Review Date 12/7/2020 By John Staradumsky
For Christmas of 2015, my wife bought me a really cool present: BeerAdvent Calendar 2015 from Kalea. In truth, my wife got me a lot of nice presents (she’s the best wife ever), but the nice thing about the Beer Advent Calendar is you get it early. You have to, since it’s comprised of 24 different imported German beers in a box with little doors that you open, one per day from December 1st through December 24th. All of the beers are listed on the side of the carton, however, so be careful not to look and spoil the daily surprises!
I love German beer more than beer from any other country on Earth, so this was definitely right up my alley. I have managed to get my hands on one of these calendars each year since, and have never been disappointed. Overall, this is an amazing way to sample 24 German beers over 24 days, and I look forward to it every year. For the first three years, I've found these at Costco in Georgia and paid $59.95 for the box. In 2018, though, we were in Spring Hill Tennessee and I saw these on a pallet at the local Costco in mid-October. I grabbed one there to make sure I didn't miss out. They were up $5 to $64.95 (and indeed, when I did see them at the new Costco in Woodstock, Georgia a month later they were the same price). For 2019, I found them earlier than ever (September 26th) and bought one at Costco here in Georgia for $63.95, though curiously they were down to $59.95 on my next visit.
As with many things, 2020 proved to be a challenge for other reasons. Covid ravaged America, and one had to wonder if the 2020 Beer Advent Calendar would make it to America at all. Kalea said it would, so starting in early September, I made a weekly trek to Costco (masked, and practicing social distancing). On September 25th, there they were! I got one for myself, and one for my daughter's boyfriend, which she got him as a Christmas gift. I paid $62.99 and I am glad I did, because within a few weeks they were gone. Grab them when you see them friends!
That might sound steep, but when you distribute that price over 24 different half liter cans, it only works out to $2.62 per can. Not a bad deal at all looked at that way. It certainly does not stop these from selling, as I mentioned, they always go quickly.
For 2020, there are eight new beers in the mix and 16 returning favorites. I do like this, because there are a lot of the beers that I really enjoy, and want to enjoy again. It's like 16 old friends and 8 new ones in the same box. What's better than that?
Day 4 arrived, December 4th, and I opened the box door early in the morning. Reports vary on the content of boxes, and some folks got a different beer than I did. What I did pull out of the box, much to my delight, was a can of Zwönitzer Steinbier! This is the beer I was most excited about in the entire calendar. For one thing, I greatly enjoyed the Zwönitzer Rauchbier I received in a few of the prior years calendars, but in addition, Steinbier (stone beer) is a rarely seen style. To make an authentic Steinbier, rocks are super heated over a fire and placed in the brew kettle. This helps to get the wort headed up to boiling, and in the initial infusion, malt sugars will caramelize onto the hot rocks. A slight smoky character will also be imparted to the beer. Later, the rocks will be added to the fermenter and the yeast will feats on those sugars coating the rocks.
Gastahus Brauerei Zwönitz is a baby in the German brewing world, where most concerns go back centuries. They say about themselves on their website:
Seit 1997 wird in Zwönitz, einer beschaulichen Kleinstadt mitten im Erzgebirge, wieder Bier gebraut. Nach 75 Jahren Abstinenz wurde damit die alte handwerkliche Tradition des Bierbrauens dort wieder zu neuem Leben erweckt.
Allow me to translate for those that don't speak German:
Since 1997, beer has been brewed in Zwönitz, a quiet small town in the middle of the Ore Mountains. After 75 years of abstinence, the old artisanal tradition of beer brewing was revived there.
There is no information on Zwönitzer Steinbier on the brewery website, but the Beer Tatsin app will tell you the following if you scan the code on the can:
Steinbier ist eine Bierspezialität, bei der während des Brauvorganges die Würze durch Zugabe erhitzter Steine gekocht wird. Auf diese Weise wird bereits seit Jahrhunderten gebraut. Da früher die Sudpfannen zum Kochen des Sudes aus Holz waren und deshalb nicht direkt beheizt werden konnten, war das Steinbierbrauverfahren die einzige Möglichkeit zum Erhitzen des Sudes in Holzgefäßen. Das Zwönitzer Steinbier ist die neueste Spezialität von Dominik Naumann, die erstmalig 2019 gebraut wurde und eigentlich nur für die eigene Gastronomie geplant gewesen ist. Aufgrund des großen Erfolges wurde das Bier 2020 erstmalig sogar in der Dose abgefüllt, weil die Qualität in der Dose besser erhalten bleibt, als in der Flasche.
Again, I will translate (my college German is really paying off these days):
Stone beer is a beer speciality in which the wort is boiled during the brewing process by adding heated stones. This is how brewing has been going on for centuries. Since the brewing pans used to be made of wood for cooking the brew and therefore could not be heated directly, the stone beer brewing process was the only way to heat the brew in wooden vessels. The Zwönitzer Steinbier is the latest specialty of Dominik Naumann, which was brewed for the first time in 2019 and was actually only planned for his own gastronomy. Due to great success, the beer was packaged in cans for the first time in 2020, because the can better preserves quality than in bottles.
My can from the Beer Advent Calendar is listed as 5.6% by volume. It is stamped EXP 2022/05. The can does say the beer was brewed by Egerer, so this would appear to be a contract brew for Zwönitz. I had only drunk the Day 1 beer when I popped this one, so excited was I to try it.
Zwonitzer Steinbier pours to a bright orange color with a thick rocky head and a nose of caramel and subtle smoke. Taking a sip, the beer is full of soft treacle caramel notes from the stone infusion, perhaps a hint of burnt sugar, and a permeating but subtle smokiness. It finishes with a drying herbal hop bitterness.
Magnificent, one of the best steinbeers I’ve ever had (except for Rauchenfels, the original and the standard).
I’m greatly enjoying my Beer Advent Calendar 2020 with the day 4 beer. Here’s looking forward to the remaining 20, and another assortment of 24 in 2021. We’ll be on the lookout next year at Costco once again! Follow them on their Facebook page.
The beers of the 2020 Beer Advent Calendar:
Day 1 Flötzinger Hell
Day 2 Furst Carl Kellerbier
Day 3 Käuzle German Pilsner Style
Day 4 Zwönitzer Steinbier
Day 5 Graminger Kirta Dunkles Weissbier
Day 6 Propeller Bier Turbo Prop Pilsner
Day 7 Egerer Jubiläumsbier 333
Day 8 Hohenthanner Tannen Hell
Day 9 Perlernzauber German Pale Ale
Day 10 Herrnbrau Tradition Bayerisches Festbier
Day 11 Ankerbrau Nordlingen Grandl Helles Lagerbier
Day 12 Loncium Vienna Style Lager
Day 13 Schwarze Tinte Collab Stout
Day 14 Herrngiersdorf Hallertauer Hop Cuvee
Day 15 Burgerliches Brauhaus Altbairisch Hell
Day 16 Landgang Pils
Day 17 Alpinebrauerei Burgerbrau Alpen Stoff
Day 18 Herrnbrau Jubilaums Sud
Day 19 Erlkonig Hell
Day 20 Hosl Marzenbier
Day 21 Perlernzauber IPA
Day 22 Kurpfalz Bräu Kellerbier
Day 23 Egerer Bären Weisse
Day 24 Ladenburger Weizenbock Hell
Glad I tried it? T
Would I rebuy it??
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.