Well right and sick of this “winter” and its barren trees, snowless lawns and honestly unnerving mists in lieu of such, I decided to take a little trip. It began by heading north, first having to illegally enter the nation of Canada (a country I am actually banned from) and then continuing on this course until the snows grew deeper. Eventually, after dog-sledding for what seemed like hours, I came to an icy shoreline, where I stowed away in the holds of a vessel bound for the arctic in search of potential deep water oil reserves.
Along our relatively short voyage, I was twice forced to bribe members of the crew to ensure their silence and at one point, may or may have not had something to do with an accident which involved another falling overboard after somehow hitting his own head several times on a piece of frozen cod. Though suspicions abounded, there was little need to bribe anyone after that and before I knew it, I had arrived with a full set of arctic gear I had found stowed comfortably beneath a recently vacated bunk.
Following this, the absconding with a track 4-wheeler, the running of this vehicle until it died and then a very long walk, I finally arrived at my destination.
Now you may be thinking, ‘That’s an awful long way to go just to see some snow,’ and you’d be right. However snow was not actually my objective, fore as I approached the tiny elven village of legend, tucked neatly up at the North Pole my mind was focused more intently on a dark cellar beneath a tidy home, in which a fat man with a snowy white beard awaited his big night. I had come to pilfer from Saint Nick’s own beer cellar.
The actual story of how I got into the cellar and away with this single bottle of Rogue’s “Santa’s Private Reserve Ale” is a much longer ordeal involving having to cover myself in reindeer filth to avoid detection and then running like hell as factory elves shot at me with pop guns, which actually hurt surprisingly more when they’re being used for compound defense, but that is a story for another time. For this is a review to see just what sort of brew the old fat man enjoys on his 364 off-days a year.
To start out with, this brew is of a darker brown color and has a nose of a rather complex and malty variety. Not as intense as some heavier weight stouts or the like, it never the less allows its seven different malts to waft along upon a sniff. For the palate, these same malts almost seem to compete with each other as well as with the 74 IBU bitterness offered up by way of three separate hops, all within the roasted medium mouthfeel.
Now, upon the rear label where it lists its malt and hop ingredients, it notes that this is a brew with a “sprucy” finish. This, I have noticed is something of a point of contention with some, myself included. Not the existence of it in this beer, but whether or not such is pleasant at all. To my palate, it is not. In fact, nearly every other aspect of this beer is fully enjoyable, right up until the end where the seasonally appropriate yet bitterly wooden notes of spruce seem to sort of take whatever elements may have come before.
Akin to the Pennsylvania Tuxedo, an IPA put out by Dogfish Head which possesses a similar overly dominant spruce feature, it is largely this one aspect which I simply cannot find myself liking. Though drinkable and nowhere near a drain pour, this Christmas ale is one which while embodying the season well enough in its flavor, is not something I would likely go back to again myself. Should you be one who enjoys the taste of spruce, it may very well be for you, but for the time and effort and all the bodies of dead elves I was forced to tie together to make a raft, just to get this beer home for review, I’m honestly a little let down.
Regardless though, to Rogue for their efforts, to the elves for the sacrifices of their buoyant corpses and of course to you, I say as always…
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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