4.2AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 18/20
Most breweries that make a specific Christmas seasonal name, label, and brand their brew as an ode to Santa Claus and the related canon of characters. But Southern Tier’s "Krampus" is an ode to a mythical figure that actually attacks naughty children! The beer seems to be brewed in the same manner - a complete 180-degree deviation from any other holiday seasonal on the market. Whereas the other brews are winter warmers or other dark ales, Krampus is an imperial helles lager that drinks like an India Pale Ale. And on top of that, it’s an amazing beer in more ways than one.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
The bottle recommends drinking this beer at fridge temp in a snifter, so I poured my 22oz bomber into a tulip glass. It’s a beautiful shade of crystal-clear copper and orange. There isn’t much carbonation, but it productions a lovely, large, white frothy head that leaves fantastic lacing on the glass.
Even at the cold temperature this is a very aromatic beer, smelling almost exactly like a Christmas tree. The piney hops are really prominent in the nose with a slight addition of perfume and flowers.
If I had drank Southern Tier Krampus blind there’s no way I would have known it’s an imperial lager since it tastes and drinks exactly like a double IPA. In fact, Doug Young, one of Southern Tier’s head brewers personally told me this beer is brewed with more hops than anything else in their lineup. The hops dominate the palate with a sticky, pine resin taste and texture across the beginning and middle of the palate. The beer culminates with a strong, slightly dry bitterness, while at the same time delivering a subtle malty sweetness of caramel and butterscotch.
The only flaw with this beer is a strange aftertaste of burnt rubber. This is a phenolic character sometimes found in aggressively hoppy beers, but it doesn’t distract from the main palate - just a quick flavor on the finish before fading away. Other drinkers might find the hoppiness obnoxious, but as a hophead I think it’s quite tasty and the bitterness is indeed strong, but easily tolerable.
While the label may read "lager," but Krampus drinks more like a strong ale. The body isn’t quite as crisp and clean as you’d expect with a lager, most likely due to the assertive hop-forward palate. The liquid itself feels a little thick and sticky, and yet the beer still goes down smooth. Although the hops do linger, they do not dry out my mouth.
Between the almost absurd bitterness and the ballsy 9% ABV palate, Krampus is another imperial beer where the numbers lie. The alcohol is invisible in the smell and taste. It would be an excellent beer to pair with spicy food, and it’s one of the few overly-hoppy beers that can be enjoyed all by itself.
It’s really astonishing Southern Tier was able to brew a lager this hoppy and robust using traditional lager-brewing methods (some breweries make imperial lagers with ale yeast or use other ale-brewing methods). And sure it does drink more like a double IPA than a lager, but considering how tasty and drinkable Krampus is, I’d say it’s definitely a present to beer drinkers with great taste.