Last year, I was surprised by Rox with an early present in the form of an advent calendar loaded with beer - the 2020 BrewDog Advent Calendar. It was my first year taking in an advent calendar that was more than just a few little chunks of chocolate and I had a great time trying a range of beers I had never tasted before (and a handful I already knew and loved). It was a great bit of fun that I hadn't put too much thought into this year, so you can imagine my surprise when Rox once again comes through and the 2021 calendar arrives on my doorstep - pure excitement! This will serve as an extension of last years article, I want to focus on the new additions as my original reviews mostly stand as is - I say mostly, we will get onto that shortly.
As a quick reminder, while I love beer I am no cicerone (I had to look it up, but apparently that is what a beer expert is called). I love beer and just wanted to reflect back over this calendar as I enjoyed it. For what it is worth, I love bitters, golden and ruby beers - but since 2020's calendar I actually drink a lot more IPAs than I used to. I know nothing of bouquets, aromas and what bubbles the beer should have, I like what I like and I will try to elaborate as best as I can! This is also not sponsored content, so if I don't like it I'll certainly let you know... That being said, I wouldn't (or Rox wouldn't) have purchased this if I didn't like BrewDog beers, so the odds of not liking something are unlikely. Anyway, with that out of the way, here is a reminder of the scoring system I used last time...
A reminder of the scoring...
"Love it!" beers are my absolute favourite, these are the ones I could see myself sitting in a pub all night without ever deviating from! These are those 9 and 10 out of 10 beers I will be ordering again once I have drunk my way through this advent calendar.
"Drink it!" beers are ones you can order with certainty they will be nice and I would probably happily drink these, nearly as eagerly as I would those in the ones I loved. However, when given the choice between these and the ones I loved, the latter would just about win out. These are still amazing beers just not my personal favourites.
"Try it!" beers are perhaps acquired tastes or have really prominent flavours that may not agree with everyone. I am not saying these are bad, and I am not saying I did not like them either, however, they have a really unique or distinct taste that would put some people off. Unlike the "Love it!" or "Drink it!" beers, these ones you should order a taster of first before you dive into a full pint...
Any beer that ends up with the "Avoid it!" badge has to have done something really bad to end up here. I try to be a positive person and always see the upsides, even if one of these beers isn't for me, surely I can see the upside to it? If I give a beer the "Avoid It!" badge then it is entirely possible I accidentally filled a pint glass with gravel or wasps by mistake. The one thing I can guarantee is I did not enjoy a second of drinking it, nor would I ever order it again.
The new additions
So we will be following that score as we go through the beers, to begin with here is a breakdown of all of the new additions in this year's calendar. I will mention the repeated flavours towards the end but ultimately I do not expect my ratings to have changed too much unless I state otherwise...
Really good, flavours complimented each other well with none overpowering the other. Sweet but not in a
bad way and didn't lose the IPA undertones by being too flavoured. Really shocked as the idea seems exactly like something I wouldn't have enjoyed but it seriously delivered - looking like we are off to a strong start.
Exactly what it says on the tin. Mild flavour but really drinkable and truly a pale ale. There's not too much to say about this one but that isn't a bad thing - it just delivers exactly what I would expect from a pale ale!
Lost in Mango
Considering I wasn't expecting much (as I don't like mango) this was actually really nice. The mango was subtler than expected so it really works well. I remember Lost Lager from last year being really nice for a lager and I genuinely think the mango variant is even better.
Hazy Jane Guava
Super fruity in the best possible way. Another one that really surprised
me about how much I liked it, although I love Hazy Jane so I guess it
shouldn't be too surprising. The additional flavours are subtle rather
than overpowering, so it compliments Hazy Jane's already nice and fairly
fruity flavour well. This was a great drink and even my girlfriend (who despises just about everything ale) said it was nice, so that's a win!
Hazy Jane Peach
This follows on from the Guava review and I definitely enjoyed this too,
again that is most likely a testament to my love of Hazy Jane but this
was a great drink. It reminded me a little of a peach yoghurt I remember constantly eating as a child, the mental combination of beer and yoghurt should
put me off but this honestly worked great! In a head-to-head between the Guava and the Peach, the Guava just edges it out, but this is still a wonderful drink.
Has a smooth flavour that starts out being mainly milkshake with a big IPA twang in its aftertaste. Really enjoyed this one, another surprise to me as I am typically not a fan of these more extravagant flavours. The balance seems to really be there, it's not just a super sweet drink and it's not just a beer with a little sweetness underneath, it delivered on both sides and I could happily drink this all night, considering my track record of hating sweet influence beers and now suddenly love them this has really been a shock.
Certified B Corporation
Not too much for me to say here, it's a pretty good taste but not particularly bold or any real prominent flavours which is exactly what you would expect for a pilsner. It's a fine drink, one I would happily drink if someone offered it to me.
For those curious, as I was, a Certified B Corporation is a business that is legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on
their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. BrewDog's report is here.
This was a nice shock, certainly serendipitous as for the first time in
my life, about 2 weeks prior, I ate pecan pie. This drink was kind of
amazing, the choice of pecan to go in a stout is a really good
paring as that smokey/salty flavour goes perfectly with what I would
expect of a stout. And obviously, salted caramel goes well there
too. Nice as a one-off drink, but I think it would get a bit much if you
tried to have a few, but still loved it. Slowly converting to stouts
thanks to these calendars. I would put this as a "Drink It!" for me personally, but I think this is more of an acquired taste for most - so try to get a taster before you buy the full pint...
Mallow Laser Quest
So this gets split into two parts, initial impression and part-way through. Initial: boy this one felt like a challenge for me. The marshmallow flavour was perfect, although not something I necessarily enjoy and when the marshmallow mixed with the pineapple it left a lingering aftertaste that I didn't personally enjoy. I didn't know how I would do with this, but by part-way through I found my tongue made its peace with the drink and it actually became quite enjoyable - the pineapple came through stronger and the aftertaste started to dissipate. Made it through even if I was conflicted about what to think, but happy to say I at least enjoyed it.
This was a nice surprise, given we already have quite a love for Belgium and all of its beers. Pretty damn great as far as my knowledge goes, I've enjoyed many a Witbier both on our weekend in Bruges and since then and this fits in amongst them well as well as a bit of a stronger aftertaste I'd associate with blonde beers like Brugse Zot and Leffe. Really enjoyed it, and so did my girlfriend so there is an extra victory for this one!
Winner of coolest can for me, although there are some other great ones on this list. When I initially smelt it all I really picked up was a nice IPA so I had no idea what to expect but it is absolutely mistakable, they have nailed the taste of parma violets! I find the real Parma Violets to be sweet but not in an overpowering way, more subtly floral thanks to the lavender so it works quite well in an IPA. Really enjoyed this one, far more than I was ever expecting to - I really anticipated this to be a novelty drink but I could totally drink this on the regular.
Another one without much to say but it is simply a really nice lager. Not too bubbly and has a good taste that tastes, well, like lager! If I had to pick between this and Lost Lager I think this wins out by the smallest amount but they are both great so I would be happy to receive either.
Urban Fog - BrewDog VS Mikkeller
A solid IPA to round out the new beers and one I seriously enjoyed. Feels a bit like a middle ground between Hazy Jane and Punk IPA, similar levels of fruitiness as a hazy IPA and would absolutely enjoy this on the regular. I don't know if these crossover beers become a permanent fixture, or if they are time-limited but I would really hope this one would remain.
Reflecting on previous reviews
That just about covers all of the new additions to this year's calendar compared to last year, for those of you curious, the list below shows all of the beers that were copied over from last years calendar - all of them are great choices or just classic BrewDog beers that you would expect to see. Before I get into that, here is a special mention for 2 beers I have had my mind changed on:
Originally rated: Drink it!
It is actually a little surprising to me that I only rated Hazy Jane as a "Drink It!", although I rated its big brother from last year (O-G Hazy) as a "Love It!". I have spent a considerable amount of time throughout 2021 enjoying Hazy Jane and it is one of my favourite BrewDog have ever made now. I said last time "given time and a few swigs, the fruitier tones settle into a really nice
flavour - give this one a chance and I think you will enjoy it" and I guess that was pretty accurate...
Originally rated: Try it!
Last time around I opened with the line "I don't think orange and beer are two flavours that sit together well." and my main criticism was that the orange flavour "lingers a little while in the back of the throat in a way that does not appeal to me". I'm not sure what exactly changed over the last year but this time around I found there to be absolutely no aftertaste and the orange was much more subtle than I remember. I would now happily drink this and I don't think it is quite as an acquired taste as I originally thought it to be.
Layer CakeOriginally rated: Try it!
Last time I confessed to not being much of a stout drinker, which seems to have changed somewhat this year, but I originally described it as "chocolatey, a bit smokey and very weird" and compared it to a shisha bar. This time around I kinda loved it... The smokey flavour, while still there, was more of a subtle undertone rather than an overpowering force - less like a shisha bar and more like, well, a cake! Perhaps my palate has changed this year, which is worrying considering it is 2021 and a certain illness is known to change taste... As I have never tested positive I'm going to assume my tastes are just changing as I age.
For the record though, I am going to leave this as a "Try It!" because while I enjoyed it so much more this time around, I still believe it's an acquired taste that you probably sample beforehand.
Finally, here are the other beers that are repeats from last year and I feel my opinion hasn't changed on:
- Punk IPA (Love It!)
- Lost Lager (Drink It!)
- Dead Pony Club (Love It!)
- Double Hazy (A.K.A. O-G Hazy - Love It!)
- Elvis Juice (Drink It!)
- Light Speed (Drink It!)
- Lock Down (Try It!)
- Hoppy Xmas (Love It!)
This means that the following were removed from the calendar for 2021:
- Jet Stream
- Snow Ball
- Double Punk
- BrewDog VS Cloudwater - New England IPA
- Fake Empire
- Jack Hammer
- Pale Ale (although I think Planet Pale is its natural successor)
- Triple Hazy
- Sour Grinch
- Jagged Edge
- Juice Shack
- Elvis Hammer
I hope you enjoyed this trip through the BrewDog 2021 advent calendar - I'm not sure if a tradition is starting to form but I can say with absolute certainty that I am loving these non-chocolate advent calendars. Especially when it allows you to experience something you hadn't before and possibly introduce you to your new favourite of something like these calendars have succeeded in with me. I think I've enjoyed the 2021 calendar more than the 2020 calendar, not just because of my own tastes changing but I think the range selected was nothing but winners, really showcasing BrewDog's core range as well as showing off some of their more weird and wonderful stuff. The thing that perhaps most impressed me was just how many new beers there were for this year, I honestly expected it to be a repeat of last years calendar with maybe 2-3 new ones for 2021 but they really went all out. Of course, my love for this calendar could just be that I enjoy beer and as someone who calorie controls year-round, any excuse to drink a beer every day is absolutely fine by me!