I’m absolute sucker for holiday/winter specialty beers. I think part of it is that they have a feeling the ephemerality. Part of it is definitely that they often play to my love of puns. The biggest reason is that their flavor profiles are generally right up my alley. When I think of a winter warmer or holiday beer, I imagine malty, leaning toward sweet, maybe some interesting spice notes, and definitely a warmth from the alcohol. What about that doesn’t sound great?
Rogue’s annual holiday offering, Santa’s Private Reserve, is a variation of the classic Saint Rogue Red, but with double the hops–including Chinook, and Centennial, and a mystery hop called Rudolph by head brewer John “more hops” Maier!
When I think of ways to make something more of a holiday beer, I rarely think, “Double the hops!” But, just because it’s not falling into my conceptions of what a holiday beer should be doesn’t mean it can’t be a great beer. I tried to approach this tasting as just a beer, not a holiday beer, but I fear my opinion may be colored by what I was hoping for.
Appearance: Amber with hints of ruby red when held up to the light. It’s topped with a 2-finger thick, off-white head that deliberately came down to about half an inch.
Aroma: Caramel and aromatic malts combine for a solid sweetness with some green, earthy hop bitterness.
Taste: A nice, creamy sweetness is quickly backed up by an assertive, balancing hop bitterness. You’re left with a lingering, but not coating bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Light and bubbly without feeling watery.
Overall: I could go for a bit more malt character and maybe a more piney hop bitterness in a winter seasonal. It’s a good, but not remarkable beer.