The classic beer reveals some past secrets....


A beer can be extraordinary in one of many ways - be it from a technological point of view in terms of production,  the way in which it upholds a particular tradition,  or by the sheer quality it has to offer.  For one beer to combine all such qualities is a rarity - but Samichlaus is one such beer.

What makes Samichlaus such a fascinating  brew is that it encompasses the very elements that epitomise Christmas itself,  by upholding deep rooted traditions of the past, with a yeast strain developed in the present, for a beer designed for future enjoyment. 

Although originally created by the Hurlimann Brewery of Switzerland in 1980, it has, since 2000 been brewed by Schloss Eggenberg in Austria.

The closure of Hurlimann in 1997 was believed to signal the end of the products life. But, Schloss Eggenberg ( with knowledge supplied by the former Head Brewer at Hurlimann ) could see a future for the brew and acknowledged the fascination and appreciation the brand held within beer drinking communities worldwide, and thankfully decided to breath new life into the product once more.

Year on year the beer has found new followers as Schloss Eggenberg have continued to produce a lager of exceptional quality, maintaining  the original vision and achievements of the Hurlimann Brewery by using the original yeast strain and adhearing to the exceptional ' lagering ' period of 10 months. 

Being the festive season therefore I recently opened a bottle of Samichlaus to celebrate the occasion. But, what made the bottle I sampled a little different was its age - some 25 years old - and one of the original brews from the Hurlimann Brewery!

Prior to opening  the beer several questions crossed my mind. How would it have matured over that length of time ? How would its flavours developed and changed ? Would it still in fact be drinkable, or would it simply have gone over and faded with age ? 

On opening the beer the first thing that struck me was the colour. During that time Hurlimann were producing two variants of Samichlaus  'pale' and 'dark' although in later years the dark version seemed to have gained precedence.

This particular Samichlaus was of the  'pale'  type and the colour had taken on a deep red mahogany hue with time. There was a slight carbonation on opening and I decided to treat it in the same fashion as a bottle conditioned beer,  as it had developed a heavy sediment with age  as yeast residues and proteins had fallen out of suspension. 

The aroma was an extraordinary combination of ' fresh ' almost ' zestful ' caramel, demerara,  and barley sugar like notes  with a touch of oak and glycerine  smooth sweetness.    



                                                   Schloss Eggenberg Old and New 


                         Glistening Plant and maturation barrels at Schloss Eggenberg     

The palate was equally fascinating  ( and an almost flavour shape shifting experience ! )  in its complexity, with a full rounded depth, excellent balance and warming smoothness - reminiscent of a fine old Tawny Port. On tasting a second time  flavours of Pedro Ximenez Sherry jumped to mind,  with raisin and morello cherry fruit.

As there were so many shifting aromas and flavours going on here ( pleasantly assaulting my senses ! ) I decided to taste  the beer again over two further days.

On the second day the beer had altered once more, and flavours of ripe figs, coco bean and caramelised toffee came to the fore, all remaining in an extremely complex mix. 

By the third day of tasting one wine in particular sprung to mind ( in an almost Eureka moment ! ) having racked my brains ceaselessly over the past two days - Liqueur Tokay.

Liqueur Tokay's are a speciality of the Rutherglen Region of South Australia and a unique fortified wine of true originality and distinction, and a fitting parallel to one of the worlds most famous brews.

The Samichlaus Pale 1986 is probably one of the most extraordinary beers I have ever tasted, and proved that great beers have all the complexity, flavours and nuances often only spoken about in the world of wine - and deserve equal appreciation and recognition every bit as much as wine itself.   

Fascinatingly also the Hurlimann back label on the bottle stated the Best Before date as January 1989 - but, intriguingly added confidently the beer had - Unlimited Shelf Life ! 

On tasting the beer 25 years on I can vouch that this is more than true !

Long live Samichlaus,  perhaps the longest lived,  and ultimately complex of the worlds greatest beers !



For more information on Samichlaus go to  www.schloss-eggenberg.at

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