Santa's Private Reserve

Review Date 11/13/2006  Last Updated 11/27/2015  By John Staradumsky

It seems Santa is a bit of a lush. And who can blame him? Busting his butt 364 days out of the year supervising a bunch of unruly elves, keeping them in line and making sure they keep up with Elf Practice, making sure the reindeer are fed, and then on top of all that dropping down millions of Chimneys and distributing presents on day 365. Hey, after all that work I’d want a beer too.

You see, Santa’s Private Reserve Ale is a wonderful brew for the holidays made by Rogue in Newport, Oregon. A beer very similar to “Private Reserve” is readily available throughout the year under the name Saint Rogue Red. But just for Santa, Rogue doubles the normal hop content and adds a secret hop variety they call “Rudolph”. Interestingly, though, their website lists the same IBU content as Saint Rogue Red-44 IBUs. The Santa’s Private Reserve Bottle does say 60 IBUs, though.

Santa’s Private Reserve is so darned good, I always end up picking up a bottle or two for the holidays. It’s a delicious brew no matter how you pour it. This year, the Rogue website says the beer will be available in six-packs, too. One thing Rogue deserves credit for is the amount of information they provide regarding their beers on the 750ml bottles and on their website.

Great Western Harrington
Hugh Baird Carastan


Bitterness: 44 IBUs

Original Gravity: 1.052

Availability is good for this and other Rogue ales. I have seen them all along the East Coast, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and now here in Georgia. The bomber bottles will run you about $2.99, six-packs about $7.99.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve pours to a rusty chestnut color with a thick rocky head and a spicy fruity nose. The palate is rich and full, slightly toasty, chewy and full of stewed malt flavor, hinting at green olives, fruit and chocolate. The finish is spicy-hoppy and nicely bitter, a perfect finish for a very nice ale.

Recently, I got to sample a bit rarer version of this beer at Summit's Wayside Tavern when Santa’s Private Reserve was offered up on cask, Cask conditioned ales feature a bit of yeast in the serving container. This allows them to ferment just a bit further, adding more character, though not really a lot more alcohol. Santa’s Reserve was a pure delight on cask, with just a touch more fruit than the bottled version but a very noticeable fresh hop bite. The beer starts out nicely with good slightly caramelly malt body but the hops soon take over, slightly resiny and wonderfully bitter with a long dry finish.

A classic American Red Ale, enjoy it with a holiday prime rib or other red meats. Highly recommended for your holiday cheer, whether in bottles, on draft, or in the cask.

Update 11/27/2015: Rogue Santa's Private Reserve is a perennial favorite that I enjoy each holiday season. Tonight I'm sipping a delicious mug of this malty, hoppy beer at Taco Mac. It's delicious and a refreshing contrast to the many spiced beers of the season. A bit pricier than years past at $7.99 for a bomber, $12.99 a six-pack and $7.00 on draft. For that reason I'm taking it down a peg from 5 stars to 4, but the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come will still find me drinking Rogue Santa's Private Reserve all the same.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.