Sunday, 23 December 2012

In the Spirit of the Season: Samichlaus as Rated Beer #800

I use the word 'spirit' somewhat loosely since this beer is allegedly the world's strongest lager, coming in at a whopping 14% ABV (or higher at times than listed, allegedly up to 15%).  Samichlaus Classic, an Austrian-brewed doppelbock currently crafted by Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg, warms the chest as if drinking a spirit, and in this sense is truly more of a winter warmer than most of the ales that are actually made in that style... but I am jumping the gun a bit here if framing the discussion.

I picked this up at the SAQ for $4.60 a bottle, but the LCBO is allegedly stocking it this season (despite rejecting it in years past for allegedly marketing to children with the image of Saint Nick on the label seen below.)

This "world's most extraordinary beverage" (as the label claims) is brewed but once a year, on Saint Nicholas Day - December 6th - and is then aged and then likely re-fermented several times to get the alcoholic strength up over a period of 10 months before bottling.  Each bottle is dated with the year it was bottled, and my purchases were labelled 2011.  Thus, this beer was brewed December 6th, 2010, aged 10 months, bottled and has found it into my belly to warm my cockles for Festivus 2012.

Even from cellar temperature to room temperature, one can see the evolution of this beer and it is clearly better warm (and warming!).

It pours a reddish-light brown with a thin white-to-ever-so-faintly-off-white head of poor retention and lace, with any semblance of head gone within a minute.  On the nose it smells strongly of its high ABV alongside characteristic malty doppelbock notes of plums, dates, and brown sugar.  Tastewise, it is very sweet up front and dominated by caramel and baking bread notes, while it finishes with an-alcohol-laden dryness and the characteristic chest-warmth resembling a licqueur.  Typical of a lager, it offers a clean, crisp flavour that almost seems counter-intuitive to its rather substantial body.  It is quickly bereft of carbonation and remains sticky and like a cross between a sticky liqueur and a doppelbock for the remainder of its sipping life.  In this sense, its sweetness and alcoholic warmth make it almost a boozy dessert on its own.

Is it worth the hype?  Yes and no.  It is an experience - and a great one at that - warming and bridging divides between beer and liquor for a winter's eve over the holidays.  Is it my favourite doppelbock?  Probably not at (two years) fresh, but this allegedly ages well and mellows as it does so, so I will have to stick a few away and make a new holiday tradition of testing the aging evolution.

Grade (as a beer): A-
Grade (as a doppelbock): A-
Grade (as a warming winter drink): A
Grade (as a new holiday tradition with its legend, like those of its namesake, framing the discussion): A+

'Til next time, ta-ta and cheers!


  1. I thought I had tried this already and so didn't pick it up. But now I think it was another of their beers. Rats.

  2. I'll see if I can grab you one before they are gone from SAQ