Samichlaus. What beer geek (in Europe at least) hasn't heard of it? What feels like many years ago, before I entered major beer geekery, I'd had it in the Porterhouse, Dublin, and really quite enjoyed it. The last time I had it was in the Bull and Castle, Dublin, while completing their Beer Hall Challenge. The challenge was to drink one of each of a list of 30 beers, over as long as you liked, on completion of which you were supposed to get a glass engraved with your name and kept in the bar much the same as some Munich beer halls might do for the Stammtisch crowd. It was a nice idea, the goal of which was to challenge the Guinness or Heino drinkers to try something different. Us geeks on IrishCraftBrewer.com got special dispensation and could get some struck off the list in advance if we wanted. Nevertheless, I had fun completing the list, until I realised I had left all the strong beers till the end. Being as sensible as I am, one night I decided I'd had enough of this list and, after a few Galway Hookers, set about getting the Chimay Rouge, Chimay Bleue and a Westmalle Triple off the list (and possibly a Kwak, but the first three are definite). That only left the Samichlaus. Needless to say, it was hard going at that stage, and recall it being thick and sweet, and trying to get my mates to take sips to help me along, without much success. By the time I had about a third of the glass left, my mate Marco's beautiful French girlfriend said "here, give me that" and knocked it back, just so we could finally leave. I was very grateful, and not a little fluthered.
While looking for some beers on bierpost.de before Christmas, I thought I should try another beer from Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg, MacQueen's Nessie, declaiming itself as a Whisky Malt Red Beer on the label. Sounded interesting. It's certainly reddish, being a clear copper-amber, but instead of the smoke-tinged aroma I was expecting, it gave of a very sweet caramel/malty nose. And yes, this continues in the first sip. I didn't get any hint of whisky malt, but this thin, sugary, candy theme stays throughout. I really tried to imagine some whisky malt, but I just got sweets. Ok, I suppose not every whisky malt is smoked, but what's the bloody point of sticking Whisky Malt on the label when it's really just like any other malt? Or am I missing something? If it's trying to be some sort of reddish Vienna-style lager, I was disappointed too. There's a touch of fruity hoppiness in there somewhere, but not enough to make me ever want to try this sugar water again. If I want to really taste a beer from the German speaking countries that kicks your teeth in with smoky whisky malt, it'll still be the Smokey George from Brauerei Rittmayer.
Of course, I had to buy a Samichlaus for old times sake. In fact, going shopping in town before Christmas i was almost tripping over them in some of the department stores, despite the fact that the label on the back says "perhaps rarest in the world". Perhaps, indeed. Anyway, getting a bottle also gives me a chance to turn that glass around and show you what's printed on the other side. Tadaa!
So, after a couple of years, how would I take a sober return to Samichlaus? Well, the aroma is nice, if sweet. Apple pie and spices and a slight vinous note. The flavour gives much bigger fruit flavours than I recalled -- but then what could I possibly recall, so forget about that -- with raisens, banana, cherry and big, sweet toffee malt flavours. Behind all this is 14% alcohol, and it does creep in, warming the throat so it began to feel quite boozy. But despite all those lovely-sounding flavours, it's just too sweet for me, and by the end of it, all I could get was a sickly-sweet, slightly burnt residue coating my tongue. I suppose it's a bit like a kebab, all right until you try it sober*.
*With the sole exception of kebabs from Zaytoon, across from the Porterhouse, Dublin, which taste equally yummy when sober. God, I miss them.