Style: Dopplebock/Malt Liquor?
Bottled In: 2012
Brewed In: Vorchdorf, Austria
Brewer’s Note: “Brewed only once a year on December 6, Samichlaus is aged for 10 months before bottling. This specialty is perhaps the rarest in the world. Samichlaus may be aged for many years to come. Older vintages become more creamy warming finish.”
This beer’s label is very German in feel, with some nice silver highlights. I like the Santa Clause man’s head as the icon on the neck and the label, though I think that surrounding his head with the word’s “The World’s Most Extraordinary Beverage” is a little cocky and vain. People have different palates for God’s sake! And they say this is a malt liquor… Which confuses me. Beer Advocate says it’s a Dopplebock, the bottle says it’s a Malt Liquor, and I suppose it for legal reasons but, meh… The beer’s title font is cool, but the rest of the fonts are a little boring and stale. I think I’ll save this bottle, if only for the novelty. Scrapbook worthy, but not for the shelf.
Before I begin, I just want to let everyone know that this beer is claimed to be the highest alcohol percentage lager in the world. It is also brewed in a castle brewery in old Austria. It has an interesting aura and presence around it.
The beer pours surprisingly as a deep ruby red color that melds towards brown, but not black. A fizzing soapy head appears with the pour but quickly dissipates, though a constant torrent of carbonation bubbles can be seen rushing to the top of the beer and replenishing the light ring that is left of the head. This beer seems very active in carbonation. The beer’s body is lager clean and clear, and actually reminds me more of a dark carbonated juice or soda more so than a beer. It actually looks thin, if that makes any sense, but it is still very pretty in the glass. The beer also displays a nice light set of legs from the alcohol. On the nose, the beer smells of sweet dark fruits and brown sugar with an ever present backbone of cloying booze, though it is really not too strong. Dates are surprisingly the dominant fruit smell from the malt, followed by slight raisin and sweet plum accents, and there is definite grainy cereal malt smell ghosting behind all of the other scents. This beer doesn’t actually smell as large as it is though, which is weird. It smells clean and drinkable with a noticeable amount of alcohol, but not 14%. On the tongue, the beer tastes thick and cloyingly sweet with a light acidity. The flavor begins as big sweet fruit flavors assault the tongue, moving from apple juice to brown sugar coated raisins, to rum raisins, to a touch of caramel, and even a little bit of muscato sweet grape wine, finishing with a big cloying alcohol. The flavor oddly reminds me of Midas Touch from Dog Fish Head, only there is a lot more alcohol burn on the back of the throat, and it feels a lot heavier in the stomach and more balanced with its fruit flavors. The flavors begin big and stay big, the finish gives hiccups of sweet bread and caramel, in between the cloying sweet fruit of the malts, and a very faint hint of clean yeast flavoring can be detected. The finish is medium to long in length, and definitely leaves a sticky sweet patch on the tongue. The aftertaste is only a faint lingering of sweet fruity malt on the tongue. In the mouth, the beer feels thick and chewy, yet surprisingly thin and clean in body, sitting somewhere just above medium. Carbonation provides a thick scrubbing, which works to keep the cloying nature of the malt in check, though it doesn’t quite succeed. The carbonation is not so much fierce on the tongue as soothing. The mouth is left sticky sweet and wet with saliva after the beer leaves it. Overall, I’m not sure what to think. This is a great huge lager with some nice complexities, but I really can hardly see myself even finishing a 12 oz. bottle. This beer is clearly an after dinner dessert drink, and should be drunk like a scotch. It is thick and heavy on the stomach, but interesting and pleasing. This beer is a sipper for sure, but is properly complex, and is worthy of a taste for the fact that it is the strongest lager in the world, if not because it has some interesting character and flavors. This is an interesting beer.
For fun, I tried pairing the beer with what was left of my Easter candy. Unfortunately I had already eaten the darker chocolates that would have been able to stand up to the big booze of the beer. I was left with chocolates filled with cherry sweets though, which I thought would play interestingly with the sweet malt. After trying it, I found that pairing seemed to work best after you sipped the beer and simply snacked on the cherries. The lingering booze seem to meld and build the fruity cherry flavor, while the dark chocolate was softened, while the roast nuances held enough to fill the mouth nicely. Ideally, this beer should be paired with desserts, as it is really a sweet dessert beer, almost comparable to a port in overall “drink feel,” if that makes any sense. Fruit filled dark chocolates seem to work nicely, especially bolder fruits like cherries or raspberries. Dark chocolate on its own may hold up to the beer, but it would have to be a balance of the chocolate’s bitter flavors to the beer’s sweetness. A rich dark chocolate cake with a sweet frosting might also hold up to this beer, but outside of chocolaty and boldly fruity desserts I can’t see it playing very nicely with other foods.