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All right, lads and lasses. This is the last beer in the series, and it is properly epic. For starters, it’s brewed in an actual castle, Schloss Eggenberg, in Vorchdorf, Austria. Incidentally, that’s also the name of the brewery. According to the BeerAdvocate notes, the castle “is the oldest family owned brewery in Austria…date[ing] back at least to the year 999 A.D.” That a castle would have produced its own beer doesn’t seem all that remarkable, but the fact that it still does is noteworthy. But quite aside from the cool factor, Samichlaus is an awesome beer. Michael Jackson featured it as his Beer of the Month in December of 1991, and with good reason.
At 14% ABV, it’s the world’s strongest lager—or at least it was when Jackson wrote his article. Mind you, this is not the same as saying that it’s the world’s strongest beer, but getting any fermented barley product to go above 9% takes a decent amount of brewing know-how.† The folks at Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg are clearly masters of their craft. According to their entirely German-language website, Samichlaus is brewed only once per year, on December 6th. It’s lagered for ten months; needless to say, this is a great candidate for cellar aging. As proof of the beer’s excellent age-ability, the brewery offers the fact that the 2004 vintage taking gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup, in the “aged beers” category.‡ The judges for that category are some lucky barstuds, for sure.
Oh, yeah. About the name. Samichlaus means Santa Claus in the local dialect; in Austria, they celebrate Santa Claus and gift giving separate from Christmas, and “December 6 is Saint Nicholas’ Eve.”† We here in the U.S. don’t bother much with giving St. Nick his own day, but this “restorative,” as the Beer Hunter described it, is the perfect Christmas beer.
Okay, tasting notes!
(Meagan) The color of maple syrup, with a short, snow-pale head.
Nose: (Ben) Some caramel, some melanoidin and cereal grains.
(Meagan) Caramel, and raisin, or plum, or both.
Taste: (Ben) A very rich Doppelbock flavor. Tasting some Munich, some kettle caramelization and some bitter—either from those European hops or from some slight kettle burn. Pleasantly bitter. Not honey-like; but rich and malty sweet all the same. Some tannin, maybe? Vanilla, dark fruit, cigar and a hint of port or sherry. Towards the middle of the glass I’m tasting more cream port. Are you sure this is a lager? But it’s so tasty, not like flavorless yellow fizzy water at all!
(Meagan) First impression: rich, complex maltiness. Alcohol warmth. No hops, I don’t think. There’s something fruity and dark in the second sip; plum, I think. There’s a fair amount of sweetness, but there’s a bitter counterbalance. Hops? Tell-tale alcohol tingle on the tongue, thanks to that whole 14% thing. A few sips in, I notice that the alcohol warmth has traveled down to my belly. Wowza. If I were Santa, I’d definitely make a trip down the chimney for this beer.
Body/mouthfeel: (Ben) this coated my entire mouth with a creamy feeling. Thick, thick body.
Overall: a 14%, delicious and creamy beer. This is a rare and remarkable commodity. Good thing I bought more for the cellar!
Buy it: Yep, did that already.
Brew it: Oh, it’s on the list. Just have to make a schwarzbier for a massive starter.
Merry Christmas, everyone! We wish you all a good beer!
“Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg | Vorchdorf, Austria | Beers.” BeerAdvocate.
† Michael, Jackson. “Mine’s a Pint of Santa Claus.” Michael Jackson’s Beer Hunter. Real Beer Inc., 7 Dec. 1991.
‡ “Samichlaus Classic.” Biere Der Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg. Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg.