20 December 2006

KOTBR Review #9: Rogue's Santa's Private Reserve Ale

OK, it's pretty much official. Deano's has become the official watering hole of the Hoosier Beer Geek and the Knights of the Beer Roundtable. We feel completely at home. We like it. We love it. We want some more of it. Now, I will still buy my six packs at The Hop Shop. And I'm waiting on Courtney to invite us to belly-up to the tasting bar one night, and when he does, we'll sure go. But until then, I think our reviews will be coming to you from Deano's.

Now that's out of the way.

We met up last week to do our first annual Holiday Review. We say "holiday" because we had also planned on some Hanukkah beers from Schmaltz, but, alas, Nick the Bartender was out. So we just stuck with a Christmas beer - Rogue's Santa's Private Reserve Ale.

We also were joined for the first time by Braingirl (not sure she want's me to use her real name or not). She is the newest KOTBR, and she fits right in to our ecclectic group of drunks.

Chris: I was going to try to keep with recent HBG tradition, and write my review in the tune of a Christmas Carol. But I'm just not feeling all that creative. Deal.

I had warmed up on some Bell's Double Cream Stout. All I have to say is "YUM!" My kind of beer! Nick has it on draft right now, and I'm trying to be responsible for helping him to replace it. But this dark brown glass of joy got me in the Christmas mood, and by the time Braingirl joined us, I was ready to launch into our feature - Santa's Private Reserve Ale from Rogue.

Santa, when poured, had a brownish-amber color, a nice tan head, and made me think of chestnuts over open fires and a partridge in a pear tree. On a side note, I have a pear tree in my front yard, and I have never once seen a partridge in it. Hmmmm.

The nose was a little difficult for me to discern because I was still tasting the Stout. But I was able to pick out some gingerbread, maybe, and a good balance of hops. And I know this sounds crazy, but it smelled a little bit like a Christmas tree. Maybe that was just psychological.

It had a full-bodied taste, definitely had some hops to it, but not overwhelming. This was a well-balanced beer. I think I picked out a pinch of nutmeg, a little bit malty, but the beer was definitely moist. It wasn't overly carbonated, but it wasn't dull, either. It - as I'm learning with many good beers - gets better the closer to room temperature it gets.

All in all, it was a pretty good beer. Not my favorite, but pretty good. I'm giving it 3.75 Mugs.

Braingirl: Warm-up Beer: Bell's Winter White Ale. And what a perfect warm-up beer itwas. Perfect for the evening and also for my introduction to Chris and Jim!Thanks for the warm -- and tasty welcome. Now I just have to get over myintroduction to Humphrey the Humping Dog. It was the most traumatic part ofmy KOTBR initiation.

Back to the Bell's: This full tasty brew in the Belgian style was just upmy alley. I've outgrown a bit the full, sweet German style hefe-weissens,but love the smoothness of beers like this one. Not overly bitter or heavy,but not too light either. A clean taste unburdened by sticky, sweet ortangy wheatbeer goo.

And the main event: Santa's Private Reserve from Rogue Ale. Like Jim (orsomeone said), this was the first Rogue Beer I've had that I actually liked. I guess I'm just not cool enough to be a fan of the Pacific Northwestmicrobrew style with it's hallmark hoppy/bitter beers, but this one workedbecause of the toasted grains with enough body to hold it together. Perfectfor winter, this dark amber-colored brew started hoppy with what tasted likeflat-out burned grains to me, but mellowed as it warmed up a bit. A fewdegrees above frosty cold and it was a nice, comfortable winter drinker.And I, too, was a nice comfortable winter drinker. I give it 3.5 Mugs.

Jim: The Knights were back together at our home sweet home, Deano’s Vino, on the night before Chanukah (or Hanukkah or Hanukah or however you prefer to spell it) to do our first holiday themed review. Unfortunately, Jason was out sick, and Kelly was at Deano’s for dinner with friends but couldn’t join us for the review. But Chris and I were happy to be joined by new Roundtable member, Braingirl, who was able to add her own unique epicurean flair to our get-together.

We initially planned to review a Chanukah beer from Shmaltz Brewing Co., which is the purveyor of the He’Brew label. However, upon arrival at Deano’s, our trusty bartender, Nick, informed me that he was out of He’Brew. Nick couldn’t say why he ran out, but I’m pretty sure I know what happened. Rumor has it that Mel “Sugart*ts” Gibson is a secret fan of He’Brew Messiah Bold Ale and stopped by Deano’s on his way to that kooky Holocaust deniers conference in Iran to pick up the last six-pack of Messiah Bold. So that means that Knights are left to review He’Brew’s fine products for another time.

Not one to be disappointed by the He’Brew buzzkill, I started off the night with a warm-up with a local brew: Barley Island’s Barfly IPA. This well-balanced IPA was the first beer that I’ve ever tried from the Noblesville brewery, and I wasn’t disappointed. Since Braingirl did not join Chris and me until an hour after we arrived, Chris and I decided to go with a second warm-up. I chose the beer that Chris started with: Bell’s Double Cream Stout, which is a seasonal from Bell’s offered during the winter months. It’s a smooth, dry stout with a bit of a chocolaty taste. It went down just as easily as the Barfly IPA.

Once Braingirl arrived, we wasted no time getting to the feature beer – Rogue Ale’s Santa’s Private Reserve. I was a bit wary of this beer before we tried it because I’ve not had good experiences with Rogue products. On one previous occasion, I tried Rogue’s Chocolate Stout and American Amber. Once was enough for me. But the Santa’s Private Reserve was impressive stuff. The color of this beer was a deep brownish-red. The nose conjured up images of gingerbread cookies, which is not surprising considering that this is a Christmas beer. The flavor was gingerbread-like as well, and the finish was very dry and hoppy. I found this to be a good beer to hold in my mouth for a few seconds rather than swallow right away because of the pleasant taste.

In short, Rogue Ales has redeemed itself in my eyes with this beer. Four mugs easily!

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