It probably comes as no surprise that Santa likes red ales, but for being such a jolly fellow, he must have a fondness for bitterness. Santa’s Private Reserve Ale by Rogue Ales is a fall/winter release amber ale not short on IBUs. The beer pours a deep reddish brown with a frothy, thick tan head. The head slowly fades leaving nice lacing. As predicted by the color, the nose picks up on malt influences with aromas of bread, sweet rolls, and honey. The nose also is able to discern the hop influences with notes of fruit and pine. Fans of Rogue beers will also detect the Rogue Pacman yeast as well. The beer has a nicely medium mouthfeel for a beer that is only 5.1% ABV. The carbonation is noticed on the front of the tongue. The 74 IBUs do mean that the beer’s flavor is dominated by hop bite, but prior to the hops taking over, the malts give a roasty and bready character. However, this is not nearly as pronounced as the aromas predict. The piney flavors begin mid-tongue and carry long into the aftertaste. I’m sure the piney notes are no coincidence in a Christmas beer. The pine shares a bit of the aftertaste with a slight alcohol twinge, surprising with the low ABV. Santa’s Private Reserve may not be what many think of as the typical winter ale, but with Sierra Nevada’s Celebration being one of my favorite yearly cold-weather* releases, I’m happy to have other fall/winter beers that don’t shy away from hops. Plus I don’t really need 10% plus beers helping me pack on winter pounds. This beer is really only amber in color so it would pair well with anything that you usually pair an IPA with. If you want to go non-traditional with your holiday appetizer, pair this beer with some bacon wrapped, cheese-stuffed jalapeños. Santa’s Private Reserve is in 22 oz bombers, and it is also available in six packs for around $13. Go ahead, share some beer as you celebrate the holidays. And when St. Nick pops in, let him know that you agree that there is nothing wrong with some holiday bitterness. Cheers, Alex *At least it’s supposed to be by this time. Not to brag, but I was sweating in shorts and a short sleeve jersey on the ride today. Aroma (sweet contributions from the malt without totally masking the hops)…8/10 Flavor (hop-dominate after an initial bready maltiness)…7/10 Style-Appropriateness (its hoppiness is unusual for an amber ale, but I’m not complaining)…6/10

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