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Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager Review

January 13, 2010

Judging by the amount of cool beer stuff I got for Christmas it’s obvious that Krampus did not come and visit my household.   According to both the label and Wikipedia,  Krampus is the mythological creature that visits all naughty kids on Christmas and punishes them by beating them with chains.  Pretty intense stuff if you ask me.  If you want your kids to behave try substituting Krampus for coal and see what happens.

Luckily for us beer drinkers Southern Tier Brewing Company has crafted a brew equally as intense as the punishment Krampus bestows upon that “other” list.  They have come up with what they call an “Imperial Helles” lager.  If you are used to a traditional helles and happen to miss the “imperial” tacked on to the beginning of this brew then boy are you in for a surprise.  Even if you are expecting a BIG helles you will still feel the effects of Krampus assaulting your senses.  Only this is a most pleasant beating.


The beer was served draft to me at a local pub, Kellehers, in a small snifter.  The low light made it hard to see the color, but it appeared to resemble a pink rose wine.  It was crystal clear and had a tight white head sitting firmly on top.

The aroma was extremely hoppy in the form of floral American hops.  The Southern Tier website states that both Willamette and Chinook varieties are used.  Once you get used to the hops a most unique aroma of strawberry shortcake and Coolwhip emerges.  It reminds me of the special treat I used to get growing up.  Now Krampus makes me want to try it with hops on it!

In the mouth I get a fruit basket followed by a barrel of hops.  There is a brief (and I mean brief) initial burst of sweetness.  It is comprised of watermelon, cherry syrup, and grapefruit.  Then it’s all about Humulus lupulus from here on out.  The hop profile is bitter and floral.  The malt tries to break through, but 90% of the flavor is all hop.  Even with the strong bitter character it never comes across as excessive.

The finish is dry and lingering.  It’s unfortunate that the finish is lacking because the aroma and flavor of Krampus make you want to take big, deep quaffs, but the finish stays with you much longer and keeps you from rushing back for another.

As for drinkability, the 9% ABV is barely noticed here.  The body is light-medium and features moderate carbonation.

Beer: Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager

Brewer: Southern Tier Brewing Co.

Style: American Double / Imperial Pilsener

ABV: 9%


Appearance: Low light prevented me from truly admiring the beauty- 3.8/5

Aroma: Awesome fruity and floral bouquet- 4.5/5

Flavor: It doesnt get much more crazy and tasty than this- 4.7/5

Mouthfeel: 9% ABV?  Coulda fooled me- 3.9/5

Drinkability: A bit too hoppy and high in alcohol for a session brew- 3.3/5

Overall:  4.04/5

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 80%

I think Krampus would have a fairly high chance of showing non-craft beer drinkers exactly what can be accomplished within the confines of a craft brewery, especially the innovative American craft breweries.  Also, it has a great chance of wowing even the most experienced craft beer lover.  With its strong hop profile and fruity balancing act it is  a must try if you see this one on shelves or on tap.


Southern Tier Brewing Company



  1. I need to try more Southern Tier beers … thanks for the recommendation! Sounds extremely interesting.

    • I wasn’t expecting anything close to the complexity that it provided. I was drawn in simply because it was a “Imperial Helles.”

  2. Yeah, that’s definitely a unique-sounding style. I enjoy how you describe it, too; the “chance of beer epiphany” thing is an cool way to write reviews.

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