Samichlaus

I though I’d write a bit about Samichlaus. Samichlaus is probably the ultimate Christmas beer—and has (I’ve heard) the highest alcohol content of any beer out there, to boot. At 14 percent alcohol by volume, I’d believe that.

Samichlaus—which is Swiss-German for "Santa Claus"—is a dark lager brewed once a year, on December 6, and then bottled the following year. Yep, that’s nearly a full year of aging/lagering, and the result is a vintage batch that bears the bottling year on the label.

Michael Jackson (the Beer Hunter, not the other guy) has a good article about Samichlaus here.

It takes almost a year of slow secondary fermentation to develop the full strength of Samichlaus. I can think of no other beer that has such a long period of cold storage (in German, lagering). Nor could the location of the cellars be more appropriate. The whole of the brewery is set into the foothills of the Alps, where the technique of lagering was born (though that was, it must be conceded, on the more easterly side of the mountains in Bavaria).

They can be hard to come by; I happen to have one bottle (vintage 1996) that I lucked upon from a local wine dealer who was going out of business back in the late ’90s. I wish I’d had the foresight to buy more at the time, but oh well.

It’s quite good, too. Think barleywine, and then (as Emeril would say), kick it up a notch. From what I remember of the one or two I’ve had (from the same wine shop way back when), it was better than most barleywines I’ve tasted—but you’d better have a taste for high-alcohol beers before trying it.

And no, I won’t be drinking my bottle anytime soon. Since it’s so high in alcohol, aging it will only make it better. I’ve been told that Samichlaus is even good after aging 25 years; I find that implausible though, as they only started brewing it in 1980.

BeerAdvocate.com gives Samichlaus an overall score of 88, with 96% positive reviews. Good comments all around.

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