Beer Review: Samichlaus — Merry Christmas! I’m drunk!

Yikes! Whooo!!! As I write this, I’m about halfway through a bottle of Samichlaus, and I’m quite loopy — this beer is advertised as officially rated by the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest beer in the world, at 14% alcohol, more even than the malt liquors I’ve been reviewing. This is not a beer for the mild at heart — the flavor more than stands up to the bite from all the alcohol, and needless to say the alcohol itself will cause some complications in your life if you have one, say, on an empty stomach at the start of a business lunch. (“No sir, we didn’t land the Stevens account, because I burped up my spinach omelet into the salad bar…”) It has a licorice taste reminiscent of McEwan’s (or about eight McEwan’s distilled down into a thick slurry) to go along with the kick from the alcohol. All beers over 7 or 8 percent alcohol have a punch-in-the-teeth “Holy Crud!” bite to them, probably from the unexpected combination of beer taste and ethanol. I just dunno if it works, though — ale flavor can’t really stand up well to the alcohol kick as well as other boozy non-beer beverages in the same range, for example cinnamon schnapps (whose taste could overwhelm coal tar).

The label is strangely understated (though the font is so gothic and serif-advanced that I can barely make out the name), much as the champagnes that are superior have the bland labels — they don’t need lots of fuss and business for Jay-Z to know to buy them. Plenty of fuss goes into making this beer, however — it is brewed only once a year on December 6th (St. Nicholas’ birthday — “Samichlaus” translates as Santa Claus), then is left to age for ten months to age before escaping to specialty beer stores. Hardly needs to be said, completely wasted on me. For the average joe like me, this is the beer equivalent of $100 wine that you and 19 of your friends bought together just to see what all the fuss is. And for me, the fuss with Samichlaus turned out to be not much more than getting unexpectedly plowed on a Tuesday night…

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