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.
And 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.
This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.