Could there be a sea change happening at the LCBO when it comes to products previously disallowed for reasons of “community standards”? Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head is now on shelves and this holiday beer that features a picture of a rogue-ish Austrian Santa — more Billy Bob Thornton than Tim Allen — on the label has also been given the green light by the AGCO.
It didn’t make it out from the LCBO warehouses to stores before the 25th but there still seems to be a strong demand for it. Summerhill went through 44 bottles in three days and I wouldn’t be surprised if the inventory at other locations disappears almost as quickly.
Here’s last week’s First Draught post with more information about Samichlaus.
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