This probably says more about me than I’d like it to, but whenever I picture Santa, it’s as likely to be with a beer in his hand as a glass of milk (or Coca-Cola).Â As in all things, I blame my upbringing — my parents, savvy operators that they were, convinced me early on that what Saint Nick could really use on Christmas Eve was something to take the edge off.Â Over time this was phased out in favor of the more traditional milk, but there are home movies of me at about 2-3 years old, bringing out cookies and a glass of wine for Santa.Â (Predictably, I spilled it on the carpet and, yes, I did try to pick the liquid up with my fingers.Â I was not a smart child.)
Honestly, I’ve always pictured that right jolly old elf through more of a working class lens than I think most do.Â The poor guy busts his ass all year long to meet the tightest delivery window on Earth, and as soon as he gets back home Christmas morning, no doubt all he wants is to take a load off in his favorite chair with a beer in one hand and the remote in the other.Â Mrs. Claus does not get a lot of help around the house in January, is what I’m saying.
But what I didn’t realize until a couple of years ago is that Santa actually has a microbrewery at the North Pole.Â It makes sense â€“ you have to figure not every elf is cut out for crafting dolls and iPods, so the rowdier ones are put to work brewing Santaâ€™s own personal ale, which he briefly makes available to the public every Christmas season.Â Now thatâ€™s a man who has mastered the spirit of giving, as have I, so allow me to give you the low-down on a product that just might get you through the holidays in one piece.
Santa’s Private Reserve pours out a nice darkish red/copper color, exactly the hue you want in a winter beer.Â (Summer beers must by law be golden yellow, of course.Â Basically, summer beers should look like your pee when you’re really dehydrated, winter beers should look like you have kidney stones.)Â I’m not usually one for smelling my drinks, but the aroma is pleasant, slightly citrusy.Â I’m also not a beer snob, so I won’t bore you or myself by getting too technical; but it IS quite hoppy, which translates to bitterness.Â
To me that’s a selling point, but be warned if wheat beers and Corona are more your style.Â (College students will, of course, want to stick with Natty Light, as this is not a good beer for chugging out of a plastic cup with a ping pong ball in it.)Â You’d normally expect a winter seasonal beer to have a lot of spices in it, but they’re understated if not nonexistent here, taking a back seat to more of a roasted caramel taste.Â In terms of thickness, it’s about medium — certainly you’re not going to confuse it for Guinness, but don’t expect it to go down like your mother at a Molly Hatchet reunion tour either.
The ABV is 6.0 percent, pretty standard for a craft beer, although those of you who mainly drink light beers should be careful.Â In my immediate post-college years I could have polished off three of these without feeling it, but these days more than one is enough to rosy my cheeks and merry my dimples.Â That works in your favor, though, as Two-Drink Drew is 65 percent more likely to tell embarrassing family stories and use the word “ass” in reviews than Zero-Drink Drew.Â (Both are preferable to Five-Drink Drew, who can’t figure out how to work a keyboard.)Â And not that it should influence your purchasing decision, but the packaging is nice — simple artistic images of a cheerful Kris Kringle hoisting a tankard.Â Skol!
I have no doubt there are better, far more knowledgeable beer drinkers than I who could describe this Christmas ale to you using terms like “mouthfeel” and “juniper” and “pretentious.”Â I just know what I like, and I like this beer.Â It’s bitter, it’s smooth, and it leaves you with a pleasing aftertaste long after you’ve finished drinking it.Â Plus it makes you feel like you and Santa are old drinking buddies.
Sure, everyone gets presents, but you’re one of the privileged few the big guy allows to tap his personal stockpile.Â It’s a special, manipulative marketing-driven feeling, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.Â Or rather, you can, and it’s $11.59.Â Not dirt cheap, but for a once-a-year treat, itâ€™s worth it.
Item: Rogue Santaâ€™s Private Reserve Ale
Size: 6 pack (12-ounce bottles)
Purchased at: Joe Canalâ€™s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Stupid children.Â Helps Santa recover from Christmas.Â Good color.Â Smooth and easy, like your sister.Â Two-Drink Drew.Â Tastes better than egg nog.
Cons: Bitter as an old man talking about today’s youth.Â Not good for drinking games.Â Misleading marketing – Santa doesn’t actually want to drink with me.Â Not free, even if you make the “Nice” list.