Happy three days before Christmas everyone! I hope everyone has all of your holiday shopping done. If not, good luck to you tomorrow. Perhaps another Christmas beer will help sooth the pain of last minute shopping. Today’s beer is another from Rogue. It’s Santa’s Private Reserve, and it features a picture of Santa holding a mug of beer. That’s one of the best Christmas beer labels I’ve seen, so I’m already gunning for this beer. Will the flavors live up to the artistic standard? Let’s go find out.
This beer starts off with a big bottle aroma of bright pine freshness. It’s basically like a liquid Christmas tree, so that holiday vibe starts at the beginning. Under the hops, notes of dry, crackery malts fill in beneath, adding a touch of savory warmth and a mellow edge of bready sweetness. On top, hints of cherries and raisins add even more festiveness with a mild fruity sweetness that drizzles down through the pine and settles atop the malts. The hops are the major aroma, with an almost citrusy freshness bringing strength to the pine, and flooding the nose with a pure hop bouquet.
The bottle flavors are much the same as the aroma. Huge pine bitterness settles on the back of the tongue and fills the mouth with Christmas tree freshness. The same dry, cracker malts show up next with just a faint edge of bread heaviness. The fruits from the aroma are mostly hidden, subdued to the point of having a faint hint of dark fruit here and there. The hops are again the major player. While not the bitterest of pale ales, the mixture of hops and cracker-like malt profile creates a dry feeling on the tongue, that coats the mouth with flavor for a moment before fading into a mellow malt and hop aftertaste.
Poured out into a tulip glass, the aromas broaden a bit. The pine strength is still the dominate aroma, but notes of grapefruit and faint pineapple make an appearance here and there. The malts are a bit deeper – still retaining that crackery vibe, but also bringing a richer profile of bread as well. Despite that, the malts still fall well below the hops. The fruits from the bottle aroma are nowhere to be found, except for a rare appearance by raisins. Visually, it pours a reddish-brown, a bit darker than caramel, under a fast-fizzing white head.
The post-pour flavors remain similar to what they were in the bottle, with the same potent pine bitterness and hoppy spiciness, and the same crackery malts sliding underneath the hops. But, there’s a much more pronounced edge of fruity sweetness that flows throughout each taste. It’s nothing huge, but notes of raisins and grapefruit juice add a bit of bright sweetness that works quite well with the bitterness of the hops. As you keep drinking, it begins to taste a bit like tea – with super-mellow notes of flowers and earthy citrus. On the tongue, it lasts quite a bit longer, and even brings a bit of juiciness with each taste, clinging to the mouth instead of fading away as it did from the bottle. The aftertaste changes a bit as well – still retaining the bitter linger of hops, but now bringing the sweet and savory notes of fruit-laced malts as well.
In the end, this beer didn’t offer up anything special. It wasn’t super potent, nor did it bring any overly festive flavors to the table. But, it did bring a nice balance of bitter, flavorful hops and mild, crusty malts to create a solid, tasty beer. It doesn’t have too much going for it in the strength category at 6% ABV, but it makes up for it with a nice blend of hops and malts. Plus, like I said at the beginning, it has Santa drinking a mug of beer. That alone makes it worth the price to buy at least one.
I recommend drinking this in place of any other IPA during the holiday season. It’d also work well as a warm up to a more serious winter ale, like a stout. Finally, because of the twice-mentioned drinking Santa, it’d make a great stocking stuffer. All in all, Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve shows up solid, earning itself a B.
Lasting Strength: 8.5/10
Overall: 8.5/10 B
Winter Warming Bonus: 6/10