Monday, March 7, 2011

Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic

Austrian ...  malt ... liquor.  One would not ordinarily put those three words together.  However, leave it to a brewery who can date itself back to 999 A.D. and has been brewing on a commercial basis since 1681 to tie those words together.  Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg is the oldest family owned brewery in Austria and, in a land that stands in the shadow of Germany's many beers, this brewery makes a truly stand out beer.  I mean, malt liquor.

Samichlaus is "Santa Claus" in Swiss German and the name speaks of the seasonal nature of the beer. The beer is brewed only one day a year -- on December 6 or the day of Saint Nicholas.  The brewers produce this beer in the style of a Bavarian dopplebock. the characteristics of a dopplebock emphasize strong maltiness and richness in both the nose and the taste.  However, the Samiclaus is no ordinary doppelbock.

As the legendary beer hunter Michael Jackson once noted, "it takes almost a year of slow secondary fermentation to develop the full strength of Samichlaus," adding 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)."  Check out this website for more about Michael Jackson's view of this beer. 

Labeling itself as "l'une des bieres les plus fortes au monde" (or one of the strongest beers in the world), the Samichlaus takes all of the features of a doppelbock to the extreme.  The beer pours not like any beer, but more like a hard liquor.  The only thing betraying the hard liquor appearance is the off-white foam from the beer.  The nose of the beer is very boozy, with intertwining scents of maple syrup and molasses. The scent of the beer is very rich and warns the drinker to proceed with caution.

As you drink this beer, the flavors surpass most barleywines in terms of the alcohol (it is 14% ABV) and the complexity of the taste.  The Samichlaus is probably as close as a beer can come to hard liquor, something to be sipped and enjoyed slowly.  The body of this beer is full, the taste is very boozy, but smooth and soothing as you drink it.  The beer has a sweetness from the malts, as well as the taste of vanilla and candied sugar, with a faint hint of oak (although, to my knowledge, this beer does not age in oak). 

While I would ordinarily try to offer food pairing suggestions, I think this beer is good just by itself.  This is a beer that you enjoy after you have eaten, like a digestif. 

This beer is available at beer stores that have a fairly large international beer section.  It sells for about $20 a four pack or about the same amount for a 22 ounce bottle.  I purchased a four pack at State Line Liquors but I have seen the 22 ounce bottle at Whole Foods.

ENJOY!

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