2022 Costco Beer Advent Calendar – Sneak Peek

Now that this year’s Original Kalea Brewers Advent Calendars are on sale at Costco, here’s a sneak peek at what’s new and what is returning.

There are six new beers that, to my knowledge and based on the information I found previously on  John Staradumsky’s website, that have not previously been in the Advent Beer Calendar.  These come in two categories:

  1. New beers from breweries that are also making their debut
  2. New beers from breweries that have had other beers in past calendars.

In the first category are three beers:

There are also three beers in the second category:

  • Graminger’s Deife Märzen (Graminger’s Kirta Dunkel Weissbier was in the last three calendars)
  • Schlossbrauerei Ellingen’s Fürst Carl Pils (last year, Ellingen’s Fürst Carl Kellerbier was in the last two calendars)
  • Landgang Brauerei’s Helle Aufregung (Landgang previously had their Nordsee Pils in previous two calendars)

Beyond that, there are six beers that debuted last year that are returning, four other beers that were in last year’s calendar and previous year’s calendars, and eight beers that were not in last year’s calendar but were in previous years’ calendars.

So if last year was your first ever Advent Calendar like it was for me, there are 14 beers that are new to me out of the 24 in the calendar. 

Screenshot 2022-09-22 181828

2022 Costco Advent Calendar Offerings

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O’ zapft is! (2022 – Annual Oktoberfest Post)

Hooray!  Oktoberfest is back after a two year hiatus!  To all the people able to attend, Prosit!!  Enjoy!  I wish I could be there!

Spaten server

(No sources on the photos.  Sorry – but it seemed like everything was on Pinterest and I had to open an account to search the pictures.  Being a newbie, I couldn’t figure out how to source the attributions).

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Batch 182 – Sussex Bitter (revised) – All Grain

The day I kegged and carbonated the most recent Dopplebock was the brew day for this slightly revamped version of my Sussex Bitter.  I made some adjustments to the recipe on this second attempt at my original Sussex Bitter.  The adjustments were limited to increasing the amounts of the grains and flaked corn to full pounds instead of nine ounces of 80° Crystal Malt and seven ounces of Flaked Corn.  I was also able to get my hands on some Progress hops, which I had difficulty getting the last time I made this beer.

With these changes, the recipe was as follows:

  • 7 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 1 lb Briess Crystal Malt (80° L)
  • 1 lb Flaked Corn
  • 1 ounce Progress hops (5.8% alpha acid)
  • 1 ounce Bramling Cross hops (7.0% alpha acid)
  • 0.5 ounce East Kent Goldings hops (4.7% alpha acid)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale yeast

The targets estimated by BeerSmith are:

  • Original Gravity: 1.049
  • Final Gravity: 1.017
  • Alcohol by Volumes: 4.2%
  • IBU: 45.9
  • SRM: 11.8

It seems like I can’t have an uneventful brew day these days.  Everything when smoothly until it was time to remove my wort chiller connection from the adapt on my garage sink.  The adapter came right off into the chiller connector and I couldn’t get it to detach.  This meant I was going to have to purchase the hardware to replace the wort chiller connection and find a new adaptor for my faucet.  There’s always something going wrong it seems.

The adjusted measured original gravity was 1.047, just a little below the estimated original gravity.  I used the Tilt Hydrometer to monitor the primary fermentation that took place in my keg fridge, which I had set to 66 degrees.  The initial fermentation was running a bit warmer than I wanted (based on the Tilt reading of 70.5 degrees), so after two days, I dropped the keg fridge to 64 degrees when the Tilt reading was about 1.033.  The remainder of the fermentation period occurred at a temperature of 68.5 to 69.5 degrees, which is just about slightly above the middle of the fermentation range (64 – 72 degrees) of the West Yorkshire Ale yeast.

After a week in primary fermentation, the Tilt reading (1.011) was well below the estimated final gravity of (1.017).  I didn’t have a chance to transfer it from primary for another week.  By the time I got the beer into a carboy, the gravity reading on the Tilt hydrometer was about 1.007.  This reading was pretty much confirmed by a regular hydrometer reading, which was about 1.008.

At this point, I dropped the keg fridge temperature setting to 50 degrees for four more days, at which time I cold crashed the keg fridge to 36 degrees.  With these readings, the final beer came out at 5.1% ABV, quite a bit stronger than the 4.2% target ABV.

Since I didn’t a chance to keg the beer for several weeks in order to drink up the Doppelbock.  I left it in the keg fridge at 36 degrees for six weeks – so I basically lagered a bitter.

I thought it came out pretty well.  I thought it was a bit overly hoppy and there was that earthly/dirty hop flavor I sometimes note in craft beers but have never tasted previously in one of my beers. From the descriptions of the flavors of Progress hops, that shouldn’t be the source.

In any case, the beer definitely improved over the nearly three months that I was serving it out of the keg and was well received by those who tried it.

Batch 182 - Sussex Bitter

Batch 182 – the slightly revamped, higher powered Sussex Bitter!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Best Bitter, Brewing Equipment, English Best Bitter, English Bitter, English_Best Bitter, Extra Special Bitter, Grain Mill, Homebrewing, Keg Fridge, Propane Burner | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Costco Advent Beer Calendar – Questions and Answers

Kalea-Calendar-2022

The 2022 Beer Advent Calendar is coming!!

Source of photo: https://www.kalea.at/en/beer-advent-calendars/beer-calendar-usa/

What is an Advent Calendar?

Traditionally, Advent calendars are used throughout the Christian season of Advent to countdown to, and to build anticipation of Christmas.  Predominantly a European tradition, along with Christmas Markets, Advent calendars are becoming an increasing part of the more secular Christmas season in the United States.  For each day, usually beginning on December 1, numbered doors are opened and a surprise, depending on the nature of the Advent calendar, is revealed.  Advent calendars can contain candy, toys, coffee, tea, cheeses, pet treats and, of course, wine and beer!

Several years ago, I became aware of the Beer Advent Calendar produced by Original Kalea located in Salzburg, Austria.  Since 2014, these boxes of 24 beers, primarily from smaller local breweries in Germany, have been sold by Costco Wholesale Club.  Though I found out about them too late to pick up the 2020 calendar, I picked up last year’s calendar the first weekend it went on sale at my local Costco.  My wife thought it was the most excited she has ever seen me when it came to picking up something for the holidays.  And I was excited!  Between me, my friends, my brothers and nephews, we accounted for the purchase of at least eight 2021 Beer Advent calendars.

I was very patient, waiting with great anticipation for eleven weeks until December 1 came and I was able to start my Beer Advent calendar.  I was so excited that I wrote daily posts on my small blog, where I usually post occasionally about batches of my homebrew beer.  In December 2021 and January 2022, my blog had the most views and visitors ever.  While the numbers were still miniscule by most standards, blogging each day about the Beer Advent calendar drew a lot of hits from search engines.  Each day, I would write about the beer, who produced it and where it was made, where the smaller towns were located with respect to larger nearby cities, and information about the beers and breweries from the brewery websites as well as beer oriented websites like Untappd, Beer Advocate, and a site I had not seen before named Beer Tasting.  In addition to the information I would find on the Beer Tasting site, I quickly realized that the daily Advent Calendar live-streams on YouTube were all done by the producers of the Beer Advent calendar, who also produce a Beer Tasting app that can be used to check into and rate the beers, including those in the Advent Calendar.

What I Like About the Beer Advent Calendar!

As a long time beer lover and home brewer, I enjoy trying new beers.  Unlike many of my friends and family, I prefer traditional European style beers over the trendy (I prefer ‘faddish’) hazy, juicy IPAs, pastry stouts, sours, and milkshake IPAs.  I especially prefer central European and British beers that require quality ingredients and attention to the brewing process.  For example, the flaws in a delicate Pilsner or Helles cannot be easily hidden under heavy hopping to achieve overwhelming tropical fruit notes that bury the basic marriage of malts and traditional hops that shine through in European lagers and ales.  Other traditional styles, such as Kolsch, Altbier, Vienna Lagers, are not well represented in most beer store’s import selections or are rarely attempted by the explosion of domestic US craft brewers.  When such styles are attempted, it seems like most craft brewers can’t resist the temptation to add fruit flavors, or hops one would normally find in a New England IPA.  So I was very excited about the styles of beer in the Advent calendar, all coming from smaller local breweries that generally are not available here in the United States.

As Advent progressed, some of the regular attendees of the live-stream tastings were becoming more familiar and I found the Facebook group called 2021 Brewers Advent Calendar and became a member.  And my attendance nearly every day of Advent at the noon US Advent Calendar beer tasting paid off when I won six of the Beer Tasting beer glasses!

I was so excited about the 2021 Beer Advent Calendar that I ended up doing more research to try to track down the various beers that had been included in the calendars over the years.  There were several sites with helpful information, but the most extensive information I found was at the Guru of Brew blog section on the Advent Calendars going back to 2015.

Learning More About the Beer Advent Calendar

I then decided I would reach out to the people that had emailed me about the shipping details to send me the beer glasses.  Maximilian Frank at the Beer Tasting Club Office in Salzburg was kind enough to respond to my questions via email concerning the production of the Original Kalea Beer Advent Calendar.  I have incorporated his responses into the following paragraphs.

How are the Beers Selected for the Calendar?

The first question that came to me about the Advent Beer Calendar was how the beers are selected each year – especially since the beers and breweries included are from smaller regional breweries instead of the very large mega-brewers in Germany.  According to Maximilian (Max), they try to provide the widest selection possible and use customer surveys from the prior year to help in deciding which beers to keep for another year.  They also try to include new and innovative beers where possible. 

From what I could find in my internet research, about 65 different beers have been included in the Beer Advent Calendar since 2015.  While no beer has been included in every calendar, a few beers have been included each year except for one or two years. 

Each year, around eight beers make their debut in the calendar, though this varies from year to year. In the 2021 calendar, there were 10 beers that appeared for the first time, while in 2020 eight beers debuted and six beers appeared for the first time in 2019.  As for the beer included in the newer calendar from the previous year’s calendar, Max says they keep about eight of the best rated beers on the Beer Tasting app for the next calendar as well.  The remainder of the Advent Calendar is rounded out by previously appearing beers that have not appeared in the calendar for at least one year.

I think that replacing about one-third of the Advent Calendar offerings with new beers each year keeps it interesting for repeat customers.  There is enough variety where the selection doesn’t seem repetitious. 

When I asked Max how many new beers would be in the 2022 calendar, he wrote that he didn’t want to spoil the surprise, but did say that there will be a few new beers “…that are completely new to the market and initially available exclusively in our calendar, even for Germans and Austrians!”

Based on the information I recently have found online, it appears there will be seven beers included in the calendar for the first time this year, while six of the beers that debuted last year will be making a return appearance.  Of the remaining eleven beers, four have appeared in several recent years, and seven will be returning after being left out of the calendar for at least one year.

One beer that has been appearing in the calendar each year since 2017 is Perlenzauber (Pearl Magic).  This is classified as a German Pale Ale and is euphemistically known as a ‘Gypsy Beer’.  What makes the beer under the Perlenzauber name a ‘Gypsy beer’ is that it ‘travels’ from brewery to brewery and is made by a different brewery/brew master each year.  The result is a different beer from one year to the next, which means you never quite know what you will get!   

How Long Does it Take to Make the Advent Calendar?

The second question I had concerned the lead-time necessary to produce the calendar from brewing to when it goes on sale.  I know from home brewing and my knowledge of brewing in general is that ales (like Hefeweizens) usually take less time to produce than lager beers which, depending on the brewing process, can be cold-aged from two to eight or more weeks before it is ready for packaging.  Maxx’s response was that it is impossible to predict how long it would take because, as I noted, it depends on the style of beer and the brewer’s process.  But he did estimate that it takes approximately six months from when the beer is first brewed.  When the brewer is ready to package the beer, it is canned and the canned beer is shipped to their warehouse where the Advent Calendar boxes are hand-packed – sometimes with more than 100 people hand-packing the cans into the boxes!  Once they have all the beers that go into the packages, they can usually produce 500 calendars each day.  The filled boxes are then put on to pallets, and the pallets loaded into shipping containers which are then transported by ship to the United States.  Ocean transport can take three to six weeks to reach the United States depending on whether their destination is on the east or west coast.  All of this is done so that the Advent Calendars can be placed out for retail sale by the end of September.

Something that a customer may notice when they remove certain beers from the Advent Calendar box is that several of the beers contain information on the label saying that they are produced by Egerer.  This came up in the Alms Hell video tasting last year, where the brewer insisted that Egerer did not produce the beer, despite what was printed on the can.  Egerer, which used to brew its own line of beers prior to their recent purchase by the Memminger brewery, is now primarily a beverage packaging operation.  They do not, as I once thought, provide contract brewing services in the production of the beers contained in the Advent Calendar. 

Contract brewing services are often used by smaller breweries when their production needs exceed their physical plant capacity and to meet their packaging and distribution needs. It can be more cost effective for smaller breweries to use contract brewers to increase their brewing output and revenue without having to risk making expensive capital purchases of new equipment.  In addition to brew kettles and fermentation and aging tanks, bottling and canning lines are also part of a brewery’s capital expenditures to support expansion.  And while packaging beer into cans may have advantages over bottles, such as lower weight per unit, less breakage, and no light penetration, many people may prefer drinking beer from bottles over cans.

Max noted that many German and Austrian breweries traditionally package their beer in returnable bottles.  While his company prefers packaging beer in cans, few breweries – especially the smaller regional or craft brewers whose beers are carried in the US Advent Calendars – have the can-filling equipment.   This is where Egerer comes in.

When the breweries produce their beer, they transport the beer to the Egerer facility in Großköllnbach, Germany.  Großköllnbach is located about 115 km (a little more than one hour’s drive) northeast of Munich, with the Egerer facility located about 3 kilometers (about 2 miles) off the A92 highway.  With many of the breweries located in smaller towns and cities well outside of Munich, the Egerer facility appears to be well-located to meet their needs.  Each beer canned at Egerer is transported by two-trucks, each carrying about 275 hectoliters.  This is equivalent to 55,000 liters (about 14,500 gallons or about 461 barrels). 

What Kinds of Beer are in the Calendar?

While there is some variety of beer styles within the Advent Calendar, it should not be surprising that a large percentage of the beers are the more traditional golden colored lagers, which are still the most popular style in Germany and Austria. Half of the 2021 Advent Calendar were pale lagers, primarily either Helles or Pilsners with a few Dortmunders and light Vienna Lagers added.  Four more beers were either Kellerbiers, which are basically a young, unfiltered Helles or Pilsner, Festbiers or Märzens.  However, other styles were represented with Weizens (light and dark wheat beers), Bock beers (single, double or weizenbocks), with single examples of a Pale Ale and a Rauchbier (a lager made with smoked malt).  Previous years have included one or two beers of other styles, including a Steinbier (made by using heated rocks to brew the beer), Winter beer, IPA, and Stouts.

When asked if the production schedule, from brewing to shipping the completed calendars, precluded any beer styles, including seasonal beers like German Weihnachtsbiers (Christmas beers); Max replied that no style is excluded because they order enough beer for the breweries to make the styles for them year round.

Some US customers may view the pale lagers in the Advent Calendar as too similar or bland to be interesting.  However, the pale lagers in the Advent Calendar are generally fine examples of beers that require command of the art and science of brewing.  Perhaps the differences are too subtle for mainstream drinkers of thin, watery low calorie beers or for craft beer drinkers who are more interested in the explosion of overly juicy flavors, or the taste of the wine or liquor from the barrels in which the beers are aged than the delicate balance between the clean flavors of malts and traditional European hops.

Are All Original Kalea Advent Calendars the Same?

One thing that I learned with the selection in last year’s Advent Calendar was there was some variation between the contents that sometimes differed from what was shown on the box.  For example, instead of the Steamworks Vienna Lager on Day 8, my calendar had the Loncium Vienna Style Lager.  Another example was some people having the Meine Große Liebe Helles on Day 19 instead of the having the Zwönitzer Rauchbier that I had.  Max informed me that sometimes a beer is in short supply, so they will substitute the best available beer of a similar style if possible. This was also stated in the Day 8 Beer Tasting live stream where a representative replied that there are several reasons that a different beer may be in some calendars.  Since the calendars are packaged by hand, sometimes a beer can be placed in the wrong spot.  But what more likely happened in this case that they ran out of the beer and replaced it with another beer. 

In other cases, the beer laws in some states may require a substitution be made.  The differences in the beer laws among the 50 states introduce some complexities in producing the Beer Advent Calendar that most consumers could not envision.  For example, the 2021 Day 1 ‘Grantler Hell’ was packaged in some states as ‘Grumpy Hell’!  So if you are wondering why the beer you get doesn’t match the beers shown on the box, these are the most likely reasons! 

Where Else are Advent Calendars Available?

In addition to the US market, Beer Advent calendars are produced and shipped to various parts of the world.  While Max said the calendars shipped to Australia, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea are similar to the US calendars, the German and Austrian Advent calendars are different.  Since the European calendars use 330ml bottles instead of 500ml cans, and since the smaller traditional breweries and newer craft breweries bottle their beer, Max said they have many more options to include a wider variety of beers from more breweries.  This provides opportunities to include beers that are new, unusual, and innovative.  Some examples of these beers that have found their way into the US Beer Advent Calendar are the previously mentioned Perlenzauber Pale Ale and the TurboProp Imperial Pilsner, which has appeared in the calendar in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

What Else Can I Learn About the Beer Advent Calendar?

I mentioned the earlier live-streaming of each beer on the Beer Tasting Club YouTube channel.  In 2021, separate tasting sessions were scheduled and broadcast for the US, German, and Austrian calendars.  Each day featured guests who were usually associated with the brewery who made the beer featured that day.  The live-stream sessions were also somewhat interactive, with the viewers posting questions in the Live Chat that were selected and answered by the attendees.  As a home brewer, I was always interested in finding out more about the brewing process – what kinds of malts and hops were used, if infusion or decoction mashing is used, and other technical issues. 

One of the other regular attendees to the live stream regularly asked what I thought were great questions about the towns and regions surrounding the breweries and about any festivals that he could visit.  For example, Herrnbräu’s Jubiläums-Sud, which last appeared in the 2020 Advent Calendar, is served at Ingolstadt’s festival which takes place every year on April 23 and celebrates the starting of the Rheinheitsgebot (beer purity law).   Other examples include Erl Brau (whose Erl Hell was most recently featured on 2021 Day 18) who is one of the local breweries that provide beer at the Gäubodenvolksfest in Straubing, Germany.  There was a lot of discussion about this festival, which usually begins in mid-August.  Also, as was revealed in the 2021 Day 14 live stream, the town of Rosenheim, which is about 40 miles southeast of Munich and is the home of the brewery that made the Flötzinger Hell, has a 16-day Fall Festival (Herbstfest) and includes the largest stand-alone beer tent in the world!  That Fall Festival begins at the end of August and ends around when Oktoberfest in Munich begins.  Knowing such information could inspire beer-loving tourists to plan their visits in order to attend these smaller festivals to support these smaller breweries – or to attend the Landshuter Hochzeit, which normally takes place every four years and will resume in May 2023 for the first time since 2017 after being postponed due to Covid restrictions.  Connecting the beers and breweries in the Advent Calendar with festivals and tourism may pique the interest of Beer Advent Calendar customers.

The awarding of the Beer Tasting glasses during the live streams definitely increased interest in the presentations and among the posters on the non-affiliated Advent Calendar Facebook page.  During the live stream of the 2021 Day 10 beer, Käuzle German Pilsner by Kauzen-Bräu, the brewery representatives were drinking the beer out of ceramic owl shaped mugs which I’m sure caught people’s interest as well.  And most beer fans also collect brewery memorabilia, like beer glasses, coasters, and signs. Perhaps making more of these types of items available to purchase, either as add-ons to the Advent Calendar or online through the Beer Tasting website or App, might keep returning customers interested in future Advent Calendars and help attract new customers who will fall in love with the Advent Calendar like I did!

Whether you are a returning customer enjoying the spirit of the season with hard to find European beers or a new customer experiencing the joy of discovery of your first Beer Advent Calendar, hopefully this answers some questions you may have but didn’t know who to ask!

Be on the lookout for the 2022 Advent Calendar – on sale in a couple months!

(Go here if you want an advance look at the contents of the 2022 calendar).

Posted in 2021, 2022, Beer, Costco Advent Calendar | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 181 – Barke Doppelbock (Stair Crawler) – All-Grain

I had a late start on brewing the Doppelbock this year.  When I finally got around to making it, it was almost three weeks later than last year’s batch. The brew day fell almost exactly at the end of February.

This year, since I have grain stockpiled at home, the recipe ended up being tweaked a little bit.  The same proportions of grains were used, but the types of grains used were different.  Since Barke Pilsner and Munich malts made up over half the grain bill, I decided to call this batch Barke Doppelbock.

I also brewed with the hops I had on hand, which were Spalt hops instead of Mt Hood or Magnum hops as I had used the last two batches.

The ingredients included the following:

  • 6.0 pounds of Barke Pilsner Malt (1.5L)
  • 5.0 pounds of Barke Munich Malt (about 8L)
  • 5.0 pounds of Weyermann Munich Malt (8 L)
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafa II Special Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Caramunich 3 (55ºL)
  • 2.0 ounces Spalt hops (3.2% alpha acid)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 1 pack – White Labs Bock Yeast WLP 833

According to BeerSmith, the targets for this were:

  • Original Gravity: 1.090
  • Final Gravity: 1.027
  • Alcohol by Volume: 8.5%
  • IBU: 19
  • Color: 32.2° SRM

I’m still having some issues with my propane burner.  I replaced the gas line to my original burner – the one that made my recent Barke Munich Dunkel brew day so challenging –  because I’m a little dissatisified with the heat output on the new burner.  I just don’t seem to get the same rolling boil which affects my boil off rate.  In a 60-minute boil period, I can usually count on boiling off about 2.5 gallons of wort.  I only seem to get about two gallons to boil off on the new burner.  But this issue this time is that I kept getting a whiff of propone during the entire brew day.  I kept testing the connections on the tank side of the propane line for leaks but couldn’t find any.

Aside from that the brew day was uneventful  As I put the cooled wort into the keg fridge to finish cooling to yeast pitching temperature, I also put the Tilt Hydrometer into the fermenting bucket.  There was a bit of a disparity between the highest Tilt reading I received and my hydrometer reading.  My adjusted hydrometer reading came out at 1.092 (just above the predicted 1.090 reading from the brewing software), but the Tilt only recorded as high as 1.075.  Over the two week primary fermentation time, the Tilt tracked the fermentation nicely, settling around 1.033/1.034 for about the 10 days of fermentation.

The fast primary fermentation, which took place at around 52 degrees, was also due to a last minute decision I made.  I started getting a little nervous because I had only one packet of the WLP 833 German Bock yeast when I normally pitch two packets.  I don’t know why I didn’t order two this time around, but I was afraid of a lagging fermentation that wouldn’t finish completely.  My work-around was to put the Doppelbock wort on top of the remaining yeast from the Tmavé Pivo that I just transferred to a carboy for secondary fermentation on the Doppelbock brewday.  This large amount of active yeast plus the German Bock yeast made quick work of the fermentation.

After two weeks in primary fermentation, I transferred the Doppelbock to a carboy and put it back in the keg fridge, raising the temperature setting by two degrees for four days before cold-crashing the beer to 36 degrees.

After three weeks in secondary fermentation, I put a gelatin solution to clarify the beer into the carbos and let it site for another two weeks before kegging and force carbonating the beer.

I’ve really dialed in the force carbonation.  I have found that setting my CO2 pressure to 25 psi and rolling the keg on its side with my foot for about 2.5 minutes really ends up with a near-nitro looking pour.

After carbonating the beer, I let it sit in my garage fridge for two more weeks before drawing the first beer from the keg – ostensibly to allow the gelatin and any remaining yeast to settle out but also as a kind of tertiary lagering period.

My adjusted final gravity was a bit higher than predicted at 1.031, resulting in the beer being about 8.2% ABV.

The first few drafts have proven this beer to be one of the best I have ever made.  The combination of the yeasts used in fermentation, the lagering time, and the carbonation make this really smooth with no real alcohol-burn that usually results from higher ABV beers.  This makes it necessary to really watch how many I have of these to drink – the beer is so drinkable that it would be easy to have one to many and have to crawl upstairs to bed!

Batch 181 - Barke Doppelbock

Batch 181 – Barke Doppelbock – the Stair Crawler!!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Barke Doppelbock, Doppelbock, Doppelbock, Doppelbock_, Gelatin Fining, Grain Mill, Homebrewing, Keg Fridge, Propane Burner, Tilt Hydrometer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 180 – Tmavé Pivo (Czech Dark Lager) – All Grain and Testing the New Tilt Hydrometer

After previous attempts at brewing and refining the recipe of my Tmavý Ležák, my last attempt received a comment from Al Reece about the grain bill followed in most Czech dark lagers.  Al’s blog, Fuggled, contains several articles about his collaboration with Devil’s Backbone brewery in the production of  Morana, including this post from 2010 that tells the story about how this came about.  Al’s comment about most Czech dark lagers is that the grain bill includes “Pilsner, Munich, Caramel, (and) Roast” malts got me to thinking about tweaking the recipe a little bit more.

So in addition to using Pilsner, CaraMunich, and Carafa/Black Prinz malts, I added some Munich malt to the grain bill and decided to go from there.  The different grain bill, along with the use of Spalt instead of Saaz hops, led to a slightly different name – for the beer:  Tmavé Pivo (Dark Beer) instead of Tmavý Ležák (Dark Lager).

This batch included the Barke Pilsner malt I had previously purchased, along with some grains purchased from Atlantic Brew Supply.  This grain bill covered the Pilsner, Munich, Caramel, and Roast malts as Al suggested.  The entire ingredient list included::

  • 8 pounds of Barke Pilsner Malt
  • 1 pound of Weyermann Munich II malt
  • 1 pound of Weyermann Caramunich I malt
  • 5 ounces of Carafa II Special Malt
  • 3.0 ounces Spalt Hops (3.2% alpha acid)
  • 1 Whirlfloc Tablet
  • 2 packages of White Labs 802  Czech Budejovice Lager Yeast

Alas, no picture of the ingredients since I am drawing from my bulk grain stores and had measured all the grains out at once into a brewing bucket prior to running them through the grain mill.

As in the previous batches, I held off adding the Carafa II Special malt to the mash tun until the start of lautering/sparging in an effort to get as much color as possible without extracting too much of the roasty flavors from the grains – in hopes that I could get a more sweet and malty flavor and minimal to no Porter/Stout notes.

The targets for this batch from BeerSmith were:

  • Original Gravity: 1.054
  • Final Gravity: 1.014
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.3%
  • IBU: 31
  • Color: 20.6° SRM

My adjusted original gravity of 1.059 came in a bit above the target of 1.054 – likely due to the increased efficiency resulting from the grain crush .

The wort was cooled to about 60 degrees before the yeast was pitched and it fermented in the keg fridge at 52 degrees.

As I was preparing for this beer, I was thinking about ways to upgrade some of my equipment to make my brewing process a little easier.  I was considering moving to a stainless steel fermenting bucket to replace my plastic buckets, some of which have become slightly discolored from the darker beers that have been fermented in them over the years.  I wasn’t really looking for a conical on legs, as I wanted something I could still fit in my keg fridge for primary fermentation and was close to the size of the buckets I have been throughout my homebrewing career (which measure approximately 10.5″ in diameter by 18″ high without an airlock).  Some of the items that caught my eye included the SS Brewmaster (13″ x 21″ high), the Anvil Bucket Fermenter (16.5″ x 21.5″ high), and the Kegland Bucket Fermenter (15″ x 28″ high).

The more I thought about it, the less I liked the size of the buckets and the amount of the size they would take up in my keg fridge during fermentation – not that I can get more than one bucket at a time in the beer fridge.  But I started thinking that if I needed to ferment a couple of batches at once, I might be better off investigating in fermenting in one of the spare cornelius kegs I have laying around using a spunding value to ferment under pressure.

As I lay bed early one morning trying to get back to sleep after being awakened by the cat, I started thinking more and more about the Tilt Hydrometer.  I started thinking that having a bluetooth connected digital hydrometer/thermometer would be useful in tracking primary fermentation, would clue me in when fermentation had progressed enough for a diacetyl rest, and generally take the guesswork out watching bubbles in the airlock or taking frequent samples to track changes in the specific gravity of the wort.

So in the wee hours, I made the purchase.

Tilt Hydrometer

Brewing Tech Toys – Tilt Hydrometer

After reading the instructions, synching to my phone, and calibrating the Tilt, I dropped it into the fermenting bucket – the beer was still in primary fermentation – two weeks after the brew day.  Once the readings started to be consistent, I was tracking at a specific gravity of 1.020 at 52.5 degrees.  I tracked the beer for another week until the Tilt was reading 1.014 – right at my target final gravity.  At this point, I transferred the beer to a carboy for secondary fermentation out in the garage beer fridge.

I probably rushed the secondary fermentation, since after about two weeks, I did the gelatin fining and five days later I kegged and carbonated the beer so it would be ready for a small post-St Patrick’s Day gathering I was having.  The adjusted final gravity was 1.016, which resulted in a bit stronger beer that came in at 5.7% ABV.

I was very pleased with how the beer came out.  Very little in the way of roasted notes, but it was less dark than I would have liked.  Still, it had some sweetness to it which was what I was trying to achieve.  I’m getting closer!

Batch 180 - Tmave Pivo

Batch 180 – Tmavé Pivo!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Czech Dark Lager, Czech Dark_Lager, Czech_Dark Lager, Gelatin Fining, Grain Mill, Keg Fridge, Propane Burner, Tilt Hydrometer, Tmavé Pivo | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 179 – Barke Munich Dunkel

With the recent issues with supply chain disruptions and inflation taking hold in the last third of 2021 and with unusual and unexpected items being out of stock required me to adjust where I purchased the supplies for recent batches.  With my regular online supplier being out of Weyermann Munich malt, my wife suggested that I buy some grain in bulk and store it until I needed to use it. This was now a realistic option since last Christmas when my wife and daughters gave me a Barley Crusher mill that I first used earlier this year.  That led me to consider purchasing one of my favorite malts to use in brewing German style beers:  Weyermann’s Barke malts. 

I used either the Barke Pilsner or the Barke Munich malts on five batches in one year between 2016 and 2017, including this Festbier, this Munich Dunkel, this Tmavý Ležák, this Dortmunder, and this Festbier.  I purchased the malt from three different online suppliers during this time period.  

I approached my local homebrew store about ordering these grains in bulk for me.  He was extremely reluctant to consider it, saying that if he did it for me, then he would have to order it for other customers as well and he didn’t want unclaimed sacks of grain sitting around.  Perfectly understandable.  But then he said he could order it for me from Northern Brewer and charge me extra for handling it.  This made no sense, as I could also order it directly from Northern Brewer and not have him as a middle-man!  

Several times in the past, he has told me he could order supplies he didn’t have in stock for me and I told him that my decision to brew seldom occurs more than ten days in advance of my targeted brew day, which makes it easier to just order directly from other online suppliers rather than order it from him and hope it came in his weekly shipment. 

More on this in a bit.

So I ended up ordering a 55 pound sack of Barke Pilsner malt (1.8° L) and 20 pounds of Barke Munich malt (7.8° L) from Northern Brewer.  To store the grain, I first purchased a 60 pound Gamma2 Vittles Vault which I found for a great price on Amazon.  The problem was I couldn’t keep the ring that holds the screw-on lid to stay on the storage bin.  Unacceptable for something I want to keep air tight and to keep pests from getting to the grain.  However, I was able to find a different style of Vittles Vault at our local pet store – one that is more square than the one I purchases from Amazon with a 50 pound capacity.  I tested the lid and the locking ring that held it on to the storage container and it held well and didn’t pop off, unlike the one I purchased on Amazon.  We also purchased some additional, smaller food storage containers for the Barke Munich malt purchase and for other grains that I may purchase in bulk in the future.   

I decided to follow the same basic recipe I used the last time I made a Munich-style Dunkel with Barke Pilsner malt swapping out Hallertau hops for Spalt hops.  The ingredients included:

  • 11 pounds Weyeremann Barke Munich Malt (7.8° L)
  • 2.0 ounces Spalt Hops (3.2% alpha acid)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 1 package SafLager 34/70 yeast 

I also had some Carafa II Special malt on hand in case the color from the Barke Munich Malt was too light after I completed mashing the grains and I need to boost the color a little.

With the bulk purchase of the Barke Munich malt, and the Spalt hops and Carafa II Special malt coming from inventory purchased for my Altbier, the only thing I needed to get was the yeast.  So I figured I would purchase that from my local homebrew store, because 34/70 yeast is generally pretty readily available because it is so versatile for many lager styles – it is the yeast I use for most lagers I make.

I stopped in the local homebrew store and went straight to the cooler where they store hops and yeast for customers to select.  There were no packets of SafLager 34/70 yeast in the cooler.  I asked the homeberew store owner if he had more in the back.  He said he didn’t keep yeast in back and came out from behind the counter to look to see if maybe I overlooked it somehow or if he had some stashed in storage containers in the bottom of the cooler.

He didn’t.

He was very apologetic and said that he must have missed running out of the yeast.  I asked him “How closely do you monitor your inventory?”  To me, it seemed unusual that he would run out of a general purpose lager yeast unless he wasn’t paying any attention to his inventory.  He replied he must have missed it and offered to order some as he was putting the week’s order together as I came in.  Being a Saturday, I asked him when he would expect to have the yeast delivered.  He replied that his shipment ‘usually’ comes in the following Wednesday.  Then he paused and said “if the supplier includes it in the shipment.”

I asked “So if you order it today, you *might* get it on Wednesday?”  He agreed and then I asked “If it doesn’t come in this coming Wednesday, do I have to wait until the following Wednesday?”  He replied that he also gets deliveries on Saturday so if something doesn’t come in the Wednesday delivery, it would come on his Saturday delivery.  So I confirmed that he should have it a week from today at the latest.  His reply: “Probably.”

Wednesday came and I called later in the afternoon to ask if his shipment came in and if the 34/70 yeast were included.  He said that it had come in, but the yeast was not included in the shipment.  I said I would check back on Saturday.

Saturday came and rather than driving to the store and risk leaving empty handed, I called later in the afternoon to see if the yeast had come in.  

It hadn’t.

This now pushed my brew day back a week. 

I discussed the delay with my wife who asked if I could just order the yeast from one of the online suppliers I use.  I told her that I could, but I really didn’t want to pay more in shipping than I would for the yeast, so that wasn’t really an appealing option.

On a whim, I decided to see if Amazon had a vendor who carried the yeast and who would ship it for free under Amazon Prime.  They did.  I was able to buy three sachets of 34/70 for $18.95 – about $6.32 each.  Since my online suppliers generally charge from $5.49 to $6.99 for one sachet, this was a decent deal – and it would be delivered to my door within two days.

I would have preferred, once again, to give my money to my local store, but he couldn’t guarantee if or when he would have the yeast in stock.  Once again, my money went elsewhere. 

The predicted specs for this beer (using BeerSmith) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.055
  • Final Gravity:  1.015
  • 5.2% ABV
  • 12.4 SRM
  • 24 IBU

Normally, I try to start my brew day about 8:00 AM.  Outside events resulted in my deciding to start the brew day around 11:30 AM. instead.  No problem – my brew day is typically about five hours long from start to finish.  This would get me finished at a reasonable 4:30 PM or so, barring any unforeseen issues.

I measured out 11 of the 20 pounds of Barke Munich malt that I had recently purchased and my wife assisted me by pouring the grain into the bin while I ran my drill to drive the rollers.

I started heating the mash water on my Bayou Burner that I have been using for my all-grain batches over the last seven years.  It has served me well.  But that morning, I noticed the shut off value on the gas line to the burner was turning very stiffly.  Strange – it always had turned fairly easily.

I heated the mash water and mashed the grain.  As is my practice, I started heating the sparge water about 25 minutes into the mash.  The shut off valve was turning even more stiffly.  Weird.

Sparge/lautering went fine. I was pleased with the color of the run-off and decided I would hold off on using the Carafa II Special malt. 

Batch 179 - Barke Munich Dunkel

First running from the mash tun – the color from the Barke Munich Malt was right where I wanted it to be!

 I collected about 7-1/4 gallons of wort in the brew pot and started the burner up to bring it to boil  The shut off valve was still very stiff. 

Just as I was getting the wort close to boiling, I adjusted the shut off valve from fully open to where it is just above closed to keep the wort from boiling over from the kettle.  That’s when a very noticeable hissing noise started.

I shut the gas off at the propane tank, killing the flame on the burner.  I then proceeded to test various elements of the burner line, including using soapy water to detect where the gas leak was.  It wasn’t visually obvious but it was clear that it was happening at or adjacent to the shut off valve.

It wasn’t going to be safe to continue to brew using the burner, but what other options did I have?  I thought about it and went to a nearby Tractor Supply store.  I’m not a frequent customer of Tractor Supply, but I had previously seen turkey fryers and the like in stock there.  Being roughly three weeks prior to Thanksgiving, they should have some in stock, right!

Not today.  

A very helpful sales associate looked with me to see if we could find any and when we couldn’t, she said they hadn’t had them in stock for a while.  We both then did simultaneous searches to see what other nearby businesses would have propane burners for turkey fryers or seafood boils in stock three weeks before Thanksgiving.

A nearby Walmart had them available, but only for delivery and that would take three days.  This was not going to help my immediate issue with a covered pot of what was once near boiling wort, but was now gradually cooling on the burner stand.

We found a nearby Academy Sports store was likely to have many in stock.  I then had to steel myself for having to journey to the somewhat nearby mall at about 2:00 PM – right in the heart of mall traffic building to its initial peak for the Saturday.  To avoid the worst of the mall traffic, I take a back route which, while still congested, is not nearly a gridlocked as the main approach to the retail area from the interstate.

Except there were apparently high school football playoff games going on at the high school located along this back route. There was more congestion, lots of pedestrians crossing the street, and even a few cars stopping in the street to drop passengers off prior to the driver parking.

I eventually successfully circumnavigated the various traffic back-ups and arrived at Academy Sports. I thought I might have to go back to their barbecue section, but they had a display set-up just inside the front doorway where I was able to find a 58,000 BPU propane burner stand (with no pot) on sale for $29.99.  The purchase being made, I went back home and completed brewing the batch, completing the cooling at about 5:30 in the evening – a nearly six hour long brew day.

Batch 179 - new burner stand

The new burner stand in use during the boil.

My adjusted original gravity was 1.060 – which as a full five points above the target.  After cooling with my wort chiller, the fermenting bucket went into my chest freezer for about three hours to bring the temperature down to about 61° before pitching the yeast.  The fermenting bucket in the kegerator set at 55° to ferment for 12 days before transferring the beer to a carboy for secondary fermentation.  I set the kegerator temperature to 68° for a diacetyl rest and after five days cold crashed the carboy in the keg fridge with the temperature set at 36°.

After three weeks at that temperature, I added gelatin to help clear the beer, kegging and carbonating the beer two weeks later.  The final gravity came out to 1.021, which was quite a bit above the target of 1.015, resulting in a beer that is 5.1% ABV.

 I enjoyed the first drafts from the keg on New Year’s day watching Ohio State play Utah in the Rose Bowl.  

Batch 179 - Barke Munich Dunkel

Batch 179 – the Barke Munich Dunkel. Lovely in color and clarity – and delicious to boot!

By January 6, the Kalea beer tasting glasses that I ‘won’ on December 18 were delivered.  I immediately put them to use!

Batch 179 - Barke Munich Dunkel in a Kalea Original Beer Tasting Glass

Upon the arrival of my Kalea Original Beer Tasting glasses (from the people who assemble the Costco Advent Beer Calendar each year), I put them to good use with my Barke Munich Dunkel!

 

Posted in 2021, All-grain Brewing, Barke Munich Dunkel Lager, Barke Munich Dunkel Lager, Brewing Equipment, Costco Advent Calendar, Dunkel Lager, Dunkel Lager, Dunkel Lager, European Dark Lager, European Lager, Grain Mill, Homebrewing, Munich Dunkel Lager, Munich Dunkel Lager, Munich Dunkel Lager, Propane Burner, Style | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aldi Beer Advent Calendar Day 24 – Deadly Brewing Grapefruit India Pale Ale

The final beer of the two Advent Calendars comes from the Aldi Beer Advent Calendar.  This Grapefruit India Pale Ale, which is 5.0% ABV is (obviously) the last beer of the four beers from Deadly Brewing Company which are contract-brewed by:

The Carlow Brewing Company Ltd,
Royal Oak Road, Bagenalstown,
Co. Carlow, Ireland

The beer label says this about the beer:  Brewed with fresh grapefruit, this IPA is bursting with a medley of hoops and citrus fruit aromas met with the same crisp flavors on the taste.

On to the beer!

Deadly Brewing Grapefruit India Pale Ale

The final Aldi Advent Calendar beer – Deadly Brewing Grapefruit India Pale Ale.

This was a little bit of a let down after the previous several Aldi beers.  But it delivers what it says it is on the label:  an India Pale Ale with a good bit of grapefruit flavor along with it.  Not something I would probably buy, but I’m able to finish it pretty quickly, so it must not be too bad!!

Other websites describing the beer and the brewery:

https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/62062/577084/

https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/62062/

https://untappd.com/b/aldi-stores-us-deadly-brewing-grapefruit-india-pale-ale/4583870

Posted in 2021, Aldi Advent Calendar, Beer, Fruit beer, IPA | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Costco Advent Calendar Day 24 – Kartäuser Dopplebock

So after much anticipation after purchasing my Costco Kalea Advent Beer Calendar about 15 weeks ago, now comes the dreaded day when I reach the last of the 24 beers.  This beer, Kartäuser Dopplebock, is a Dark Doppelbock with 7.5% ABV.  It is brewed by Memminger Brauerei of Memmingen, Germany.  The Memminger Brauerei was this year’s brewer of the annual Perlenzauber IPA, the Day 15 beer, which is brewed by a different brewery each year.

The can again states this is a beer is another ‘brewed by Egeger, but that means it is either contract brewed in its entirety or packaged in cans by Egerer.  Perhaps someday this confusion will be cleared up!

As mentioned in the post for that beer, The Memminger  Brauerei brewery is located in Memmingen, Germany, which is a town of 44,360 people in Bavaria.  Memmingen is located about 75 miles west of Munich.

The Memminger brewery website says this about the Kartäuser Dopplebock:

To preserve the Charterhouse in Buxheim, the Memmingen private brewery created its own very special beer specialties. Full-bodied, tasty, mildly aromatic in taste and with a golden color, the Carthusian beers meet the requirements of a beer that is brewed according to all the rules of art.

The BeerTasting website describes the beer this way (translated by Google):

This beer has a clear ruby brown color and a long-lasting head. The aroma is malty and fruity. The initial taste is sweet and reminiscent of dark cherries, as well as prunes. The bitterness of the hops is only subtly noticeable. The perfect beer for cold winter days!

and describes the brewery this way:

The Memminger Brewery is one of the most important breweries in the region and one of the 100 largest in Germany. With the aim of making everything even better, the company management sticks to the brand policy: convincing quality is the basis of the business. Our partners participate in this. An important part of the management of the Memminger Brewery is the obligation to protect the environment. That is why the people of Memmingen have made keeping the environment clean and careful use of natural resources cornerstones of their corporate philosophy. The Memminger Brewery meets the high demands of beer drinkers with a complete range of first-class beer specialties. Due to the changed market situation, the Memminger company also offers a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages of all flavors.

The tasting video had this description:

From the Alps to the USA

A special specialty awaits us on this last day of the beer advent. A German-Style dark strong lager with fabulous 7.5 ABV. Merry Christmas!

Today’s beer is called “Kartäuser Doppelbock”. It comes from the Memminger Brewery. This is located in southwestern Germany, in the foothills of the Alps. The Memminger Brewery looks back on an adventurous history. Josef Herz laid the foundations in 1887, when there were twenty-two breweries in Memmingen. Twenty years later, the three largest breweries in the town joined forces. Things went steadily upward. Today, the brewery is one of the most important and largest in the region.

Kartäuser Doppelbock shines dark brown, with reddish reflections. The aroma gives away what to expect. Caramel! Full-bodied with nicely and softly integrated carbon dioxide. Nice sweetness is accompanied by subtle bitterness. Good drinkability. But beware! The high alcohol content is well hidden. Do not be fooled. Enjoy this specialty beer in small sips. Sense each one. Give the beer time. the flavors change as the beer warms up a bit. Cheers!

We hope you enjoyed these fine beers from Germany. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

This additional information was discussed in the tasting video:

  • The brewery was originally part of the Carthusian monastery.  Information about the monastery wasn’t very specific, but some research shows it is located in Buxheim, Germany, a town with a population of 3,666 people.  The .Kartause Buxheim is located about three miles west of the Memminger Brewery.
  • The monastery is know for the wood carved choir stalls dating back to 1690.
  • Only one monk in the monastery is permitted to speak.
  • The Doppelbock is brewed year round
  • About 6:35 in the video, they got a ‘beer spike’ from out of the fire and put it into each of the poured beers.  I’m sure the purpose of it was to caramelize and residual sugars in the beer.  Indeed, they said that it tasted like ‘sugared almonds’.
  • They are in talks with new family-owned breweries to provide new beers in next year’s advent calendar.
  • The calendars ship to the US in July and August and will be at Costco and several other customers.

The Memminger website says they acquired the monastery beer brands ‘to maintain the structure of the “Kartause at Buxheim”’,

Anyway, back to the beer!

Kartäuser Dopplebock

Sadly, Day 24 of the Costco Advent Beer Calendar is finally here. But a good beer to finish the 24 days – Kartäuser Dopplebock!

Nice and malty with some good residual sweetness.  I can understand why in the video they put that hot probe into the beer – it would probably nicely caramelize that sweet maltiness into something roasty and tasty.  I think it would hold up well against the Doppelbocks from the big breweries in Munich.

The Memminger Brauerei is located at:

Dr.-Karl-Lenz-Str. 68
Memmingen, 87700
Germany

The Kartause Buxheim is located at

An d. Kartause 15, 87740 Buxheim, Germany

Other links for the brewery:

https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/4453/

https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/4453/57578/

https://untappd.com/w/memminger-brauerei/5713

https://untappd.com/b/memminger-brauerei-kartauser-doppelbock-dunkel/20236

https://www.beertasting.com/de-de/biere/bock/dunkler-doppelbock/memminger-kartauser-doppelbock-dunkel-can~b1859675

Posted in 2021, Beer, Costco Advent Calendar, Costco Advent Calendar, Doppelbock | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Aldi Beer Advent Calendar Day 23 – Brens German Style Lager

Day 23 of the 2021 Aldi’s Beer Advent Calendar brings us to the penultimate beer:  Brens German Style Lager.  This 5.0% ABV beer is brewed by Brouwerij Martens in Bocholt, Vlaanderen Belgium – the brewer of the three Kristoffel beers in the Calendar.

Brens doesn’t appear to show up on the Martens website.  However, as a Aldi in-store brand, it is listed on Aldi’s website where the following description can be found:

This golden lager features floral aromas, mild hops, moderate creaminess and a crisp finish. Pairs well with chicken, salads, salmon, bratwurst, mild cheeses, light desserts or on its own.

There isn’t much other information out there about this beer.  The label resembles the Becks label to me.

On to the beer!

Brens German Style Lager

Day 23 of the Aldi Calendar – Brens German Style Lager

This beer brings me waves of nostalgia.  It reminds me of Becks or Heineken a little bit, but in a good way!  To me, this beer is like thinking of an old girlfriend you haven’t thought of in years.  You haven’t heard from her, you haven’t looked her up, and you have no idea where she is or what she is doing. And while there are many good reasons as to why she is an ‘old’ girlfriend, you forget about those things and think about the fond memories you had of your time with her.  It’s not exotic or exciting anymore, but it makes you remember when it was.

That’s what this beer does for me – it takes me back to a time when the few German beers that were available when I was 18-21 were exotic and enticing.  They aren’t any longer: I’ve moved on from Becks and Heineken but I remember my acquaintance with them as a young beer drinker with some fondness.

Other websites describing the beer and the brewery:

https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/3517/517368/

https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/3517/

https://untappd.com/b/brouwerij-martens-brens-lager/4039253

https://untappd.com/sanneheyrman

Posted in 2021, Aldi Advent Calendar, Beer, German Helles Lager | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment