It's Christmas, so the BringBeer blokes celebrated with a selection box of six different styles from six different countries. And, invented a new word ... smorgasbeerd!
Yep, beer definitely brings joy to the world ... and this Christmas BringBeer gathering certainly brought joy to the BringBitz blokes.
We had quite a few beers to get through, as well as some delicious food including wonderful cheeses (a single-malt whisky infused cheddar was my favourite), pastizzis, salads and gelatos (yum). By the end of the afternoon we had tried six beers, leaving two others in the fridge for later consumption.
Now, red is Santa Claus' favourite colour, so it was appropriate that our first Christmas box selection was a Flemish red ale.
Rodenbach Vintage 2018 Red Ale is a rather special drop and comes in a rather special bottlle - a bit like a fine French champagne. Once the cork is popped (yes it has a cork) and the reddish beer flows from the all-golden bottle you know you are in for a Christmas treat.
Brewed in Roeselare, Belgium, and matured for two years in oak barrels, the beer, as expected, is sour but has an exquisite fruity flavour that lingers in the mouth quite a bit after you have swallowed it. You can just taste the oak from the barrels, which gives the beer slightly more complexity.
In other words, it was a strangely delicious drop ... what a great start to Christmas beers! Oh, a warning ... at 7% alcohol it packs a punch.
Next selection from the the smorgasbeerd was an American stout ... Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout.
Brewed in Boonville, California by the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout comes in an eye-catching can featuring a weird bear with deer antlers.
But, the beer itself is far from weird. It is a delicious but quite conservative stout with smooth coffee aroma and taste that borders on burnt toffee.
It is not as thick and creamy as traditional British stouts, but this wasn't a bad thing in the 35 degree Celsius Australian festive season heat. I could be tempted back to this one, as I do have a liking for tasty dark beers. Once again, quite potent at 5.7% alcohol.
For the greenies out there ... Anderson Valley brewery is entirely solar powered. But, I don't think that had any effect on the beer's taste.
It was back to Europe, with our next selection ... Baltic Ale from Germany's Rugener Insel-Brauerei (Rugen Island Brewery).
Unusually, although Baltic Ale is made on the German Baltic Sea island of Rugen, the beer is a Belgium style pale wheat ale.
Now, I am not a great fan of wheat beers, but this one is definitely as good as I've tasted, which really shouldn't be a surprise as it has won four world beer awards, according to its unique full-bottle
recyclable paper wrap label.
The all-covering label gives you help with everything, even the recommended temperature for drinking - 12C for those interested. We drank it a fair bit colder than that, but it was 35C outside.
The label also gives the drinker a tasting guide which seemed to suggest the beer is a bit fruity, a bit sour, very spicy, wine like, bitter, and dry. Go figure.
I reckon it was pretty tasty, not too sweet ... and definitely packed a punch at 7.5% alcohol (wow, no wonder we were starting to enjoy the afternoon).
But, by the time I had finished reading the most informative beer bottle label I have encountered, I was sober enough for the next beer ... Adnams Southwold Ghost Ship Citrus Pale Ale.
The "citrus" bit of the title comes from citrus hops, not lime, lemon or orange. But the chosen hops definitely give this beer a "citrus-like" zing.
The bottle makes claims to this English beer being "hauntingly good", and I really have no argument with that. It certainly lifted me further into the "spirit" of Christmas (see what I did there ... spirit/ghost ... get it?).
Curiously for an English beer (made in Southwold, Sussex), it is a very refreshing summer drop and weighs in at a sessionable 4.5% alcohol. It's certainly worthy of another summer tasting, that's for sure.
Next we journey south to the north of Italy, for a very un-Italian beer ... Birra Baladin's L'IPpa.
Think Peroni, Menabrea, Birra Moretti ... well this beer is absolutely nothing like them. At first I thought it couldn't even be Italian. But with the colours of the Italian flag on the can and the declaration "Articianale - 100% - Italiana" I guess it must be.
This beer actually masquerades as a US-made Indian Pale Ale ... but a really nice one. Although, in retrospect, it's probably not as hoppy as those US craft IPAs.
Birra Baladin's L'IPpa is made in the far northern town of Piozzo near Italy's border with France. You have to love the information the brewers supply on their website. For example, the water used is from the Maritime Alps, the barley is from fields in Basilicata and Apulia, the hops are grown in Piozzo and Busca, and the yeast is grown at the Piozzo brewery. I love that kind of info. All craft brewers should really take note. Too often you get a simple "Made in Beerville" or some such.
Of course, the important thing is whether the beer is any bloody good. My answer is a simple: "Yes". A warning: This is beer is very drinkable but quite potent (5.5% alcohol) so be wary of a long session as I suspect its bite is worse than its bark.
Which, brings us to the last of our afternoon's wide and varied Christmas beer tasting -Sauce Brewing Co's Mimosa Gose - Orange & champagne sour.
Sounds weird right? And it is, but nothing surprises in the strange but wonderful world that is modern craft brewing.
The beer was made as a collaboration between the Marrickville (Sydney) brewers and Parramatta (Sydney) cocktail bar Nick & Nora's. The aim was to create a beer that reflected the famous Mimosa, a cocktail that uses champagne and chilled citrus juice.
Gose, of course, is a beer style originating in Germany that uses largely salty or salted water in the brewing process, which only increases the curiosity around this concoction.
The result, however, is a surprisingly refreshing "sour" beer. The makers claim it to be "more cocktail than beer". I reckon, fans of cocktails but not of beer would certainly NOT agree. I couldn't imagine my wife drinking it, for example. But it was certainly an interesting and tasty attempt at something different. At just 3.5% alcohol, it rounded off our beer tasting Yuletime extravaganza in very safe fashion. Time for a nice lie down!
Merry Christmas everyone.