Dec 7, 2007

Session #10: Winter Seasonal Beers

The Session Logo

It’s the first Friday of December and that can only mean one thing. It’s time for The Session — a monthly event that brings beer fans together to share their thoughts on a specified theme. This month’s theme couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

For the past year I have been trying my hand at cellaring beer for the first time. It’s been a long 12 months of worry and impatience. Through summer temperature fluctuations and my own greedy desire to treat myself early, a small number of beers were packed away in a dark corner of my basement. The majority of brews hidden are of the winter seasonal variety and seeing as how I was going to sample a few for the holidays… I might as well just bump up the schedule a bit.

Words can’t do the maniacal grin on my face justice.

First up is a bottle of Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus. I only have two small bottles of this one packed away, but for my first run at cellaring I think that’s a good number considering the price of the brew. I don’t have any notes from my previous tastings of this one, but I do remember it being sweet and potent (14% ABV). The beer is already aged for a year by the brewery before it is shipped, so let’s see how another year in the bottle has treated it.


The beer poured nice and smoothly, but had zero head to speak of. I was a bit worried that it has lost some life. Luckily I quickly noticed a nice column of bubble activity rising from the center of the glass. It is a lovely garnet hued, rich amber in color.


The Samichlaus has a mellow cherry aroma with a subtle yeastiness in the background. The alcohol is there, but it’s not as strong as I remember — then again, my memory isn’t what it used to be.


Wow. This tastes nearly identical to what I remembered, yet it’s much, much smoother in the mouth. I don’t remember if my original tasting was as light on the carbonation as this one, but man this glass is slick like oil. The cherries come out more in the glass as it warms. There’s a faint tartness and spice. The alcohol is also there, warming the throat nicely on the sub-20 degree evening.


I think I should have taken notes the first time around with this beer. From what I do remember, this one has mellowed nicely. The cherry presence is smooth and complimented with a sticky sweetness that makes this one a lovely sipper. I would say that the summer temperatures didn’t mess with this one over the past year. So far, so good.

Rating: 4/5

Next up is a beer that I have been struggling to find this year. Anchor’s Our Special Ale is indeed a special brew. I went through many bottles of this last year. Again, this being the first run at cellaring I only put away a six pack for aging. I wish I had been able to put more away, as I can’t seem to find the 2007 run anywhere in the Northern Virginia area.

I did keep a few, light notes from my original tasting on this one and based on those notes it’s changed a great deal.


The Anchor still pours a dark, dark brown. It fills the glass nicely and is complimented with a large, rich tan colored head.


My original notes mentioned a bit of chocolate in the nose from last December, but this time around I don’t pick that up. There is some nice caramel sweetness and slight dark fruits. What has really come through in the past year are the spices. They seem to dominate the aroma. There’s also a rich earthiness that I didn’t pick up in the nose last year.


Looking back on my notes from last year, I realize that I need to start taking better notes. The original tasting simply states “rich chocolates and coffee… earthy.” That earthy presence is still in the brew and is perhaps a bit stronger than memory serves. Beyond that it tastes nothing like what I remember. The spices are dominant with a strong “organic” feel to them. The chocolate has faded to a subtle light cigar characteristic and the dark fruits that I caught in the aroma are no where to be found in the taste.


Honestly, I don’t know what to think of this one. I remember loving the 2006 vintage last December. I’m not so thrilled with it right now. I’m pretty sure that may be due to more nostalgia and latent memory more than anything else, but it surely is a changed brew. There are elements that I like in this aged version and some that just don’t quite sit right. I’ll be doing another sampling of this batch come Christmas Eve, when I have more experienced company with me to discuss what we find.

Rating: 3.5/5

I hadn’t planned on enjoying any of the beers until the holidays hit so I’m going to try and hold out on any others before my originally scheduled tasting. Until then… sleep tight you lucky beers. Your time will come.