Brewer: Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg

Style: German Doppelbock

The first time we drank a Samichlaus, we were thrown for a loop. For reasons we can't understand, but suspect involve clueless government regulation, the beer is labelled a "malt liquor." This carefully crafted Austrian import is a German-style dopplebock that will fill you with holiday cheer.

Known for their rich, malty flavors, dopplebocks are the strongest lagers in the German lager tradition, but even among the most powerful examples of the style, Samichlaus is something of a freak at 14 percent alcohol. Most stop well short of 10 percent. The style dates back to the Monks of St. Paula in Germany, who used it for sustenance during Lent.

Castle Brewery Eggenberg has monastic roots as well, but it's now a commercial concern. They brew up Samichlaus just once a year, on December 7, Saint Nicholaus Day. The beer undergoes 10 months of cold storage or lagering before being bottled and put on the market. In keeping with its exceptional strength, it bears some resemblance to a remarkably well-aged barleywine.