The 12 Beers of Christmas – Part 2

Celebrating the end of Karl Strauss' 12-year series with Brewmaster Paul Segura

Last week, Karl Strauss Brewing’s Brewmaster Paul Segura sat down to talk about the Holiday Series of beers he and his team spent the pas 12 years developing. Higher in alcohol and conceived to be both creative and festive, they’ve showed up on store shelves every year like gifts (or lumps of coal) from Saint Nicholas. This year marks the end of the series, so Segura took time out to taste through the full “Brewer’s Dozen” and provide his personal tasting notes while also reflecting on the long road leading from the Holiday Series’ 2010 inception to present day. Enjoy it (with a holiday beer, perhaps) and, if you’re so inclined, check out his notes on the first six beers in the series here.

Are there any beers you fear might not have been built to hold up until the twelfth year of the series?

I was worried that the hoppiness of the triple IPA, Eight Merry Mermen, might not hold up for four years. And now that I taste it again, I’m happy to say that it retained many of the flavors that I’d hoped it would.

What is the best way to enjoy these beers?

They were meant to be shared with as many people as possible. The 22-ounce bomber has sort of fallen out of style, but I’ve always loved them because they inherently inspire you to want to share.

Do you think Karl Strauss will rebrew any of the Holiday Series beers?

Hopefully! We have brewed a version of the golden stout, Nine Bonfires Blazing, a few times and have also done releases of Two Tortugas, but will hopefully be bringing more back from time to time now that the full series is over.

THE TASTING (2016-2021)

Seven Sharks a-Circling (2016)

Imperial Smoked Porter, 9%

Paul’s Notes: The smokiness really stayed with it. I thought it was too smoky originally, but not now. There’s a nice bit of roast in the finish. This is how I envisioned the entire Holiday Series…big beers that would hold up well over time.

Eight Merry Mermen (2017)

Triple IPA, 10.8%

Paul’s Notes: This beer is hopped 100% with Chinook for its pine and spruce character. There are some nice grapefruit flavors and aromas coming through along with some nectarine. It’s still so citrus-forward, and the more I think about cantaloupe, the more I get that essence in the beer. It really held up well for a four-year-old IPA.

Nine Bonfires Blazing (2018)

Golden Stout w/ Coffee, 7.5%

Paul’s Notes: This was the starting point for our Golden Stout, which has gone on to win medals two years in a row at the Great American Beer Festival (gold in 2020 and bronze in 2021). We used lots of oats in this recipe to emulate the texture of a traditional stout without using roasted malts. The nose on this aged version smells like green bell pepper skin, mushrooms and green coffee.

Ten Beers for Breakfast (2019)

Maple Breakfast Stout, 6.9%

Paul’s Notes: This beer has the best name of the entire series. It’s based off the Beer for Breakfast segments I do each week with 91X. It was inspired by Pizza Port’s Bacon and Eggs Coffee Imperial Porter but we wanted to introduce maple into that concert of flavors. There are bready, biscuity notes, and the maple flavors poke through nicely. The beer tastes like a pancake with chocolate chips that has maple syrup on it.

This One Goes to Eleven (2020)

Imperial Red Ale w/ Red Wine Grapes, 9.1%

Paul’s Notes: With this beer, we tried to go back to Karl Strauss’ 21st Anniversary Ale, a brown ale that was brewed with Zinfandel grape must. This one includes Ruby Cabernet grapes, which brings in some bitterness and tannins. This beer is jammy with more roast than the 21st Anniversary Ale and some melanoidin qualities.

Brewer’s Dozen (2021)

Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Cookie Stout, 10.5%

Paul’s Notes: Packages of Oreo cookies were harmed in the making of this beer. I love the mouthfeel and the bready, biscuity character of this beer. The big chocolate notes come from the cacao nibs. We used double the amount we do for our year-round imperial stout, Wreck Alley. It’s like a chocolate-chunk cookie with a bourbon back.

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