I've mentioned previously that this year's Craft Beer Advent Calendar has had some structural liabilities, especially when trying to extricate cans from the box. Other purchasers have had to remove the entire liner or fish random beers from the bottom of the box.
This morning I extracted the beer from behind door #11, and had to reach further in than I expected. When I discovered that I had withdrawn the wrong bottle, I checked the handy map that the calendar creators have made available on their website (contents listed by brewer, and not style or name, thankfully) and was astonished to discover that I had accidentally grabbed tomorrow's beer, which was supposed to be one row above my destination!
I am really hoping that Craft Beer Importers addresses this issue and provides some assurances that next year's iteration is more up to snuff. This is kind of a premium product, and if I have to arrange and wrap the beers myself, well, there isn't too much of a point to that, is there? I could ask Audrey to buy 24 random beers of different styles and wrap them in plain paper, but in truth, I would miss the curation, as well as the fact that a lot of beers make their Alberta debut in this calendar. With any luck, CBI are already taking notes and next year, things will be back to normal.
Now that I have the right beer, however, it is finally time to taste it. I've had a number of good brews from The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company in Canmore, and I have always been a fan of brown ales, although it is rare to see one offered in a 7.2% ABV variation.
Brown ales tend to the milder side of things, often with a nutty bitterness to them. A hint of that comes through in the aroma, but mildly, along with some earthiness and hints of dark chocolate. It pours a very dark brown, with traces of Amber when held to the light, and crowned with a tenacious off-white head.
The taste is like a session beer on steroids; crisp and malty at the opening, followed by bitterness brought on by both the nuttiness and baker's style chocolate that were foreshadowed by the nose. It is balanced out by the three different hops that come to the party and add a little more bitterness, more piney than citric, to the proceedings to keep things fresh. The finish is a little sweet, unsurprising for a strong beer, and dismisses any possibility of Ursa Major making a good session ale for anyone but the brave and foolhardy.
A nice, albeit strong, brown ale that does what it says on the tin. Enjoyable enough, but not enough so to displace Alley Kat Amber, my current go-to for this style.