Beer Review 0548: Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper Belgian Strong Ale (2012)
Merry Christmas beer lovers! I picked out the beer I would review for this day last Christmas — this beer has been aged for one year in my basement. I hope it doesn’t disappoint. May your day be filled with joy. Cheers!
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is THE gypsy brewer. Mikkeller, based in Vesterbro, Copenhagen, was founded by Bjergsø and his friend Kristian Keller as the result of kitchen homebrewing experiments. Keller would depart early, but the name Mikkeller stuck.
Without an official physical brewery, Mikkeller produces beer on location, and the reputation of said brews are stellar. Many of these collaboration efforts involve Belgium’s de Proef Brouwerij, of which today’s beer, Santa’s Little Helper, comes from.
Santa’s Little Helper is a Belgian Strong Ale inspired by a traditional Winter Warmer style beer. Only listed as “brewed with spices,” this beer is a whopping 11% ABV (alcohol by volume). There’s not much information to be found about this brew other than the ABV and the fact that it seems to be brewed different each year, so let’s get into the 2012 version and see how it stacks up with a year of age.
Pouring made an average size, light tan head that was creamy but quickly diminished. The beer was murky brown in color, and you could tell it was very cloudy as it went into the glass. In bright light, the liquid is indeed quite cloudy, almost muddy; very fine sediment swirls around in the beer as you agitate it. Lacing was excellent, leaving behind thin, even coats of foam.
On the nose, I’m initially wowed by the creamy milk chocolate which combines to make a thick sweetness with some caramel. Intense and syrup-like, I want to immediately take a sip. Alcohol is a player here, and while not overly boozy, you know you’ve got hold of something that is fairly big. This brew almost has barrel-aged aromas to it, with a big vanilla presence, but it’s not barrel-aged. Missing: the spices they say it’s brewed with, as mentioned on the label. I don’t really get any traditional Christmas beer spices, but as it warmed, the dark fruits did pick up (raisin) and a doughy yeast introduced itself. Luckily, the alcohol presence doesn’t grow as the beer warms.
First up on the taste, it’s thick chocolate icing, fudge-like and with a consistency of syrup. Really nice stuff, it’s sweet but not cloying, just an excellent base layer. Flavors of vanilla, a light dusting of cinnamon, and lots of alcohol come out to play, and the beer stays fairly consistent to the finish, which issues up another blanket layer of superb chocolate, followed by a toasted, burnt bread finish that serves to take away some of the sweetness. Santa’s Little Helper is full-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
This is certainly a nice beer for Christmas, and would be a great brew to share with your friends or family, especially since it’s high in alcohol and boozy in taste. I’m not a big fan of the toasted bread finish, which only served to detract from the perfect milk chocolate flavors, but this is a good bottle that I’d buy again, certainly a welcome change from typical Winter Warmers. But I would probably let it go another year in this incarnation, just to see what happens.
Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper Belgian Strong Ale (2012), 89 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle (found on deep discount).