First Draught: Samichlaus, a beer for next Christmas
By David Ort
Samichlaus is back at the LCBO... just in time for next year's Christmas (Image: David Ort)
The LCBO and Santa — or at least the Swiss-German version, Samichlaus — have had a rocky relationship. In 2008, the provincial liquor monopoly mandated a sticker over the Samichlaus-themed beer from Austria, and, in 2010, the AGCO prevented sales entirely on the grounds that it could appeal to children. This year, Ontario’s door is again open to the Austrian holiday beer that bills itself as the world’s strongest lager.
It might seem problematic that we didn’t see Samichlaus on store shelves before Dec. 25 — unless of course you’re on the Julian calendar and the big day is still coming up — except for one important angle. At 14 per cent alcohol (that’s higher than most wines), this beer will happily spend a year (or more) in your cellar. The heat from the alcohol will calm, and other flavours will develop depth and complexity. My plan is to stock up on a few bottles every year so that in four or five years I’ll be well-equipped for a modest, vertical tasting.
Samichlaus pours a golden amber colour with a thin, white head. The aroma is full of sweet baked goods, like biscuits drizzled with honey, and the flavour follows suit with more well-tuned sweetness and a hint of hops on the lingering finish. The alcohol’s heat is there but isn’t overbearing, even after its relatively short time in the bottle (the beer is brewed once a year, on Dec. 6, and aged for 10 months).
Once you have your hands on two or three bottles you might wonder: how should I store these boozy Ghosts of Christmas Future? There is not as much advice for cellaring beer as there is for wine, but I did find a few common threads. Light and heat are enemies of beer (light more so), so find a place that is dark and cool. Experts seem to disagree about whether bottles should lie on their side or stand up straight, but I lean toward the idea that beer bottles are best stored upright, so that the liquid’s surface is as small as possible and, therefore, so is its contact with oxygen.
Eggenberg Brewery’s Samichlaus, $3.95 for a 330 mL bottle, LCBO #97469
In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including Spotlight Toronto and his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter.