Southern Tier Krampus: See You In Helles

beer - southern tier krampus hellesAre you naughty or are you nice? That’s the question this time of year, when it comes right down to it.

Southern Tier’s Krampus, an imperial helles lager available for a limited time, certainly falls on the “nice” side, even if it’s named for a mythic creature that is anything but.

For the uninitiated, Krampus is sort of the anti-Santa Claus, a Germanic sidekick to the jolly old elf that many haven’t heard of, probably because it was decided a few generations back that he was probably too evil to be a universal Christmas tradition. Krampus is the enforcer of the “naughty” list, you see, and his job is to seek out the bad little children, stuff them into a bag, and carry them off to hell while the good children got to play with their brand new toys.

Hey, sometimes Christmas is a bitch. So be good, for goodness sake.

Southern Tier isn’t the first brewery to release a Krampus beer, but this is the first one I’ve personally seen that isn’t a dark ale of some kind. Brewers seem to equate Krampus with darkness, and for good reason, but Southern Tier took a different approach, choosing a relatively young German beer style that dates to 1894. I have to believe they created a helles lager as a play on where Krampus will take you if you don’t mind your mommy and daddy – well, that and because of Krampus’ ties to the Germanic region of Europe.

Getting down to it, this is a really good beer, even if it isn’t your traditional holiday brew. Bottom fermented, it pours a clear, burnt orange color with minimal white head. When you raise the glass to your face, it’s quickly apparent how bold this beer is – bold like Krampus himself, of course.

My experiences with helles lagers have been that they have a bite, but aren’t usually big beers. Krampus imperial helles blows all that out of the water with a big floral nose that invites you to sit there and soak in its essence for a moment before taking that first drink.

krampus cardAnd when you do finally imbibe, the hop and malt qualities engage you immediately – they pounce on your taste buds like Krampus on a sniveling 6-year-old. This crisp beer is brewed with two-row pale malt, debittered black malt, Munich malt and caramel malt, along with Chinook and kettle hops. It really drinks much more like a pale ale than any lager I’ve ever had.

The piney hop bite is strong but not lingering, which is interesting; the sting is temporary. What really makes this a good brew is the robust malt character, which asserts itself more subtly, sneaking up on you while you sleep snug in your bed on Christmas eve, thinking all is right … yeah, sorry. That’s hard to resist.

Anyway, even if Krampus isn’t a favorable tradition for your kids – it’s hard to believe they used to even make holiday greeting cards featuring this goat-like freak – but if his legacy continues to spawn beers this good, well, I’d say it’s going to be a merry Christmas after all.

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NABC’s Naughty Claus Makes the Wish List

NaughtyClaus-710x1065Ah, Christmas: Good tidings, sleigh bells, reckless consumer spending and seasonal beers. To the surprise of no one involved, many of us prefer the latter. For those folks, there is New Albanian Brewing Company‘s Naughty Claus, rolled out last week around Louisville.

I made the drive to NABC’s Public House to enjoy a pint and some breadsticks with my girlfriend this past weekend, and I have to say that Dave Pierce and his brewing team over at New Albanian did it up right.

To be bluntly honest, I’m actually not usually a fan of Christmas beers — I find that too often breweries overdo the spices in order to make the beer more … well, Christmasy, if you will. The same goes for a lot of the pumpkin beers I’ve had. When it stops tasting like beer that is made with pumpkin and starts tasting like liquid pumpkin pie, that’s when they’ve lost me.

louisville beer - naughty clausNaughty Claus is not one of those over-the-top brews; it is imminently drinkable, like a solid, mild pale ale that just happens to have that something extra to it. Even the tagline spells it out, calling the beer a “seasonal ale with spices.” So, while the medium body, slightly sweet malts and mild hop character (it’s only 12 IBU) take the lead here, you still get a sense of the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel within.

I was fond of the interestingly sharp finish that comes from the spices, but for the most part this is, again, just a really solid, easy-drinking ale with a kick. I could easily see this one going well with your Christmas dinner. Or, hell, your Thanksgiving turkey in a couple of days. Or by itself. (Just be careful, because while it goes down like a session beer, it packes 8.0 percent ABV.)

Until next time, happy holidays and drink locally. Especially the beer.

West Sixth Christmas Ale in Cans Debuts Dec. 2

louisville beer - west sixthWest Sixth Brewing Company will release its West Sixth Christmas Ale on Dec. 2, and the canning begins tomorrow. Yep, Christmas Ale in cans. I do love West Sixth.

Anyway, here’s the announcement, which speaks for itself:

We’ve got some exciting news today, and we wanted you to be the first to know: We’re releasing our first ever seasonal beer in a can – the West Sixth Christmas Ale!

This beer is a dark spiced ale with the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Weighing it a 9% ABV, it has a nice backbone that will hold up to the chilliest of nights.  This is our slightly darker taste on a holiday beer, and will be perfect for evenings by the fire!

We’re canning the beer tomorrow, and will be releasing the beer at 3pm on December 2nd at the taproom (the Monday after Thanksgiving).  It will also be available in limited quantities at retailers throughout Kentucky.  We’re only going to make 500-600 total cases of this beer, so we expect it to sell out quickly!  It will also be available on draft in the taproom starting that day.

This is our first time ever doing a seasonal in cans — it’s also the first Christmas Ale canned and distributed in Kentucky.  Because of the challenges with doing small runs of cans, we’ve had to figure out a different sort of process to label the cans and can the beer.  It’s been a fun adventure and we can’t wait to share the results with you.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for more details.

-Ben, Brady, Joe and Robin
Your friends at West Sixth