Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Aldi Beer Advent Calendar 2021 Preview

Calling this a preview is kind of a misnomer. The full list of beers dropped today and contains few surprises. For the remaining surprises, I have written up a lot of softly researched speculation.

I first entered the world of Aldi Advent Calendars last year, I must admit, I've become addicted. I don’t know if it is the slow rolling of information or the false scarcity, but I am ravenous for any and all information related to the Aldi Advent Calendars. Aldi first teased the 2021 calendars on Sept 17th. And when I say teased, I mean it; they literally only announced that the wine and the cheese calendars would be reappearing. Fast forward four agonizing weeks and Aldi updates their website with a full list of products, including the one I am most interested in: Beer Advent Calendar. Every article, every site, every post I could get my hands on had the same information: 24 beers in a box that was designed to look like an ugly Christmas sweater. I went deep into the recesses of the internet and could not find any information on specifics.

So here we are, one week out from the November 3rd drop, and I am finally seeing the list of beers included and my excitement has waned to mixed emotions. I’m writing this post to explore my grief and in doing so I will discuss the beers in the calendar. If you think these are spoilers, stop reading right here.

What we know:

Per the Aldi website, there are 24 beers in this package (no, duh). 17 of them are 11.2 oz while the remaining 7 are 12 oz. This screams that 17 are European made while the remaining 7 are American in origin. Per the Aldi website, the 24 beers are as follows:

  • Wernesgruner German Pilsner, 4.9% ABV 
  • White Tide Belgian White Ale, 5% ABV 
  • Brens Lager, 5% ABV 
  • Kristoffel Blonde Ale, 6% 
  • Kristoffel White Ale, 5% 
  • Kristoffel Dark Ale, 6% 
  • O'Shea's Irish Lager, 4.4% ABV 
  • O'Shea's Hoppy Lager, 4.2% ABV 
  • O'Shea's Celtic Wheat Beer, 4.3% ABV 
  • O'Shea's Irish Red Ale, 4.3% ABV 
  • O'Shea's Irish Stout, 4.5% ABV 
  • O'Shea's IPA, 6% ABV 
  • O'Shea's Pale Ale, 4.8% ABV 
  • Deadly Brewing Amber Ale, 4.8% ABV 
  • Deadly Brewing East Coast IPA, 6% ABV 
  • Deadly Brewing Grapefruit IPA, 5% ABV 
  • Deadly Brewing Hazy IPA, 5% ABV
  • Blonde Ale, 4.5% ABV 
  • Bock,4.5% ABV 
  • Cherry Kolsch, 4.5% ABV 
  • Key Lime Sour, 4.5% ABV 
  • Session IPA, 4.5% ABV 
  • Dry Hopped Sour Ale, 5.2% ABV 
  • Winter Lager, 5.6% ABV

The first 13 beers on this list are the exact same beers from last year's calendar (full 2020 review here). The Wernesgruner, White Tide, and Brens lager are available at my Aldi year-round and are suitable replacements for their name brand counterparts. The picture above is the first 3 days of the 2020 calendar, 2 of these beers appear again in 2021. I found most of the O’Shea’s beers to be underwhelming, with the exception of the Irish Stout which is thankfully returning. Also thankfully, they ditched the Winter Ale which was the worst beer in the pack last year.

Wild Speculation:

The Deadly Brewing beers are the most interesting part of this pack. I cannot find very much information on Deadly Brewing. There is no brewery on Untappd, no fake website, it's tough to find anything. What I was able to find was this Aldi Ireland product description for Dead Brewing Co’s Lager. Based on this, these beers are also likely out of Ireland. Building my case, there is also an interesting coincidence with last year's calendar. There was a Hazy IPA and Grapefruit IPA in last year’s calendar as well, but these were from O’Shea’s. Between the fact that we know these are likely Irish based on the Aldi website and that two of the beers appeared as O’Shea’s before, I have to guess the Deadly Brewing beers are just repackaged O’Shea’s beer.

Speculation but Less Wild:

That brings us to the last 7 beers. I am 99% sure the last 7 beers are from State of Brewing which is the Aldi brand for contract brewer Octopi based out of Wisconsin. Octopi is most known in the craft community for their Untitled Art brand; they make a large variety of very solid beers. These 7 beers have all been available within the last year and I have enjoyed many of them. Below is speculation on and mini reviews of each of them. Each beer I have speculated has the exact same ABV. Please excuse some of the less than ideal photos, didn’t think I would need these for the blog. Explanation of the rating system can be found here.

Blonde Ale (likely Ryder No. 8 Blonde Ale)

This is available year-round and is clearly meant to compete with Firestone Walker’s 805. It is a very true to style blonde ale. Mild grain notes similar to cereal with very little esters from the yeast. Mild bittering on the back without much hop character otherwise. At the end of the day, it’s well-made blonde ale but for my money, I will always reach for a lager over a blonde ale. Rating: 4/5

Bock (likely Brecken Bock)

Unfortunately, I never had this one but it is obviously a Shiner Bock clone. The label is so similar, it might even give White Tide a run for its money on most likely copyright infringement.

Cherry Kolsch

This beer is something. For those unfamiliar with kolsch, it is fermented with ale yeast but at lager temperatures so it drinks quite easy and clean. Full disclosure, I am a kolsch fiend. This beer just totally misses the mark. It tastes like they have a perfectly good kolsch base then dumped cherry jam into it. Making it worse, it’s just enough cherry to be unwanted; more cherry or less cherry would have made this beer a lot better. Color is nice though. Rating: 2/5

Key Lime Sour

This has come out the past 2 summers at Aldi. It is an easy drinking kettle sour with a lot of lime zest and mild lime juice. It will 100% hit the spot on a hot day by the pool – not sure how well it will do for the middle of December. One item to note, the first time this came out, the can looked extremely similar to Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale. The second year had a revamped can, wonder why… Rating: 4/5

Session IPA (likely Hopping Nomad)

I have never purchased this beer, but this post is making me think I should jump on it. This is available year-round at Aldi to fill the obligatory need for an IPA.

Dry Hopped Sour

This sour was less successful than the Key Lime but is totally fine. The hops add a grassy pineapple note to a fairly tart lactic sourness. This beer just doesn’t come together. The hops and tartness clash. It's not bad, just not good. Rating: 3/5

Winter Lager

Full disclosure, I had this back in December of 2020 and really enjoyed it. In my mind, this is the definition of what you want from a winter lager. It is heavily spiced with ginger, mild citrus, notes of cinnamon and nutmeg on top of clean dark lager with notes of molasses. I enjoyed this so much last year, I was hoping it would return so I could get a sixer. Rating: 5/5

All of these disjointed thoughts are why I am left unexcited. Over half of the beers are ones we had last year. There are another 7 from State of Brewing I have already had access to throughout the year. How can I justify $49.99 for 4 Irish beers from a shell brewery called Deadly Brewing? I ultimately have to pass on the calendar this year. If you’re jonesing for alternatives, like myself, I have turned to the Costco calendar filled with 24 16 oz German beers (review to come!). Alternatively, if you have access to a Lidl, they are doing what looks to be a fun 12 beers of Christmas package. Finally, craft breweries all over the US are offering their own versions of calendars, check out your local breweries for information. To anyone still going to Aldi on November 3rd, get there early and best of luck.

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