Gargantuan in Every Sense of the Word
A Review of Samichlaus Bier by Schloss Eggenberg Brauerei
Posted on 8/1/2011 by Chops
                   
Exquisite
Son... of a bitch. I was woefully unprepared for this beer. Allow me to paint you a picture. My friend and I are enjoying some tasty beverages over at Tyler's Taproom in Durham, NC. It's one of my favorite watering holes because they have one hell of a global beer selection. Plus, every now and then some mind blowing brews will pop up on the menu. So here I am scanning their beer list when my eyes stop on something very interesting: Samichlaus, a 14% ABV doppelbock from Austria. Done. Hook me up!

I'm a huge bock fan and I was confident that I had spanned the spectrum at this point. 14% was certainly one of the bigger doppelbocks I've seen, but no worries. I've conquered many an eisbock, so bring it. Imagine my surprise when they dropped this black labeled beast in front of me, classified as a malt liquor. Huh, interesting. So just to be sure, I clarified with the waitress. Yup, it's a doppelbock, just steamrolled into malt liquor territory. Wow. And to add even more menace, the bottle actually has the stones to call itself ''The World's Most Extraordinary Beverage.'' I'll be honest. I was a bit intimidated.

I poured it into the glass not knowing what to expect. And there it was, that signature crystal clear burnt sienna color, much like an eisbock. It poured very thin and left no head, and we all know what that means: strength, and lots of it. This beer is going to be a beast. I reluctantly go in for that first whiff... nothing. No aroma whatsoever. I sat there perplexed as if staring at the beer equivalent of a black hole, so strong that even aromas cannot escape. Only after a few more attempts did I get that pungent caramel smell, sitting only a few millimeters off of the liquid. Then came a few interlaced chocolate notes, but still no alcohol burn. I had no idea what to make of this. Huge thick aromas swirling as a thin topical layer? At this point I was a bit nervous.

Then came that first sip. I immediately set the glass back on the table and backed away. I took a deep breath and eyed the glass like a crash survivor trying to get back on an airplane. This beer is gargantuan (and I'm so happy I got to use that word in a sentence). It looks and feels like a fine brandy, so you have to treat it as such. It's a sipper redefined. You're going to take your time with this beer whether you like it or not. Amazingly, even the alcohol burn is like a brandy. It's quick and crisp, leaving that warm evaporation feeling in your mouth. It's quite balanced and not overpowering, but it takes several sips to get used to. But once you do, those concentrated flavors start to emerge on the middle ground, where the mouthfeel transitions to creamy. You get big caramels, dark savory fruits like figs and cherries, plus a generous helping of sweet malty goodness. The finish is very dry and leaves no lingering aftertaste. This beer is amazing to study, provided you can get past the first third of it.

Overall, Samichlaus is a mind-blowing beer. It's super strong, super complex, and unbelievably delicious. I can confidently say that I have furthered my bock education, which makes me one happy beer geek. Unfortunately, there are very few beer drinkers that I can recommend this beast to. From the standpoint of pure strength, Samichlaus shouldn't even be considered without a well honed imperial palate. As a precursor, I would also advise having an appreciation of darker malt-heavy varieties such as doppelbocks and big Belgians. Otherwise, the flavors alone would be too jarring or caustic. Samichlaus is a world-class wonder, but you should definitely proceed with caution.

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Samichlaus Bier by Schloss Eggenberg Brauerei
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