Sunday, September 18, 2022

Costco Beer Advent Calendar 2021 Review Beers 1-8

Let’s get the burning question out of the way: why am I writing this mega long form piece on last year's Costco 2021 beer advent calendar in September 2022? The answer is obvious. Costco starts selling these in September and I wanted to put the review out just ahead of the 2022 release. Strike while the iron is hot, as I was taught in TikTok Business School.

So let’s go back to October of last year. After writing the Aldi 2021 Preview, I accepted I had no interest in the calendar; I would be ending the year without my parcel of possibilities. Just as I had made peace with the situation, my phone started to vibrate with excitement. A new group chat had formed asking beer advent calendar questions with a ripping pace. Reading through these texts, I yearned for that same excitement. Like a younger sibling wanting to play, I looked into other advent calendar options. I stumbled upon the 12 days of Lidl beer but this was a bust; the closest Lidl is in Georgia (over an hour per beer of driving seemed silly). I then learned of the Costco beer calendar leading to a large hit of dopamine before pure dread. The calendar dropped in September and it was already late October. I swallowed my fear and made the long journey to Costco - I figured worst case I end up with an all-beef quarter-pound hot dog.

But the beer advent calendar gods were smiling down upon me that day. First thing I see after flashing my Costco card was a pallet of the beautiful glossy German perforated cardboard hiding 24 Christmas beers. I immediately scooped one up. I proceeded to fill up on various samples of snacks and frozen food before paying and, of course, getting my $1.50 combo with a hot dog and Sierra Mist (I never know what soda to get, I regretted this Sierra Mist but it did not hamper my beer advent calendar high).

Unlike the Aldi calendar that I had spent months researching, I knew almost nothing about this thing. I started pouring over every word on the box. It felt like when I first rented Goldeneye for the N64 from Blockbuster and spent the entire car ride back reading the manual. I don’t know how else to describe it except pure jubilation. I mean, look at these instructions, how can you not smile at how fundamentally stupid this is?

Let's get to the details. The calendar was $59.99 plus tax and included 24 16oz cans. It had heft. The calendar was created by an Austrian company called Kalea. This calendar origin's date back all the way to 2014. As such, this calendar is more than just a box of beers, it has features (I have rewritten this sentence almost 10 times, I couldn't decide if it should read like an infomercial - RIP Billy Mays). It advertised online tasting videos and even had QR codes for you to download their own beer tasting app. Reading over the beers, I quickly realized this calendar was not joking about being German; as we know, Germans are well known for their joking. Almost all of the beers were various German lagers. But maybe what it lacked in variety, it would make up for in quality or cool features?

I was excited to try them but had to wait another month to dig in. But since this happened almost a year ago, I can tell you everything right now. The app to check in the beers, called BeerTasting, is a poor knockoff of Untappd. In some cases, the beers weren’t even on there. Multiple times I would search a beer and it wouldn't show up. Yes, you can manually add beers but if this app was specifically made for this calendar, why are they not all preloaded? Additionally, each can had a QR code. You would think this QR code could be used in the app to identify the beer, but it is solely there to link to the app store to get the app. The app does have a cool feature where you can take a picture of the can and it tries to guess what the beer is. This worked exactly 0 times. The video tastings were hosted on YouTube and were unfocused "live" discussions of the beers. I will openly admit, as a beer nerd who likes low production video, they certainly scratched an itch I didn't know I had. They will definitely not be for everyone. Unfortunately, it appears many of the videos are no longer available.

At the end of the day, the features didn't add much but did the beers hold up? Without further ado, here are the first 8 beers. I am using the same scale I have used in the past which is outlined below.

  • 1 - awful, I would not drink it, even if it were free; actively offensive
  • 2 - I would drink if it were free but I would have to grin and bear it
  • 3 - totally middle of the pack, average, happily drink for free but unlikely to buy for myself
  • 4 - a solid beer and I would happily drink it for free and may buy it for myself
  • 5 - a good beer that I would be willing to buy and would want to reach for another

Day 1: Grumpy Hell

Best by date: 2023/05

What a pleasant way to start this calendar. Full disclosure, I am a huge helles fan and this one hits the mark. Beautiful malt character of biscuits and pie crust and it gives this perceived cereal sweetness but it’s not sweet. Finishes with a mild dried herb bitterness. Cleanly lagered, no off flavors. This is a beer you could drink every single day. I always worry when something opens too strong, it will gas out ala most Netflix originals. Rating: 5/5

Day 2: Baren Weiss

Best by date: 2023/05

This is the first Hefeweizen and I’m sure I won’t be the last. The distinct marks of a hefe are strong yeast characters in the form of banana and clove and a fuller mouthfeel from the wheat. Sadly this beer doesn’t hit all the marks. While there is plenty of clove flavor, the banana is subdued and ends up being more tutti-frutti (I looked this up, this is the correct spelling). Mouthfeel is not nearly as full or satisfying as I would like. Overall, it’s a fine hefe but there are better versions of this in every grocery store. This beer just needed the flavor ramped up. Rating: 3/5

Day 3: Alms Hell

Best by date: 2023/01

This is another well made helles. The malt character on this one is more subdued and less complex; very simple cracker notes. Hop character is much more pronounced, old world herby notes; bitterness is not overwhelming though. Lagering is very clean, no off flavors. It’s a well made beer and definitely worth drinking but the balance is not quite perfect. I am hoping I do not get a helles every other day though. Rating: 4/5

Day 4: Husaren-Bier

Best by date: 2023/05

This beer had literally zero information on the can. Kind of a fun mystery at first. Then you look at the box and it clearly states this is a marzen; shortest CSI episode in history. You get a bit of toast and some nice malty sweetness upfront followed by a floral hop bitterness. The bitterness is lingering; it kind of reminds me of poorly made matcha. I wish the malt character was more complex and it didn’t leave that lingering bitterness but these are small quibbles. Well lagered and very drinkable. Rating: 4/5

Day 5: The Art of Kraft German Black Bock

Best by date: 2023/05

This is seriously great and hits all the notes you want from a dunkel bock. Upfront is all those beautiful toasted bread notes, lingering caramel with a decent amount of brown sugar sweetness. Hint of dark cherries on the back, but hops are very mild and provide a barely there spicy finish. Very cleanly lagered. Only knock on this is it’s probably a tad too sweet for style but a minor flaw. Rating: 5/5

Day 6: Herrnbrau

Best by date: 2023/05

A grainy single malty note of cracker with some mild sweetness backing it up. Follows with an herby minty bitterness. You also taste a bit of booze on this one. Lagering is very clean. All of the parts of this beer are good but it doesn’t come together. Balance isn’t quite right, slightly too bitter, and it tastes very boozy for 5.6%. Few tastes of this remind me of ice beers of the gas station and not in the good way. Rating: 3/5

Day 7: Perlenzauber

Best by date: 2023/05

I don’t really know what to expected from a German pale ale but this is not something I would want to purchase. This beer is ultimately drinkable but so is hot dog water. Sweet biscuit malt upfront before very mild esters and a medium earthy hoppiness. This beer doesn’t celebrate the hop character you want in a pale ale. Imagine you were making paella but all you had was imitation crab. Could it be good? I'm sure it could be but doesn't mean I want it. Rating: 2/5

Day 8: Wiener Lager

Best by date: 2023/05

I love Vienna lager, one of my favorite styles. Sadly this totally misses the mark. Instead of the beautiful toasted crust you expect, it just tastes like sweet biscuits. Bitterness is not even there with minimal hop character. The beer is well lagered overall but has those cardboard and wet dog notes indicating it may be old. This beer is extremely boring and inoffensive; this is the Applebees of beers. Rating: 3/5

Overall, only one stinker in the first 8 is a great start. Next 8 are here!


  1. Impressed (but not surprised) that you had 8 different beer glasses to taste these in. Number 5 is awesome. Ready to see if you start repeating in the next set.

    Also, was reminded of the time you bought an annual Sam’s Club membership just for the discount on tires. Happy to hear you already had a Costco card!

    1. Costco is definitely an upgrade but I have to say, the Icee’s at Sam’s were legendary. I would put them same level if not better than Slurpees!

      I was so worried about repeating glasses from the 2020 calendar review so expect even more!

  2. I’m half German, was born in Munich and spend lots of time there. These are not real German beers. These breweries don’t exist. Who know what’s in those cans?