Saturday, 13 December 2014

Advent Calendar - 13th December 2014

Beer Advent Calendar
Bristol Beer Factory - Bristletoe 4.7%
13th December 2014

Now you may notice that this post is a bit shorter than those that preceded it and the reason for that is that I'm probably on the #CrimboCrawl I mentioned in yesterday's post. It may not be of course, because often as I start each days writing I have no idea where I'll be going with it, and I like that callenge. However, having come this far (halfway there!) I was determined to continue with a post a day as that's the way an Advent Calendar works.

I'm enjoying writing these posts and, as I mentioned above, because it is the halfway point I think it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where we are now and what may be coming in 2015.

I could be argued that we are living in the Golden Age of Beer at the moment. New breweries are opening seemingly weekly, not just in the US and UK but across the globe,with more styles of beer more readily available to be bought and drunk in more countries and bars than ever before. It would not be an exaggeration to say that each successive year for the past five or six has bought more riches for the beer consumer. These are indeed exciting times and it shows no signs of abating.

US style IPAs and Pale Ales still reign supreme and are now brewed with more varieties of hops than ever before, however I had to pick one hop that says 2014 to me it would be Mosaic. It seemed to crop up everywhere this year, in Duvel's annual Tripel Hop back in February, beers by Green Flash, Terrapin and Founders from the US, Adnam's Jack Brand Mosaic Pale Ale, and many many more.  Saisons were also a still very much in vogue as the year turned, although with palates ready for something a little different and perhaps more challenging this was really the year where Sour beer established a firm place in many breweries portfolios and in craft beer bars up and down the country.

Talking of craft beer, or more exactly the words 'Craft Beer' it seemed to be that in the second half of the year that it stopped being debated and argued over and just accepted as a common and universal catch-all term. I could well be wrong and it all flares up again next year, but maybe all that needs to be said about it has been said, and we don't really want to go over that well trodden ground again for fear of being trapped in mire.

Moving swiftly on I must just mention two more developments in beer in the UK 2014 that although not new in themselves created more than a few words to be written, and they were both about what the beer was matured or contained in rather than the beer itself. The first was barrel-ageing becoming more common and I must mention both Beavertown's Ger-onimo and Siren's Maiden in this category. I gather that many other breweries have beery treats currently slumbering in various barrels waiting to be awoken in the coming year, so plenty to look forward to there I hope. It also can't have escaped your notice that 2014 could have been called the 'Year of the Can', with Beavertown, FourPure, Thwaites, and Camden Town taking the plunge this year, and with Magic Rock starting to put it's beer into cans early next year this is a trend that is not going away any time soon.

So what of 2015?

Well I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't have to beer a clairvoyant to see more beer in cans, more barrel aged beers and more sour beers appearing up and down the country. I also think that we'll see an increase of awareness in the lesser known European beer styles as brewers start to expand their repertoire, improve their skills and explore new areas. We have already seen some Kolsch-style beers and BrewDog have recently released an Altbier as one of the four in this years 'Prototype' range, so perhaps some of the more esoteric German styles: Roggenbier, Dampfbier, Dinkelbier, Gruitbier or even Zoiglbier will make an appearance. Kvass or even braggot, a concoction of herbs and spices, beer and mead could also be avenues that are explored.

I won't go any further down this road as I think I've gone on enough but I will finish by saying that 2015 is looking like it could be even better for the beer lover than 2014 and we could be in for one hell of a ride. I look forward to sharing it with you.

It's really time I got to on today's beer that Ales By Mail have put in their calendar, but before that here are the answers to yesterday's questions:

1. 1936

2. Guinness, Harp and Smithwick's

3. A magnet

4. Brains Brewery

5. O'Hanlons

I hope you got them all.

Now however it's time for the main event, and I don't mean the cracker joke, I mean the beer.

I first reviewed Bristol Beer Factory's Bristletoe in my Christmas Beer Blog last Deecember, commenting on the clever pun in it's name and remarking on it's sweet fruity flavour. Well it's been a year since then, so I think it's about time I gave it another go.

It pours a dark brown with no discernible highlights a tight beige head and an aroma packed with rich roasty coffee, burnt toast and hints of caramelised meat juice and raisin, it certainly seems nore robust than I remember. Surprisingly thin over the tongue with a wash of carbonation pushing outwards like a wave foam rushing up a beach, there is more roasty toastiness in the flavour, damp burnt toast, thin coffee grouts, and meat gravy that doesn't sound at all appetising but there's a tiny thread of liquorice that interweaves through all of these, combines with and then pulls the whole thing along rather wonderfully. The finish has more of the same with perhaps a little spiciness alongside it, an overdone hot cross bun maybe, but it leaves a lovely long-lasting ground coffee roast behind that I absolutely adore, and as I know it isn't a strong beer I'm straight back in there ready for another taste, this time drinking long and deep, savouring and enjoying the flavours once again. This isn't all like the beer I remember from last year, as I'm getting very little fruitiness at all, but to my mind it is much the better for that. Cheers.

If you'll excuse me whilst I finish my glass, here are today's beery quiz questions:

1. In 2004, the T&R Theakston Brewery of North Yorkshire re-claimed it's independence but two decades Paul Theakston had managed another independent brewery in Masham. What is it's name?

2. Which family owned brewery has brewed traditional ales at The Old Brewery of Bridport in Dorset since 1794?

3. Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis are the founders of which Somerset brewery?

4. Oakham Ales brew a well-known beer called JHB, but what does JHB stand for?

5. The Hook Norton Brewery in Oxfordshire uses which special contraption to power it's brewing?

I hope you like those and I'm pretty sure that most of you will know those answers if you give them a little thought, but now I need to start getting ready as I've got to do half a days work before I get to go on that #CrimboCrawl.

I will however, leave you with a corny Christmas cracker joke as usual. A dangerous thing to do perhaps when some of you will be able to critique my choice, which is a bit more traditional, in person later this afternoon.

Nevertheless here goes:

Who delivers the presents to baby sharks at Christmas?

Santa Jaws of course!

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