Happy Friday everyone. We’re right back at it again this evening with another offering from Southern Tier (Southern Tier loves Winter. They have like 57 winter beers). Today, it’s Krampus – named after Santa’s European Naughty List Enforcer, who beats the crap out of bad kids rather than just leaving them coal. I imagine he spends the other 364 days of the year chilling on some Spanish beach with a flock of super models around him. Or plotting world domination. Anyway, in beer form, it’s a Helles lager – which started out as Germany’s answer to the Czech Pilsner back in the day. But, since it’s Southern Tier, I’m not sure what will happen when I pry off the cap. Might as well find out, right?
Once the cap comes off, a storm of aromas burst forth. One moment, zesty pine and tropical fruit hops smack you in the face and beat you with Ivan “Krampus” Drago’s naughty list chains. The next breath, warm and bready malts caress you ever so gently and sooth your chain-shaped welts. The hops are the major aroma, providing that well-known pine infusion, as well as a touch of floral spiciness that’s not as potent. At the very back of each breath, sweet and mellow notes of pineapple and brown sugar add a sweet edge that ties a nice bow around everything. As far as holiday festiveness, there’s not too much going on, at least in the initial aroma, but it’s early so I’m not losing hope.
The first bottle taste is intense. Huge flavors of bitter hops and crackery malts slug it out on your tongue, and the outcome is super tasty and massively flavorful. At the back of mouth, hints of peach, pineapple and a touch of brown sugar add a touch of sweetness, but it stays buried under the enormity of the hops and malts. The seasonal vibe shows up huge, with a 9% ABV that’s almost completely masked, but washes over you after just a few drinks, getting your toasty on early. The aftertaste is a loaf of toasty pine bread with a residual sweetness. Despite the hoppy strength, only the first moment of each drink has that snappy hop feel. The rest flows smooth over the tongue.
Poured out into a pilsner glass, the aroma is a floral bloom of hops and mild, tropical fruits. Mellow pineapple arrives at the back of each breath, adding to the pine strength. Buried far underneath, a base of toasty malts add a solid backbone that provides a bit of warmth to the crispness of the hops. Visually, it pours a burnt toffee underneath a fluffy white head.
The post-pour flavors dominate the mouth. The crackery malts and big pine hops set aside their differences and form an alliance of deliciousness. Huge hop notes show up in force up front, with bitter tropical fruits and pine washing over the tongue at the beginning. Malts flow next, providing a comfortable warmth and flavors of bread toast and crackers. The best way to describe this is a blend of an IPA and a Pilsner, with each individual beer offering specific tastes of themselves every now and then, in between that big blended flavor. It has a wonderfully bright and fresh flavor, with a helping of bread and that same masked alcohol strength. The aftertaste is hoppy bread once more, lingering for quite a while after a smooth and almost creamy texture.
In the end, this beer was an intense interaction between an IPA and a Pilsner, with added oomph to celebrate the holiday season. Big hop notes of pine and tropical fruits provided the major flavors, while toast and cracker malts filled in the gaps. Each taste was different, with some containing an explosion of hops, and others offering up a more mellow malt vibe. The 9% ABV is masked from start to finish, but the strength will reach you early on, making sure you stay warm through even the most savage of Krampus’ beatings. There were times when the hops dominated perhaps a little too much for the season – as if trying to pull me out of winter and throw me back into sunnier times – but even then the beer stayed tasty. It was a bit pricey, but as a seasonal bomber bottle, picking up one or two would be a wise investment.
I would suggest drinking this after a cold afternoon of shoveling snow. This would also be a good beer to have as you hear Krampus tearing through the walls of your house, or however he enters a room. It’s strong enough to take your mind of the beating that’s sure to come because of your wicked ways. Southern Tier’s Krampus earns itself an A-, which it’ll use to beat you with.
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9/10 A-
Winter Warming Bonus: 9/10