Southern Tier Krampus: What a Difference a Year Makes

Yesterday I posted about the evolution of the beer geek.  At the top of the evolutionary chain sits Geeko Sapien, the experienced and open minded craft beer drinker who doesn’t take him/herself too seriously.

I like to think I’m a Geeko Sapien, but just because I might be at the top of the evolutionary ladder doesn’t mean I’ve stopped evolving.   My recent experience with Southern Tier’s Krampus, an Imperial Helles Lager they brew for the Christmas season, made it perfectly clear to me that a true beer geek is always learning and growing.

Southern Tier hasn’t changed a thing about Krampus, it’s still a hop-forward malt bomb with a dry Germanic finish.  It’s a very good beer, but last year I was really disappointed by it.  But that was 12 months ago, and a few things have changed since the first time I tried Krampus.

First off, I started brewing my own beer.  Now, I’ve only managed to crank out a couple of batches (I’m more of a drinker than a doer, I think), but brewing has given me some important insights about beer that I lacked a year ago. The one that applies here is an appreciation for the flavor of malt.  Before brewing it was a lot harder to taste what went into a beer.  After brewing and tasting raw ingredients, my palate is infinitely more informed.

This has lead to the second important development since the last time I had Krampus – I’ve developed an appreciation for lagers and pilsners.  Brewing opened the door for me to truly taste these more-delicate styles of beer, and I quickly came to love brews like Victory Lager and Prima Pils, and Voodoo Brewery’s excellent Pilzilla.  A year ago a helles lager (even an aggressive one like Krampus) was a bit of a bore.  Now I can truly appreciate what goes into a beer like this.

The third and most important development is that I fell in love with Troegs Mad Elf.  I know it sounds odd, but it’s the thing that matters most here.  You see, I spent the better part of last year looking for a holiday seasonal beer that tasted like Christmas, but I kept striking out. Krampus was one of those beers that missed this mark. But then I found Mad Elf (review here) and knew I had found my go-to holiday treat.  With my Christmas beer found, the pressure was off, and I was free to enjoy the other holiday seasonals for the beers they were, even if they don’t taste a damn thing like Christmas.

Understanding that a lot has changed since last year, I tried Krampus again with an open mind.  And I liked it.  It didn’t blow me away, but its spicy character and aggressive maltiness were a nice treat on a Saturday night.

The moral of the story is that sometimes you just have to let a beer come to you.  I like  to occasionally go back and try beers I didn’t like in the past to see if my outlook and appetites have changed enough to appreciate them.  In many cases, like old Krampus here, I find something new to like.

So I guess just like man, the beer geek is an ever evolving creature.  Maybe one day soon I’ll lose this silly tail.  It makes my office chair uncomfortable!



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Categories: Beer, review


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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22 Comments on “Southern Tier Krampus: What a Difference a Year Makes”

  1. Don
    December 7, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Nice post Jim, glad to see you are letting go of your prejudices and retrying some things again. I am definitely not a Geeko Sapien, but probably somewhere between Stellapithicus and Craftus Erectus. I too hope to skip the Beerdouchicus stage. But you make it really hard, because I just love to beat you up in the comments and if I takes a little douchiness to do it I’m not above that.

    That said, I actually avoided this beer because of your recommendation last year when I was barely out of the Kegostandicus stage. Sounds like I should pick this one up and give it a try.

    • December 7, 2010 at 11:13 am #

      If you like DIPA’s and Imperial Lagers (like Avery’s Kaiser) then you’ll find something to like about this beer. Even if it doesn’t taste like Christmas.

  2. Greg K.
    December 7, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    I definitely agree that beer tastes change over time. I remember the first time I had a Russian imperial stout I thought it was disgusting. I believe I said it tasted like someone brewed a beer with vodka. Now I absolutely love a good RIS. Southern Tier is very hit or miss for me. They definitely are all about BIG beers. Everything is Imperial (which grates on me a bit). Sometimes they hit it out of the park (Pumking) and sometimes they miss the mark (Creme Brulee which IMO is far too sweet). I haven’t tried the Krampus just yet, but have been sampling quite a number of different “Christmas Ales”. I’ve had the Great Lakes, Bell’s, Breckenridge, and it always comes back to one of my first forays into the craft beer world…Anchor Our Special Ale. Year after year it is one of my favorite beers. That brew is just perfect. My local spot is going to have a 2008-2010 vertical on Thursday. Sadly I have prior plans on Thursday, but hopefully they’ll all still be there for Friday.

    • December 7, 2010 at 11:16 am #

      We always say drink what you like, and most holiday seasonals are malty ales in the winter warmer vein. Krampus is not – it’s definitely an aggressively hopped and malted helles, which is a different approach than most.

      • Greg K.
        December 7, 2010 at 11:25 am #

        Yeah I’ll definitely pick up a bottle some point soon and try it out. Sounds interesting enough

  3. December 7, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    The exact same thing happened to me. Well, I guess I should say that I reached the same point as you, although with a different path and a different means to the end.

    I dove straight into IPA’s and then IIPA’s and big stouts and barrel aged this and massive beer that and always walked past the the “boring” beers like pilsners, Kölsches and brown ales (and even pale ales).

    Then I came back around and started trying the lighter beers in the summer and it blew me away how good they were. I had the same helles lager problem you did when Surly released Hell in 2009. I was so used to Surly being Furious and Darkness that when Hell came out I was pretty disappointed. Then when it came out the past summer I realized just how awesome it really is.

    Brown ales were dreadfully boring to me and I drank them only if there was nothing else to drink. Then a couple months ago I tried the Bell’s Best Brown just because it was one of the few Bell’s beers that I hadn’t tried. It was so good that it inspired me to do a Brown ales month for my beer club last month.

    I was never a Surly Bender fan because Bender was… well, it wasn’t Furious so it never got a fair shake from me. Then the night of Darkness Day I went out to a bar with some friends to see a band and since I had been drinking beer since 7am that day I decided to take it easy and find something light, boring and sippable. I went with Bender and it was the best one I had ever had. Not sure what switch flipped in me but it’s the Surly I’ve probably drank the most of since then.

    I had a co-worker in my office tell me that he had a Schell’s Schmaltz’s Alt last night that tasted really good even though when he had it the week before he didn’t really like it at all. “Guess I’m just a moody beer drinker” he said to me. I can definitely relate.

    It’s good to know that I’m not just crazy (although this doesn’t prove that I’m not for other reasons) and lets everybody else know not to be too hasty with their judgments.

    • December 7, 2010 at 11:19 am #

      I usually try something a few times before I reject, unless it really hits me wrong – then I try to stay away for a year or so. But I’ll always go back to see if my tastes have changed, because if lots of people like it, I assume it’s not the beer that’s the problem – it’s me.

      BTW, I was the exact same way with big beers when I started – they were all I wanted. Now I enjoy the mellower flavors of lighter beers just as much. I guess I’m getting old!

  4. December 7, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I didn’t care for Krampus last year either. Kudos for giving the beer a second shot!

    Usually it takes me a long time to revisit a beer I didn’t like because I’m always trying new stuff. But, I think I should schedule a second-try every now and then to see how my taste has changed.

    • December 7, 2010 at 11:26 am #

      I was so biased last year against this beer, I thought I owed it a second chance. Plus, it only comes out once a year, so I figured it was now or next year. I knew Krampus would probably be better for me this year because of the factors I listed in to post.

      But I generally agree – if something isn’t great, move on, there are more beers out there.

  5. December 7, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    When this situation is reversed, it is horrible. You tried a beer, you thought that you thought it was good until you purposefully don’t buy a beer you know you love for a six of this new beer and then you get it home and your like “this isn’t that good” And it was only a week ago. What changed? I mutated. Only possibility I can come up with.

    • December 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

      This happens to everyone. It’s some form of beer goggles. 🙂

  6. December 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    Jim, where would you place me on the evolutionary ladder there?

    • December 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

      Profusius Swearicus.

      • December 7, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

        More like Broadicus Diccus to you, sir.

        • December 8, 2010 at 5:46 am #

          I rest my case. 😉

  7. Alex
    December 8, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    I’d love to try Krampus and Mad Elf sometime, but have yet to see them out here in CO.

    I tried Steamworks Brewing’s Spruce Goose last night. It’s brewed with (surprise!) spruce shoots, which is apparently an old Viking recipe. It was almost like drinking a Christmas tree, which is a lot more pleasant than it sounds. Definitely worth seeking out for the holidays.

    • December 8, 2010 at 9:39 am #

      That sounds very cool, like I’d want to put a peppermint stick in it as well. Guess it’s all those candy canes I stole off our trees when I was a kid – Spruce and peppermint go together in my head!

      • Alex
        December 8, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

        Nice pairing idea! I’ll have to try it if I get another bottle. Beats chewing on a pine cone . . .

        • December 8, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

          That’s an easy thing to agree with, Alex.

  8. December 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    Went and bought the last Crampus on the shelf on your reccomendation.

    • December 9, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

      Once again, it was nice knowing you, John! 😉

  9. March 3, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    It seems to me to have a less sweet taste and an almost dry finish.I’m still loving it though and I just found another six pack at a local gas station

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