Drink: Santa Claus is dead (official)
A final taste of the world's strongest lager - and other seasonal ales
Saturday 05 December 1998
The Santa Claus in question is a beer - known properly as Samichlaus, as rendered in the Swiss German of Zurich, the brand-name of a Christmas lager with an international reputation among beer-lovers.
This extremely strong (14 per cent), peppery, brandyish, chestnut-coloured lager was launched in 1980 by Martin Hurlimann, whose company was renowned for its skill in propagating unusual yeasts.
He used one of these cultures in an successful effort to make the world's strongest lager while avoiding the extremes of syrupy stickiness and solvent- like alcohol flavours found in some extra-potent brews. The beer is brewed on St Nicholas' Day (6 December), and released 12 months later, with a "vintage" date on the label.
After his retirement in 1996, the brewery was acquired by a rival, Feldschlosschen, in the spa town of Rheinfelden, near Basel. Unfortunately, this brewery has fallen into the hands of accountants and marketing men who wish to concentrate on mass-market beers. They have decided that the batch of Samichlaus brewed in 1996 and released in 1997 will be the last example of this speciality. Beer-lovers wishing to speak out for Santa can do so on ww.beerhunter.com or www.breworld.com
Five hundred cases of the last vintage were labelled for the UK, and all of these have been bought by Safeway, where the beer is on sale at pounds 1.75 per bottle. "It will be a great shame if one of the world's landmark beers disappears for ever - for no good reason," says its buying manager Glen Payne.
Christmas beers from Britain
Winter Holiday From the Lakeland Brewery. Ruby to dark brown. Smooth, very dry, almost oaky. Very big for a beer of a modest 5 per cent. Distributed by James Clay, of Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire (01422 822659).
Robert Cain's Christmas Ale From the fine Victorian brewery of the same name in Liverpool. This bright, pale amber ale, at 5 per cent, has a toasty palate and a lemony finish. Available at Asda.
Fuller's 1998 Vintage Ale From the famous London brewery. Made from Alexis malting barley and Wye Northdown hops. Lovely amber colour. Malty but beautifully balanced, at 8.5 per cent. Can be laid down. Available at Tesco.
Shepherd Neame Vintage Christmas Ale From Kent hop country. Deep amber. Perfumy. Laced with cherry brandy. 6.7 per cent alcohol. Available at Sainsbury's.
St Feuillien Cuvee de Noel Named after an Irish missionary who in the 7th century founded the town of Le Roeulx, near Mons. This strong (9 per cent alcohol) ale has a deep, claret colour, a marzipan aroma and flavours reminiscent of nuts, dates, lemon peels and cinnamon.
Abbaye des Rocs Speciale Noel Named after a former monastery in the same part of Belgium. Produced in a tiny brewery established by a former tax inspector. This ale, also 9 per cent, is similar, perhaps more fruity and port-like. Try it with cheese.
Barbar Winter Bok A pinkish-brown, honey ale of 8 per cent, with flowery, vanilla-like notes.
These three brews are distributed by Beer Direct, Stoke-on-Trent. Phone and fax: 01782 303823
From the United States
Anchor Merry Christmas Ruby to dark brown. Creamy, toasty start; spicy, grapefruity, finish. Alcohol 5.5 per cent. From the Beer Shop, 14 Pitfield St, London N1, 0171-739 3701 (also mail order).
Life & Style blogs
This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
Tinder Plus: premium service launches, charging much more for those over 28
My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin: How I outwitted the Gestapo
Drinking three to five cups of a coffee a day could reduce risk of heart attacks, study finds
Running test reveals whether you will die in the next decade
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 Pornhub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Infrastructure Architect is ...
£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Production Coordinator is required to ...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opening has arisen ...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...