We'd previously seen 6 packs of Nosferatu on the shelves at the local grocery store, but a combination (or lack thereof) of time & money meant that the whole of late Oct slipped us by and we never did have any. Nor did we get any Rogue Dead Guy Ale, a perfect brew for that part o' the year, and as we stood gazing down the length of the beer aisle, somehow Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale didn't seem all that intreguing, either. It MAY still be technically fall for another 30-odd days, and it still MAY be very close to the harvest festival of Thanksgiving, but there's SNOW on the ground, Buttercup, and it don't friggin FEEL like Fall at all. It feels like WINTER. It feels like CHRISTMAS.
So... Almost by default the decision was made for us. Nothin' to do but go with Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale.
Now, I've always sort of pictured Santa as the milk n' cookies sort of person, the one who prefers hot chocolate and eggnog to beer, but lets face it, his roots are in Europe and if ANYONE knows how to brew and drink beer, it's THEM. Thomas Nast might have sweetened him up to be more like your kindly grandfather, but even the nicest of grandypaps would enjoy a pint now and then, right?? Besides, with the sudden surge of biographies about Santa that are clearly intended for adult audiences trying to recapture some of their youthful magic, it's only right n' proper that us grownups should nod in quiet understanding at the thought of Santa having a lil' wing somewhere off the main hallway of his Workshop that's full of some large beer kegs. He's a hardworkin' man!! Just think of that big sack he's gotta lug up and down!!
While I'm not sure Santa would raise his fist like that when drawing off a pint (it seems a bit too gonzo for santa, despite it's missing 6th finger and peyote button), I CAN say that the beer is damned good and very strong and all what you might expect a "winter" beer to be like. Whereas in summertime you'd naturally want something icy cold and light and refreshing-- hard cider is excellent-- in WINTER you'd like something that sticks to your ribs a little bit more and warms you up inside: if you can't actually GET a higher alcohol content during winter, your beer should at least TASTE like it's stronger than normal.
Generally speaking, when someone says "ale" to me I think of something with a light straw colour to it-- like Genesse Cream ALE or something like that, but Santa apparently doesn't mess with that stuff (or else the Rogue people don't mess with it on his behalf), and it's got a beautiful amber colour to it which tells you immediately you're in for something special.
The head is strong and bubbly, though not as fine as some beers with a nitrogen release, so it's head is more similar to, say, Bud than it is to Guinness. Still, it's good.
Like I said it's a STRONG brew, very hoppy and malty and the first swig frankly opened my eyes and made me sit up and take notice. I might note here that those of you who do not LIKE strong beers probably won't like this stuff at all; and especially not if you're more of a sweet wine drinker: this ale is dry and has a strong almost bitter taste to it. "This'll put hair on your chest!" is what YOUR kindly grandfather might say if he was serving some to you.
At this time of year it's traditional to put winterish spices in beer, things almost nutmeg-ey or stuff you'd traditionally poke into the top of a ham for your Christmas table, but apparently Th' Man in Red gets enuff of that stuff already and may have asked the Rogue people to keep that junk OUT; whereas other beers are flavoured with "wintertide spices", Santa's Private Reserve is unadulterated fineness; he's apparently got enough cutsie frou-frou stuff to tide him o'er through 'till spring.
"I like any beer that keeps Santa in his cups!"