Generally it's annoying to see inappropriately early Christmas décor, but we're happy to see good holiday beers whenever they show up (as long as it's at least a little nippy outside). We spotted Santa's Private Reserve Ale from Rogue at Fiesta the other day and decided to nab it.
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Though we were glad we did, we wouldn't necessarily recommend this one wholeheartedly. For a Christmas ale (which we like for the gut-warming, heavily spiced, malty-but-not-sweet sort of feel), this was surprisingly bitter, mostly in the strong, roasted charcoal sense.
This beer wasn't hoppy, and it certainly wasn't acidic, but the ashy flavors did build up after a while. We tend to expect plenty of burnt grain in most holiday offerings, for sure, but we also look for that flavor to be largely obscured by other elements. Not so here.
The best thing about the beer was the finish, before the charcoal set in. It was smooth, very nutty and mellow, with a bit of spice at the edges. The tastes mainly hung out at the back of the palate. The aroma -- perhaps the beer's best trait, frankly -- vaguely resembled roasted vegetables. Really intriguing.
We just wish the very end of each sip would have lived up to the promise of that first whiff.