Brew Review – The Bruery’s 5 Golden Rings, and It’s Only a Little Wrong This Year

The Bruery's 5 Golden Rings
The Bruery’s 5 Golden Rings

Wow, has this year gone fast.  It only seems like yesterday that I was writing a review for The Bruery’s 4 Calling Birds, and why the name was wrong, and now here it is time to do the next in The Bruery’s Twelve Days of Christmas series, 5 Golden Rings.  I have to admit, I’ve wondered on occasion throughout this year what the next beer in the series was going to be.  Well the wait is over, time to taste.

THEM:  5GR is a golden ale (The Bruery says “the only one in the bunch”, not sure if that means up to this point, or if there won’t be another one in the whole series), along with cinnamon, allspice and ginger.  It clocks in at 11.5%ABV

ME:  5GR pours a light golden color that darkens to a light orange towards the top of my glass.  The carbonation is lively, with a steady stream of tight bubbles leading up to a continent and ring of head on the top.  When tilted back and forth, the edges display a  nice burst of bubbles, and a nice lacing on the sides of the glass.  Nice looking beer.  The nose has a nice mix of Belgian yeast, citrus and spice; of which I get more of the allspice than anything else. but the cinnamon is definitely in there as well.  The flavor is sweet, but light, with the Belgian aspects really shining through.  It starts with a touch of that Belgian and more sweetness and then the middle kicks with a touch of grapefruit and spice.  There’s an ever so hint of the ginger on the back end with a soft, light stickiness that never gets to cloying.  There’s a touch of warmth in the back due to the alcohol, after all 11.5% is hard to hide in what is supposed to be a golden ale, but it’s not harsh.  A good beer, but I remember liking 4 Calling Birds better.

The whole idea of this series is to save a bottle of each year’s release to enjoy in 2019 when 12 Drummers Drumming is released.  I’ll be interested to see how this one turns out because although there’s a good amount of sweetness, there isn’t a ton of flavors to meld and mellow over time .  We’ll see, I put a bottle in my beer fridge to save.

So what’s up with this year’s name?  Well, nothing that isn’t wrong everywhere else, but in this case it’s not the name that is the problem it’s the artistic interpretation that is usually associated with it.  Modern artwork associated with the song typically depicts five bands of gold, like rings you’d wear on your finger.  And 5GR is no exception, it’s not obvious at first, but the swirl of the label is made up of repetitive groups of interlocked five rings.  But as I somewhat alluded to last year,  the song is about preparing for a Christmas festival, with the first seven verses describing birds (game or otherwise) that were being brought to the festival as food.  In this case the five golden rings referring to five male, ring neck pheasants.

Time for another beer.

Brew Review : The Bruery’s Four Calling Birds, And Why that Name is Wrong.

HA! He thinks he's getting some of my beer!

One brewery that’s fast becoming one of my favorites is The Bruery.  The Orange County craft brewery is doing some interesting things both with their beer and their approach.  Brewing largely Belgian influenced beers they pride themselves on the use of unusual ingredients (check out their Autumn Maple which is brewed with yams), sometimes in place of ones more commonly used in a particular style of beer.  Another aspect of The Bruery’s approach to beer is that they do not filter or pasteurize their beers.  In fact all of their bottle beers gain their carbonation through bottle conditioning.  This is when the bottle is sealed and the carbonation is allowed to develop through a second fermentation.

But one of their most interesting endeavors is their 12 days/years of Christmas series.  Starting in the winter of 2008/9 with A Partridge in a Pear Tree,  a Belgian style strong ale, this series consists of a different style of beer every year.  Next came 2 Turtle Doves, and inspired by turtle candy they brewed a beer with cocoa nibs, pecans and caramelized sugar.  For last year’s entry, 3 French Hens, they took 25% of the produced beer and aged it in French oak barrels and blended it back into the rest of the beer.  Which brings us to this winter’s offering – 4 Calling Birds.  Let’s taste.

THEM :  4 Calling Birds in a strong ale brewed with gingerbread spices.

ME : 4 Calling Birds pours black from top to bottom with a very light head which dissipates in to a lace ring around the glass.  When ever you smell or taste a beer or wine,  your first smell or taste is usually the most important.  Your senses are used to what they’ve had up to that moment, so the introduction of something new really stands out.  In this case what comes through is banana bread.  And I mean smack you in the nose banana bread.  In the mouth it starts with a touch of sweetness that moves back into a mixture of molasses, chocolate and spices.  It finishes with a very mild bitterness with some chocolate notes as well as a bit of fruit (plum?).  As it stands right now, 4 Calling Birds is a very good beer with a nice profile of flavors in the mix.  However, The Bruery is attempting to do something that’s very hard when it comes to beer.  They’re attempting to make their Christmas series drinkable at the moment you buy it, but also make them so they age well until the final beer in the series, 12 Drummers Drumming is released.  Will it last that long?  Not sure, but there are plenty of flavors here to come together and meld over the years.  All I know is that I have a bottle in the fridge awaiting 2018. 

But why is the name wrong?  Well it’s not really wrong since that is the line we sing today, but apparently somewhere in the song’s travels from 16th century English language to the English language we speak today, the fourth line got corrupted.  The line as it was originally sung was “four colly (or collie) birds”.  What’s a colly bird?  Well, a colliery was the name for a coal mine in England and these birds, who were black as coal, became known to the English as collies – blackbirds.  Why would someone give a lover 4 black birds?  Well for food actually.  Blackbirds were commonly eaten back then,  after all you remember that “4 and 20 blackbirds were baked in a pie” don’t you?

But regardless of how the name has come about, I urge you to seek out 4 Calling Birds and give it a try.  Will it go good with blackbird pie?  I’ll leave that for you to determine.

Time for another beer……

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