bermondsey, England
Another day, Another beer. This time I’ve got a wheat beer from my favourite of breweries.
Skyliner Wheat by Fourpure Brewing Co is described a classic Bavarian Wheat beer brewed London style with aromas of cloves and banana bread along with a gentle malt body and a refreshing finish. Let’s crack this bad boy open and see what it’s all about!
The beer itself is a cloudy golden colour which produces a small white head that settles rather quickly, to the point that there isn’t a bubble in sight.
The aroma is made up of wheat, banana esters and a nutmeg spiciness which is really fragrant and balanced.
The flavour balances the wheat and the banana flavours really well and finishes up with a low hop bitterness as well as a slightly bitter\zesty flavour too.
Skyliner Wheat is light in body with just a touch of carbonation which delivers a refreshing and crisp beer. It’s an easy drinker too!
Day 16 – Big Hug Brewing, Hibernation White IPA • 5.2 % ABV • Peckham, England
Next is a beer from a brewery that I’ve only come across since a recent visit to Lines Brewery, a couple of weeks back – A Hibernation White IPA from Big Hug Brewery.
Hibernation is described as a hybrid style beer which mixes the body and look of a wheat beer with the hopped up nature of an IPA.
A light, citrus flavour and aroma with a lowered bitterness at the end to allow the elements of the beer to really shine through.
Hibernation is a straw coloured beer which forms a lively white head on pouring which settles down quickly. Like a wheat beer, the beer has lots of cloudiness and is nigh on impossible to see through.
The vibrant hops are the first thing to hit you in the aroma. Lots of fruit, spice and citrus from the point the can is even cracked open. A little sweetness is noticeable but I wasnt able to pick out the wheat from the aroma.
The flavour is equally as hop forward, giving plenty of fruit along with a quantity of spice and dryness which guides you into a lasting bitterness.
Bizarrely, the bitterness at the end reminded me of those fisherman’s Friends lozenges without all the menthol. I really liked that!
A medium bodied beer with a moderate level of carbonation and a dryness which really excites the tongue.
I really liked Hibernation. I wasnt able to make the wheat elements in the nose or the flavour, but the hops were on top form. A brewery that I look forward to trying more from.
Day 17 – Magic Rock Brewing, Rapture • 4.6 % ABV • Huddersfield, England
Onto a beer from a brewery that have been around for a while now, but its only since they’ve moved into cans that I’ve really got into them wholeheartedly.
Rapture from Magic Rock is described as a Red Hop Ale, cramming in 5 different malts and 6 different hops to offer a taste explosion. Aromas of Grapefruit and pine combine with orange and citrus which balance against the darker, richer malts.
A red ale which will take you to heaven and back!
Rapture fills the glass with a rich looking, medium amber beer. An ivory head forms which holds itself really well. Plenty of hazy action in the beer too.
A big hop aroma is the first thing to come at you with hits of fruit, red berries and orange. Lots of piney notes with a toffee sweetness later on.
It really tickles the back of the throat.
The flavour throws the same mix of fruit at you, along with resinous hops. The toffee malt flavours come in at the end and ease you into a lasting and hopped up bitterness. All in all, a real flavour and aroma explosion.
Rapture is a medium bodied beer with a medium carbonation level offering a clean and almost creamy texture from the bubbles.
This is up there as one of may favourites from the craft beer advent calendar.
A really fruity and fresh red ale with lots of flavour and good balance between the hops and the malts.
Day 18 – Siren, Proteus IPA Volume 2 • 6.9 % ABV • Finchampstead, England
The advent calendar is releasing some little gems as the box draws to an end. Siren’s Proteus IPA (Volume 2) is by no means, no exception.
Each of the Proteus variations, follow a base recipe of 86% Maris Otter, 7% Vienna & 7% Carapils to offer a darker than normal IPA to carry the hops and offer a little sweetness. A unique house strain of Vermont yeast is used to provide a fruitiness with a focus on peach.
The hops do the talking and each volume will contain a blend of different hops all effectively used to ensure the best flavours and aromas.
Proteus (Volume 2) pours with a deep gold colour and forms an off white head which sticks around after pouring. The beer is pretty cloudy but looks nice and rich.
There is a big fruity hop aroma which mixed with the sweetness and crispness from the malts. Lots of orange, grapefruit as well as caramel and even a little spiciness.
The hops really take centre stage in the flavour too. Offering big grapefruit and orange hits as well as an almost candy like sweetness.
There is a moderate bitterness at the end that offered a big spicy finish, almost like licorice. Freaking delicious.
A medium bodied beer which felt smooth and creamy and had a fair bit of carbonation.
This really was a gem from the calendar. An outstanding IPA that gave really powerful and really juicy flavours. A range that I really want to follow through and through.
Day 19 – Magic Rock Brewing, Dark Arts • 6 % ABV • Huddersfield, England
The next beer in the box is another treat from Magic Rock Brewing – Something darker too.
Dark Arts is a stout that mixes 4 malts with a heap of whole hops to produce what Magic Rock describe as a decadently deep and indulgent experience.
Spicy hop notes mix with full flavours of chocolate, licorice, blackberries and figs along with a lingering roasted bitterness.
Dark Arts is a ruby-brown stout which produces a big tan head with lots of tightly packed small bubbles which help the head stock around for some time after pouring.
Shining a light through the beer, it looks pretty clear.
In the aroma, the malts stole the show. Deep coffee notes mix with rich chocolate along with a little roast in the back. I was able to pick out a little smokiness too.
The flavour takes the aromas and adds more depth, breaking out the blackberries and licorice on top of the coffee grounds and roasted flavours.
The bitterness at the balances the spice of the hops and the ground coffee flavours.
Nice and complex with plenty of aromas and flavours to be picked out.
Dark Arts is a medium-full bodied beer with a low carbonation level and a creamy, smooth texture.
Another top beer from Magic Rock with a variety of aromas and flavours which mix the malt elements and the hop elements really well. A stout that would cater for a number of tastes and perfect as the coldness is starting to really kick in towards the end of December.
Day 20 – Moor Brew Company, PMA • 5.3 % ABV • Bristol, England
Onto a brewery from a brewery that really kicked off my taste for craft beer.
PMA – A Pale Modern Ale for those with a Positive Mental Attitude.
Described as having an intense yet highly drinkable and balanced flavour using the best hops from around the world and a complex mix of specially selected British Malts.
PMA poured with a pale gold colour, producing a lasting white head with a little haziness.
The aroma kicked things off fresh fruity hops made up of citrus, orange and grapefruit. A sweet caramel and honey aroma comes from the malts.
The flavour amplifies the elements of the aroma, giving well-rounded and balanced hits between the malts and the hops.
A medium bodied beer with a little carbonation and plenty of smoothness.
A really tasty pale which offers a good balance between the hops and the malts but also manages to give an uplifting and full flavour.
A great beer that also supports a great cause – Hardcore Hits Cancer.
There was also a pack salt & pepper Crunch Corn by Proper Corn.
These things are dangerously addictive!
Day 21 – The Park Brewery, Gallows Gold • 5 % ABV • Kingston-upon-Thames, England
Another Pale and this time from The Park Brewery, a brewery that I haven’t come across before. Park Brewery’s aim is to deliver thought-provoking beer with big flavour and aroma. All through being hop forward.
Gallows Gold is their take on an American Pale Ale. Described as a fruity, sweet and well-rounded pale with hints of mango and lots of aroma.
Gallows Gold is pale gold in colour and produces a small white head which settles fairly quickly. There is a little haziness but the our Christmas tree can still be seen behind it perfectly well.
The aroma for me was fairly subtle but gave hits fruity hits of citrus, pine and a little sweetness. As the temperature for the pale rises, the fruitiness and sweetness becomes more pronounced.
The flavour was certainly hop forward, with citrus, flora and grapefruit being the stronger flavours along with subtle sweet malt flavours and honey.
A medium bodied beer with plenty of carbonation which helps carry the sharper flavours forward for refreshment and crispness.
Gallows Gold is a pleasant pale which started drier and sharper then become sweeter and fruitier as it the temperature rose. I’d like to try a few more from this brewery to see what they’re all about as I do like hop forward elements!
Day 22 – Moor Brew Company, Union’Hop • 4.1 % ABV • Bristol, England
Staying in pale ale territory, my next beer comes yet again from Moor Brew Company.
An ultra pale ale that is described as ultra modern and ultra hoppy. Showcasing the best of modern British hops along with British malts to create a sessionable balanced beer.
Union’Hop fills the glass with an ale, pale straw in colour. Through its liveliness, it produces a huge white head which lingers for a while, after pouring. Plenty of bubbles can be seen rising from the bottom of the glass too.
The aroma was made up of sharp citric fruit blending rich sweet malts giving elements of tart pineapple.
The flavour packed in more stone fruit flavours including mango and really zesty yet tangy citrus. A caramel malt flavour gives a rich yet sweet body and leads to a lasting tangy bitterness. At some points, the tartness stepped into gose territory though this dryness could have been in part due to the high carbonation level.
Union’Hop is a lively and crisp pale ale with lots of carbonation, which really gets the buds on the tongue going.
Another great beer from Moor which is perfectly sessionable and refreshing. It’s so crisp in fact that it would make a great beer for a hot, mid summers day.
It’s just a shame that I toppled half the can onto my parent in-laws clean, cream carpet.
The good news is that it cleans up well, so no festive arguments there!