When the holidays come around, breweries begin serving their winter seasonal beers. Festive flavors of dark fruits and darker malts take over taps to close out the year's rotation. Karl Strauss, San Diego's oldest local brewer operating since 1989, offers two rare brews made exclusively during this time of the year.
Mouette A Trois Holiday Fruitcake Ale
Mouette A Trois (Three Seagulls) Fruitcake Ale is Karl Strauss' third installment of its limited edition holiday line up. This festively crafted ale is brewed with apricots, cherries, vanilla oak, toffee, and varied spices for a fruity take on a Belgian Dubbel.
When ordered on tap, Mouette A Trois is served in a 13 oz. tulip glass. This brew packs a punch at 8.5 percent ABV (alcohol-by-volume). It appears a rich red-copper with no head or lacing. It smells sweet and fruity as you would expect from its branding.
The brew is heavy on candied, sweet malt flavors and has a slight sour mid to after taste. The sour twang is common in brews heavy on candied, malty sweetness and does not detract from its intention. There is no recognizable carbonation in the brew and the above-average ABV is not evident. Hops are not present in this beer and consequently has no bitter aspect. Mouette rates as the least bitter beer offered at Karl Strauss with a rating of 10 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
The Conquistador Doppelbock
The Conquistador Doppelbock slips under the radar as it is not listed on the Karl Strauss website. It's part of the winter rotation, but is found exclusively at the brewery and restaurants. This is an American take on the German Doppelbock style which are generally dark, malty, full-bodied beers.
When ordered on tap, the Conquistador is served in a standard 16 oz glass. It also has an above-average ABV sitting at 8.0 percent. It appears a copper-amber with a thin white head and thin lacing. The Conquistador's scent consists of strong caramel and chocolate malts.
The initial flavors follow its scent of dark chocolate and caramel malts with a biscuit-like bready aftertaste. Slight carbonation is present and provides the warming feeling you would expect from an 8.0+ percent beer. Its slight bitterness is rated at 28 IBUs which is standard for the style.
Although not as dark or heavy as other Doppelbock brews, the Conquistador is still a complex brew with enjoyable malt flavors.
Karl Strauss as a Restaurant
Karl Strauss is also a full fledged restaurant, known for its beer induced recipes and macaroni & cheese. We paired our beers with sweet potato chili lime fries served with ranch sauce as an appetizer. For entrees, we ordered "The Norm" macaroni & cheese dish which is baked with breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and cheese sauce. The kitchen also offers beer-brined bacon and ham, beer-braised short rib, or vegetarian renditions of their mac & cheese.
Full menu can be viewed here.Right: Sweet Potato Lime & Chili Fries, Left: "The Norm" Macaroni & Cheese
The Karl Strauss Brewery and Restaurant offers $5 growlers (64 oz. jugs) to take home filled with an on-tap beer for $9 to $12 depending on your choice. Mouette A Trois is also available in 22 oz. bottles to take home for $11, however, the Conquistador is not.
The brewery is well known for its award winning flagship beer, Red Trolley Ale. It took home gold medals in the 2010 and 2012 World Beer Cup and the 2010 Great American Beer Festival.
It doesn't take a 30-year beer tasting expert to enjoy the holiday crafted brews offered by Karl Strauss. However, locally crafted micro-brews are expected to be appreciated by its drinker and shared with friends especially during the season of giving. Enjoy responsibly!