Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Aldi Beer Advent Calendar 2020 Review Beers 9-16

Here we are with the second of three installments of the Aldi Advent Beer Calendar review. If you haven't already, I recommend you check out the first part.

Now that I have gotten through 16 beers, I thought I should focus on where these beers actually came from. The back of the box breaks them down by origin: Germany, Belgium, and Ireland. As with many generic beers, information on origin and production can be limited. I tried to do some research (aka aimless googling) to identify where all of these beers actually came from. I find generic beer to be absolutely fascinating - I think this might be a character flaw. If you don't find it interesting, just scroll down to the beer reviews.


Interestingly, there are only two beers from Germany and each came from a different brewery - or so the box makes you believe. Wernesgruner, unsurprisingly, comes from the Wernesgruner Brewery. Googling their name actually brings you to Bitburger's website. For those who don't know, Bitburger is a German brewery most well known for their very true-to-style German Pilsner. When I was first learning about beer, Bitburger was ingrained in my head as THE German Pilsner. If they are using the same facility or even techniques to brew, it makes sense why I enjoyed Wernesgruner Pilsner so much. Per Bitburger's website, Bitburger purchased Wernesgruner in 2002 but as of October of this year, the brand was sold to Carlsberg. It will be interesting to see if anything changes as the result of this sale.

The other German brewery, Licher, is also a subsidiary of Bitburger. Per their website, it looks like they have a history of brewing wheat beers. Not surprisingly their contribution to the calendar is a wheat beer. Interestingly, the two German beers are from two separate facilities owned by the same parent company.


All 11 beers from Belgium are produced by the same brewery: Brouwerij Martens. First and foremost, you visit their website and music starts playing. I respect your brewery and the beers you make but this isn't Myspace, music should not just start playing. Once I found the mute button, it became clear that Martens makes its own beers as well as contract brews. Three of their 4 house brands were included as part of this calendar: 1758 IPA, Sozoens, Kristoffel - the only one excluded was their Martens Pilsner. The rest of the Belgian beers appear to be Aldi generics. Kinroo Blue is US Aldi's year-round witbier, for example. Imperium is always on the shelf at my local store. Other special buy Aldi beers in the past such as their shandy and radler were also Martens. I am very curious if the rest of these beers are available in other Aldi’s year-round.


Just like the Belgian beers, all of these are from the same brewery: Carlow Brewing Company. Per their website, they are primarily focused on their own brand, O'Hara's. Sounds well and good, but then you poke around and you find pictures of their O'Hara's bottles, and they are almost identical to their O'Shea's bottles. Pure speculation, but is it also the same beer? Most of the styles of beer on their website match with what was in the Advent Calendar. Reading on Untappd amongst other places, it looks like O'Shea's may be more common in the UK Aldi’s as a generic house brand year-round. This seems like it would cannibalize their own brand? What caught me even more off guard is that it looks like they even have a brewpub. For a lot of these contract breweries, they typically have a generic large warehouse where they produce dozens of brands, so the public is barely aware of them. Carlow appears to have a large sized contract brewing facility that I can only assume makes all of the beers. Then in a separate location, it looks like they have an O'Hara's pub that serves their beer and food. It seems like Carlow's business model is to hit every single revenue stream possible. In 2017, Hijos de Rivera, owners of Estrella Galicia, purchased a 32% stake of Carlow. Post-pandemic, I would love to visit both their pub and larger production facility and learn more about them - I find their business model fascinating.

With all of that said, reviews of beers 9-16 are below. Still a mixture of scores. Each day is a total surprise.

Day 9: Licher Hefeweizen

Origin: Germany
Best by date: 05/25/2021

This is a well-made Hefeweizen, exactly what to expect from the style. The yeast imparts a beautiful just ripe banana with a decent hit of clove. The wheat is there to balance out all of the yeast character. Nothing else to say really. If you like Hefeweizens, this is a winner but it won’t make you a believer if you don’t. Rating: 5/5

Day 10: O'Shea's Robust Stout

Origin: Ireland
Best by date: 28 AUG 2021

Wow. This is just not good. Starts off with a nice roasty malt before devolving into weirdness. I don’t know if it’s the yeast with the roast but you get this black licorice thing that is just unrelenting. There is some fresh mint hiding in there too. Maybe you will enjoy this more if you love licorice? On the positive side, it is the highest ABV so far and you don’t taste it so the weird roasty anise flavoring is doing some good. Rating: 2/5

Day 11: Kristoffel Belgian White

Origin: Belgium
Best by date: 10/28/2021

This is supposed to be a Belgian witbier, known for the addition of orange peel and coriander. This beer is true to that, but is heavy handed on the orange peel. Starts off with a light white bread wheatiness before you get hit with wave after wave of dried orange peel. I don’t get any coriander. All that said, it’s light, refreshing, and very fruity; easy and tasty drinking. Rating: 4/5

Day 12: 1758 Belgian IPA

Origin: Belgium
Best by date: 11/28/2021

This is by far the best hoppy option so far. Mild sweet malt upfront with a bit of cracker before some great waves of bitter orange and a mouth drying bitterness. Unfortunately, I don’t get any Belgian yeast character - the fruitiness of the hops may be overriding any subtle esters that may be there. Maybe a touch of dried apricots? Regardless, if you’re looking for an IPA, this is the best of the bunch so far. Rating: 4/5

Day 13: O’Shea’s Hoppy Lager

Origin: Ireland
Best by date: 28 AUG 2021

Hoppy lagers in general can be a difficult balance to find. Typically, you have a lager base that is quickly overwhelmed by hops and their bitterness. Unfortunately, this beer follows the same path. Barely any malt character, clean lagering, then just an absolutely dominating lemon citrus pith blend hop character with a lasting bitterness. Rating: 3/5

Day 14: Imperium

Origin: Belgium
Best by date: 09/07/2021

Green bottled Euro pale lagers have had some highs and lows in this pack so I was cautiously optimistic coming into this. Unfortunately, this one just doesn’t hit the right notes. A weird sweetness hanging around with a slight cider note. The finish is grassy and begging for a bit more bitterness to balance the beer out. On the upside, it wasn’t skunked. Brens is still green bottle champion. Rating: 3/5

Day 15: O’Shea’s Irish Red Ale

Origin: Ireland
Best by date: 28 AUG 2021

This is a surprisingly true-to-style Irish red ale. O’Shea’s has had the largest variance in quality during this calendar but this one is well made. There’s a good amount of freshly toasted bread with a good amount of yeast esters that are mildly wine like. Some sips can be a bit much on the level of roast. Bitterness is bit more than expected but I am nitpicking, it’s a well-made true to style Irish red ale. Rating: 4/5

Day 16: Sezoens Belgium Blonde

Origin: Belgium
Best by date: 07/14/2021

This had some mild, malty honey like sweetness upfront. Mild pear like esters before some serious hop character. This is again where the beer lacks balance. When someone says double dry hopped what comes to mind is the fun hop characters like citrus or pine. In this case, it just ends up being herby and bitter. There is also some buttered popcorn lingering around. Rating: 3/5

These beers continue to surprise with everything from straight up not good to super happy to drink. Come back in 8 days for the stunning conclusion and the obligatory power rankings.

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