When Matt at Kybecca pointed out the Southern Tier Krampus to me recently he described it as "a lager, but hopped like an IPA", or something to that effect that peaked my interest. The beer's name and the label description "Imperial Helles Lager" were both sufficiently intriguing to convince me to pick up a bottle.
As for the name, Krampus is a mythical goat-headed character that hands out punishments to naughty children before Christmas. For a detailed accounting of the lore, see this post by Ashley, AKA "The Beer Wench." As to the beer, read on.
A Christmas seasonal from Southern Tier Brewing in New York, Krampus pours a dark golden color with a thin head. The aroma is a mixture of sweet malt and citrus hops. The aroma jumps out immediately upon opening the bottle. The flavor is initially sweet but the hops take over quickly. The hop profile is complex; it's mostly a resinous citrus flavor but there's also enough bitterness to balance it out. A warming alcohol presence can't be ignored. Definitely a sipper. Despite technically being a lager, I found Krampus' flavor to be close to a DIPA or Barleywine. My bottle had been refrigerated and then left to warm a bit before serving. As the beer warmed further in the glass the flavors intensified, as did the aroma. As I often do, I found myself enjoying the aroma as much as the flavor.
The alcohol level checks in at 9%. Colleen and I split the 22 oz. bomber, but given we had nowhere else to be, I certainly would not have minded opening another had one been available. We drank the Krampus while enjoying some sweet kettle popcorn. A simple pairing but an enjoyable way to watch a movie at home.
Leave it to American brewers to further blur the style guidelines. I for one, am okay with this. We should spend less time trying to pigeonhole our beers into specific categories, and more time simply enjoying them. In a related matter, I've seen recent discussions regarding how well Old Dominion Baltic Porter fits (or not) certain style guidelines. Tom at Yours For Good Fermentables offers commentary on the Baltic Porter discourse.
As for me, I'll leave the debates on style classifications to those who are excited by such minutiae. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy the innovations the brewers continue to bring us. And I'll wait with hope that my only visit from the Krampus this Christmas is of the drinkable sort.