To Ølekalender 2018 (Advent Calendar)

It’s the moooost wonderful tiiime for the beeeeeer. Pretty sure I made that joke last year. Nothing but consistency here at Beer Voyage.

After the slightly disappointing HonestBrew Ultimate box last year, we’ve returned to Denmark this year (like in 2016) and plumped for the To Ølekalender from, err.. To Øl!

There were about 4 or 5 boxes I really liked the look of this year but this box was less than £100 and other than the Ms. Series earlier this year, I’ve been a bit neglectful towards To Øl so thought a box of 24 of their beers would solve that.

The box (and I’m assuming all the labels) are designed by the Danish brewery’s very own art director Kasper Ledet and is beautiful in its simplicity. The casual winter images dotted around the sides work well against the white box and the black logo and numbering on top.

I’ve written about advent calendars in great detail before, you’re only really here to see what was in the box so let’s just get straight to it.

Day One: Fuck Art, Winter is Coming // Belgian Tripel 8%

A good start here. I actually have a 750ml bottle of this in the cupboard but I’m never really in the mood to drink that much of the same beer so it’s sat dormant for a year or two. I’d usually be annoyed to get a beer I’ve already got but not so here.

It’s definitely a Christmas beer in both name and ingredients. It promised coriander, cardamom and orange peel. Thankfully the coriander is not the dominant flavour (it is sick and wrong) with the cardamom and orange peel combining with it to deliver a lovely Belgian Tripel. It’s pretty easy drinking for a Tripel and I’ve polished it off pretty quickly so we’re off to a good start.

Day Two: Gose To Hollywood // Gose 3.8%

I think this might be one of the first sour beers I ever had, It’s at least the first sour beer I remember actually liking so I’ve logged it away in my head as one of my gateway sour beers.

Revisiting this beers with a more refined beer palette (man, I am such a dickhead for writing that), I’m surprised that I can taste a lot of orange fruit here. My underlying memory is one a salty sourness but this time around it’s got that but quite a lot of fruitiness too. It’s a shame it’s in an advent calendar because this would be perfect to drink in the sunshine.

I’m pleased to get a beer like this because as much as you want dark beers as it’s that time of year for them, it’s always a welcome departure to have a beer like this to cut through them.

Day Three: Snowball Saison // Saison 8%

Feeling festive today so added PROPZ to the customary photo. Another light beer with a saison this time. I enjoyed To Øl’s own explanation of this beer so thought I’d share here:

“Enough heavy dark obnoxious sweet super malty x-mas and winter beers. When you eat heavy duck with fat gravy, the last thing you want is another heavy sweet malt liquor! NO! you want something that can help you digest the dinner, ease your stomach and cleanse your throat. And that is exactly what Snowball Saison will do. It is a SUPER sparkling crisp and dry Saison that has been re-fermented with milk acid bacteria and dry hopped over and over to give the beer a crisp and smooth tart finish (not to mention.... there is a lot of hops of course...)”

Whilst I didn’t save it to have when I’m eating heavy duck with fat gravy, I can see their point. This is a super dry and crisp saison that would cut through any rich food - it definitely lingers in the mouth for a while afterwards. It packs a punch at 8% and definitely is up there as one of the stronger saisons I’ve had.

We’re only into the 3rd day of this box but it’s been a great reminder of how much I like To Øl’s label designs in general. Hats off to Mr. Ledet.

Day Four: A Peeling Pale // Pale Ale 5%

Hmm, not really much to say about this one. The can says it’s a pale ale made with orange peel and you can definitely taste the citrus notes in it from the fruit and the citra hops but I don’t have much else to say.

It’s a very well made American pale ale but it feels a bit at odds with what came before (interesting styles or interpretations of Christmas beers) and I’ve drank many beers similar to this. I’d probably lap this up on tap somewhere in the summertime but on a cold, wet December evening, it’s a bit lacking.

Hopefully tomorrow brings a more fitting beer.

Day Five: Jule Mælk // Imperial Sweet Stout 15%

Far more fitting for an advent calendar. A beer I’ve long coveted makes an appearance for day five.

At 15% I was expecting a real bitter and boozey number in keeping with previous imperial stouts I’ve had but this is sweet with a capital S. I had to double check the percentage because this drinks very easily for it’s ABV.

It’s full-bodied due to the high amount of lactose in it which makes this feel like drinking a milkshake. The sweetness stays for the remainder and there’s only a tiny bitterness kicking in at the backend to remind you this is actually alcohol so probably don’t chug it.

It takes a while to adjust to the sweetness here unless you expect it but it’s a very welcome and different interpretation to the style. To Øl make a lot of variants of this beer (a whiskey version, a tequila version and a milkshake version) and I’m very keen to hunt them all down on the back of this beer. An absolute belter of a beer.

Day Six: Sur NEIPA - Citra & Mosaic // Sour Ale 5%

Continuing to impress with the variety in this box comes a style I think I’m yet to ever try - a sour New England IPA.

In theory it should work; a juicy pale mixed in with a sharp tang of sour should make for an excellent combination. In reality, it doesn’t live up to the sum of its parts. It smells super fruity and is the right amount of hazy but it just doesn’t hit the expectations I had.

There’s little to no bitterness with this beer. Instead it has an initial fruitiness to it rounded out with a tart, slightly grapefruity taste. It’s still a good beer that I’d happily have again but I want to like it more and probably should but after the knockout beer from yesterday, this fails to reach those heights. Maybe if it came on a different day I’d feel differently.

Cracking label though.

Day Seven: Black Bauble // Spiced Porter 8%

This beer smells like Christmas. It’s orangey and spicy and slightly smoky and would pair amazingly with Christmas pudding.

There’s very little hops here. Actually there’s just Tettnanger hops but the range of malts is absurd. There’s *holds breath* Pale, Carafa Special, Smoked, Cara Pils, Munich Malt, Special B, English Brown and Cara Munich packed into this beer. Combined with the orange peel and cardamom it makes for a smoky, cakey, warming dark beer.

I’m not usually a big fan of spiced or herby beers but this is excellently balanced and up there as one of my favourite ‘Christmas’ beers now.

Day Eight: Velvets Are Blue // Sour Saison 5.5%

Billed as a sour saison comes this beer brewed with blueberries. The sourness actually masks the saison qualities here and if I’d tried this blind I would’ve just assumed it was a sour. There’s an underlying bitterness and the slight saison twang lingering but not enough to make it obvious it’s a saison.

That’s by no means a complaint as it’s a delicious beer with a slight pear flavour coming through after the sourness dissipates. It’s surprisingly refreshing and very drinkable. Another beer that would go down a storm on a hot summer’s day.

It’s a beer I didn’t realise I’d had before (as part of a flight during a To Øl tap takeover at BrewDog Shepherd’s Bush) but a welcome reappearance.

Day Nine: 3xMAS // American IPA 4.7%

It’s been a good few days since we’ve had a pale ale so this is a welcome return.

Cleverly named, this is a triple dry hopped IPA made with Mosaic, Amarillo and Simcoe. And boy is it a bitter bastard. It smells pretty fruity and I expected it to have some citrus notes but they are lacking here which is a shame because it would’ve made this a better beer overall. Instead, it’s straight up bitterness with very little fruitiness and is actually quite dry overall.

Despite the strong hoppy bitterness, it’s very light and easy to drink and I’ve seen it away in double quick time. Decent.

Day Ten: Shock Series - B!PA Citra & Simcoe // Black IPA 7.3%

We’ve hit double digit days with yet another beer style. This time a punchy black IPA.

I never used to understand this style - if I wanted a dark beer I’d have a stout or a porter surely? Why would I want a dark IPA? Past Hedges, you’re a bloody idiot. Shut your mouth and drink this.

It’s a beer that packs in a whole host of flavours and aromas. The roasted malts and added coffee give it a deep, warming, bitter taste but that’s contrasted with the fruity hops which makes this surprisingly light and eminently drinkable. It does not feel like drinking a beer that’s anywhere near 7.3%.

It’s weird how dismissive I was of this style of beer considering how varied and interesting it tastes. Maybe my first ever one was guff and I just assumed they’d all be bad. At least I’m not an idiot anymore. Or not as much as one.

Day Eleven: Totem Pale // Gluten-Free Pale Ale 2.2%

To Øl make one of my favourite gluten-free beers in Reparationsbajer and this is billed as its younger sibling so I was optimistic before trying this.

However, it’s pretty nondescript. It just doesn’t taste of much and is quite boring. BrewDog’s Vagabond and Magic Rock’s Fantasma are two fantastic gluten-free beers but have a higher ABV so I imagine that is why this is lacking in flavour.

Not really much else to say. The can looks nice?

Day Twelve: Frost Bite // American Pale Ale 6%

This is better. A classic american pale ale with a wintery twist. Brewed with oranges and pine needles it’s a return to form after yesterday.

It’s got five different hops (Aurora, Citra, Tettnanger, Simcoe, Amarillo) but it’s the malts (Pale, Cara Red, Munich, Pilsner, Flaked Oats) that are the dominant flavour in this. The hops are still there but the big malty flavours play well against the pine and orange notes. It does not taste like a 6% beer in a good way. Definitely a beer I’d like to drink a couple of.

Day Thirteen: Raid Beer // Pilsner 5.2%

According to my beer logs (well, Untappd), I had this beer two years ago and apparently loved it. I think my tastebuds may have changed or it may just be that it’s not the season of the pilsner because it’s not living up to past me’s rave review.

It’s still a cracking pilsner and definitely up there as one of the best I’ve had but I think because it’s winter, I’m less enthused. It’s super hoppy and crisp which makes for a super drinkable beer.

If it was Summer, I’d probably be rekindling my love affair but I’m more lukewarm.

Day Fourteen: Santa Gose F&#% It All // Gose 5%

This may be Christmas themed by name but it flips your expectations on taste by making it all about the tropical fruits.

There’s guava and mango here but the big player is the passion fruit. It’s refreshing and light and the fruits play well against the sour base of the beer.

I lamented a beer earlier for being out of season and better suited to summer and the same could be argued here but this just works. A beer suited for any occasion.

I said at the start of this advent that Gose to Hollywood was one of my first forays into sour beers and still one of my favourites but I think this beer has toppled it as my favourite from these Danish wizards. Superb.

Day Fifteen: Nettles in the Kettles // Saison 6%

This is one of the cleanest and clearest beers I’ve ever had. Pouring it out it was so light it almost looked like super diluted orange cordial.

This beer was actually brewed with stinging nettles which I’m pretty sure is a first for me. I am not sure what nettles are meant to taste like but it’s a very subtle flavour if there is one there at all. It’s slightly herby but then saisons sort of are anyway. It’s just a very crisp, clean, yeasty saison.

I’m not sure how this is 6%. It’s very cleverly made as it’s going down so smoothly.

I hope the To Øl brewers didn’t get too stung making this but then art is pain and all that. I don’t really know what I’m saying anymore. I’m playing catch-up with this box so am a few beers deep.

Day Sixteen: Blizzard (In a Beer Mug) // White IPA 6%

This smells absolutely wonderful.

I read the description as a white IPA and lowered my expectations because wheat style beers are not my thang. However, I missed the blurb where it describes this beer as like a blizzard in New England in 1978. It smells like all the best New England IPA hype joose so took me by surprise.

It’s billed as hazy but check out the photo - you can see the print on the other side of the glass through the beer! Hazy it is not.

I’ve not had a NEWIPA (New England White India Pale Ale) but immediately want more. It’s full-bodied and fruity but the wheat kills the follow through dead and leaves a more hefeweisse-esque aftertaste.

An interesting beer for sure. Beer pricks like me should seek this out if you fancy trying something different instead of hazy IPAs and imperial stouts (GUILTY!).

Day Seventeen: Mr. Blue 2018 // Saison 9%

This is a beer of two halves.

The smell is allll about the blueberries so I had high hopes this was going to be a punchy sour fruit bomb.

However, it’s a bit muddled. The label bills it as a ‘rustique saison’ and Untappd calls it an ‘imperial berliner weisse’. I’m inclined to go with the bottle description because it’s in no way sour. Which is a shame because if it was an imperial berliner weisse, it’d probably be amazing.

Instead, it’s weirdly bitter on the finish which battles against the blueberries and so just doesn’t really work. A shame really because on paper this should work brilliantly.

Day Eighteen: Stress Test // Baltic Porter 8%

“How far can you push a lager strain? Clean fermented baltic Porter leaving room for lovely malty characters.” reads the label on the bottle for this dark beauty. I wouldn’t have guessed this started life as a lager because it tastes like a pretty traditional porter to me.

It goes down smoothly for an 8% beer and definitely has a huge malty backbone. There’s a subtle chocolate hint in there before the bitter malt kicks in. It’s a delicious beer and fit for winter. In a sea of dark beers made with various weird adjuncts, it’s nice to have something a bit more traditional.

Day Nineteen: Santastique! // Belgian Wit 5.5%

The bottle itself says this beer is made with To Øl’s own brettanomyces yeast taken from a pear tree. For the uninitiated, brettanomyces (or ‘brett’ for short) is a ‘wild’ yeast used for spontaneous fermentation in Belgian style beers - namely lambics and gueuzes but also saisons and wits. It’s often unwanted in many beer styles because not all beers lend themselves to having a funky, tart flavour. That’s obviously not the case with Belgian style beer and therefor this wit.

Brett beer is interesting in that over time many different flavours can develop - you only have to look at people buying Belgian beers and ageing them to see how the flavour develops (Orval seems to be a popular choice for this). However, as this calendar needed to be imbibed for review purposes, I couldn’t do that here.

The beer itself is fine. I’m not hugely into wheat or wit beers in general so it was never going to win me over. There’s the hint of funk there but it definitely needs some more time to develop. Good job I have another!

Day Twenty: Black Malts & Body Salts // Imperial Black IPA 9.9%

A beer I’d had once before at the arse end of a particularly boozey day in East London but vaguely remember enjoying so was happy to see again.

It’s a bitter and amped up black IPA with bags of coffee. There’s an underlying fruitiness from the hops but it’s predominantly a bitter beer with lots of roastiness from the coffee and malts.

It is apparently made with body salts (and black malts obviously) but I can’t really taste them. Good name though.

Day Twenty One: Let Mælk // Milk Stout 4.1%

I said earlier I wanted to try another variant of the ‘Mælk’ series so happy to see a yellow label pop out of the box.

This is quite strange - it’s very smooth and rich but lacks any body and is very thin so is a bit of a head fuck. It’s quite a traditional stout and lacks any weird adjuncts which is quite refreshing.

It’s very enjoyable and tastes stronger than it should. It’s billed as a ‘session milk stout’ but I’m not sure I’d want to chin a lot of these. Good though.

Day Twenty Two: Gose to the Fyrreskov // Gose 3.8%

A gose with pine needles.

I’m not really getting any piney notes at all here. It’s just a sour. But a very good one. Up there with the other sours in this advent calendar.

I don’t really have anything else to add - if you like sour beers, you’ll probably like this. It’s not going to rock your world but you’d enjoy it for sure.

And another cracking label!

Day Twenty Three: Tropical Rumble // IPA 4.3%

It appears I first had this in Budapest earlier this year but don’t really remember it. It must’ve been on draft because look at that can design - it’s a beaut!

I didn’t rate it that highly earlier in the year but I’m not sure why because it’s actually very good. It’s a session IPA so is low on the ABV but not low on flavour. It’s got bags of fruit from the mango, passionfruit and peach but also from the fruity mosaic hops as well.

Despite it being more suited to summer days, this is going down very well.

Day Twenty Four: Santa’s Secret - Mochaccino Messiah Double Shot // Brown Ale 8%

And the final beer isn’t the imperial stout I’d hoped for but a brown ale. Although, one I’m happy to have. This is a variant of Mochaccino Messiah - To Øl’s brown ale brewed with coffee, chocolate and milk to resemble something you could quite easily mistake for a cold brew coffee.

This is the big brother of that beer with more coffee, a high ABV and some cinnamon and cardamom chucked in to give it a Christmas slant. It’s delicious and equally as good as the original. It doesn’t really feel like drinking a beer because of the coffee and milk in it and I’d happily drink this in the morning with breakfast if it was socially acceptable.

A fantastic end to the advent calendar.

So, there you have it. I’m more than happy I went with this box. It’s the cheapest one I’ve ever had and probably the second best (behind the Mikkeller one from 2016).

I’ve been collating what’s in a range of beer advent calendars over the last few years, if you want to see what else is out there, check it out here:

A crazy amount of really good boxes on offer now. It will make picking one for 2019 all the more difficult.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2019 from Beer Voyage!