Hop Back Pickled Santa | Hop Back Brewery plc

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Hop Back Pickled SantaHop Back Pickled Santa
17 Ratings
Hop Back Pickled SantaHop Back Pickled Santa

Brewed by:
Hop Back Brewery plc
England, United Kingdom

Style: Herbed / Spiced Beer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.00%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Mark on 01-03-2003

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Ratings: 17 |  Reviews: 14
Photo of Nichols33
2/5  rDev -39.2%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Photo of ROGUE16
3/5  rDev -8.8%

Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.21/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Time to pregame Christmas! It's an old bottle, but never mind. A 500ml bottle with a BB of Sept 2011, so it's a bit out of date. Picked up cheap from my local beer specialist.

Poured into a tulip pint glass. A clear coppery-amber hue with good carbonation and the odd yeast fragment floating around. The sediment in the bottle indicates conditioning with live yeast. Produces a massive head of creamy white foam with superb retention - this could rival Duvel. It eventually subsides to a thick surface layer. Aroma of sweet caramel malt with spicy notes - ginger, cloves and faint coriander. Background hints of earthy yeast.

Tastes of sweet, spicy malt with a dry finish. Notes of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and yeast esters. Stewed hops in the background. Despite the range of spices, the overall effect is lacklustre. Mouthfeel is a little thin and tingly, with an astringency that dries the palate. Aftertaste of vague spice and yeast.

Hmmmm - not brilliant. The best aspect was the appearance. It comes across as an ale with an uncoordinated generic spiciness. The aroma is vague but OK, however the flavour is relatively weak - the spices don't stand out well. The mouthfeel is also sub-par; too thin. This wants more fruity notes and a chewier, creamier body. I'll insert a caveat that perhaps this bottle was too old when I reviewed it, but it could stand improvement. Bah humbug!

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Photo of waiting4lunch
3/5  rDev -8.8%

Photo of kevd193213
3.12/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Beer of the month bottle. Amber pour with a medium to large fizzy cream colored head. Aroma of gingerbread, cinnamon and trace amounts of citrus hops. Taste starts really sweet, almost like Sprite with a thin mouthfeel. Many spices present in the finish, which is crisp. Not a bad winter offering but really sweet on the palate.

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Photo of MuenchenerKindl
3.3/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a fat bottle to a pint glass the dark liquid has soso carbonation. The head is small off white and leaves very little lace.

The smell is a mildly malty with some spice.

The taste is not so bad, the spice is light and that is the only way I like it. Not much else going on as a spiced brew is is not offensive, the malt is ok and hops mild.

The mouthfeel is soso light body and pour carbonation.

The drinkability is not that great and only worth a try for a review or if you just have to have a light mildly spiced ale.


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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.2/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Very well carbonated, a careful pour produces an almost four-finger thick, light tan colored head. The beer is a darkish red tinted, amber color and shows a brilliantly clear, light cranberry hue when held up to the light. Aromas of spices are quite prominent, with definite notes of nutmeg, some clove, hints of cinnamon and allspice. The spices, while not entirely overbearing, really dominate the aromatic scene-scape; perhaps a touch of dusty, almost moldy, toasted malt comes in at the end, as does something that is a bit vegetal.

Very well carbonated, enough so that I need to release a bunch of it before going on. The head gets roused to seven fingers in height as I swirl the carbonation out. It is still a bit more carbonated than a typical English beer, but I have run out of head space and it is much more manageable now. The beer is lightly sweet with flavors of apples, plums and raisins. It also has a light tartness to it and it finishes with a spicy, quite astringent note in the finish that almost mimics a hop bitterness. This finish seems to be sort of nutmeg driven. Quite light bodied, with just a bit of heft to it as it rests on the tongue.

The spice character is not as prominent in the flavor as it is in the aroma, but it still plays the dominant role. The spices are tempered a bit by the fruit flavors and a touch of maltiness. A pretty easy drinking beer, but just not really what I am looking for.

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Photo of putnam
4.72/5  rDev +43.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

(Stored @ 45 deg. F since December)

Cracked walnuts aromas with toasted buttered black breads and vanilla scents are very subdued and broad. Conforming to expectations for this brewery, the texture is clean, mouthfilling and velvety. Plump but athletic, thanks to a reservoir of blackened sweet nutshells flavor. Beef broth. Fruit cake. A wry, resinous smack of herb late and subtle. Not much in the way of apple esters; more masculine than feminine. Very dry without any abrasive or lingering bitterness (another Hopback hallmark.) Classy and mild.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.34/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The label describes the color as ruddy chestnut, but it isn't that dark to my eye. I'd call it burnt orange with pale tangerine trim. The alabaster cap is a great color contrast to the beer and has a mega-bubbly look. I doubted the above style classification (thinking it more a winter warmer), but the appearance is a dead ringer for an ESB.

Pickled Santa doesn't smell like an ESB and it doesn't smell like a winter warmer. In fact, it doesn't smell like much of anything at all. If a nose can be considered dead, this one is. Given the addition of cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg, I would have thought at least one of those spices would be noticeable. Nope. Since it opens up a fraction with warming, I've decided to bump the score one notch.

I have rarely run across a beer that had such a large disconnect between the aroma and the flavor. Not that the flavor is anything to shout about, but at least it answers the call. Spices are the first thing to hit the taste buds; cinnamon and nutmeg especially. Coriander is much less obvious, so I'll have to take Hop Back's word for it.

Given the sheer amount of spiciness, I'd call Pickled Santa a winter warmer, no matter what it looks like. There's a fairly large contribution from hops, both in terms of flavor and bitterness, but spices are too large and in charge for it to be considered an ESB. I'm glad that enough malt has been used to sweeten what could have been an overly bitter beer. Both cinnamon and alpha acids assert themselves more and more as the beer warms, causing it to venture dangerously close to what I would call harsh.

Although there wasn't a huge amount of lace initially, I'm now impressed by the thick, crusty sheet on the opposite side of the glass. The mouthfeel is just right for either an ESB or a low ABV winter warmer. It has a slick, peppily carbonated feel that I'm enjoying.

Pickled Santa is a typically amusing name for an English beer, but it makes me think of dill pickle brine for some reason. In the end, this is an aggressively spiced, (borderline) overly bitter ale that I can't see myself buying again. If it was a little less naughty and a little more nice, I might be tempted.

 2,188 characters

Photo of jhammerly
3.18/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Given to me by my girlfriend for Christmas.

The body is a deep ruby color with a thick, frothy head. Doesn't retain its form for long.

Aromas of nutmeg and caramel malt. A very small amount of floral hops in the background.

A typical English ESB profile with some spices added - nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon.

A medium bodied brew with an almost velvety mouthfeel.

A nice seasonal brew that I think could benefit from a bit more hops added to it. It's still a good beer, but I couldn't drink more than a bottle in a sitting.

 540 characters

Photo of sullysbeer
3.35/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Aroma: Huge nutmeg, cinnamon, sweet caramel malt character. Alcohol and no hop nose.

Appearance: Dark copper hue or reddish brown. A frothy white head retention.

Flavor: Slightly sweet at first then dries up with hints of grape skin, nutmeg and a peppery hop bitterness that lingers just a bit.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Very light carbonation just like an english ale on a handpull or beer engine.

Overall Impression: What a way to celebrate Christmas than with Pickled Santa. Not what I was expecting but I see why they call it that. An English Ale brewed with spices just as they describe. Pickled Santa is for sure a sippin' brew. I probably couldn't drink more than one in one sitting. For sure worth a try.

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Photo of
3.23/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

16oz. bottle. Santa in a jar on the label. I admit it, I bought it for the label....

Poured a clear copper color. Formed a large, off-white head.

Aroma was floral and grassy. Spices of pepper and coriander showed up. Caramel and earthiness were the backbone.

In the taste, the spicing came across rather heavy, with nutmeg being the strongest. Caramel showed up next, moving into a biscuity/grainy type of character. Finish was very peppery, with some clove as well.

Light in body, moderate carbonation. Pretty refreshing.

Overall, didn't dislike, but probably wouldn't seek out again. Santa was pickled in too much spice for my taste.

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Photo of budgood1
2.72/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

pours out of the half litre bottle a mostly clear amberish/chestnut colour. a pure white head appears and dies instantly. little lace. xmas spice aroma....cinnamon, nutmeg and clove all with a slightly malty aroma underneath it all. the taste is heavy on the nutmeg and clove aspects. this is one x-mas bitter that doesn't shy away from use of gingerbread spice. there is some spicy coriander that one can detect, like a pinch of grapfruit zest, thanks to the description on the bottle. not really all that pleasant or wanted. it tastes like an ordinary mild with some kitchen spices dumped in my glass. there just isn't enough malt balance to offset the spicy gingerbread man dancing in my glass. the body is ok; a bit thin. mouthfeel seems ok....it's smooth...with tingling spiciness dancing like the sugar plum fairy all over my tongue. drinkability suffers because i just wouldn't want to drink more than a half litre of this...it's too much spice and not enough malt. it was a chore to drink the whole bottle.

this would be a nice beer to share with a plate of x-mas cookies or some egg nog or tom and jerry's with family or friends. a sip or two will do ya'. a whole bottle by yourself is too much.

 1,207 characters

Photo of rhoadsrage
2.93/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

(Served in a dimple mug)

A- This brew had a clear but dense dark walnut brown body with a strong carbonation of tiny bubbles and a soapy off-white thin film of head.

S- The smell of cinnamon was very soft and the rest of the smell was pretty clean.

T- This beer had a no real malt characteristics and a dry spice hint after a very faint cinnamon note. There was a green hop note in the finish that was stomped out by a bitterness from the hops. As it warms the faint spice and bitterness increased.

M- This beer had a medium mouthfeel.

D- This beer had a dry spice note but even that was bland. The bitterness was a I really noticed of interest. I got the impression that this beer didn't handle the long ride from brewery to well.

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Photo of longarm
3.99/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Little initial carbonation and subsequently without any head to begin-with, the carbonation is poor. Is it supposed to be cask? Deep amber color.

Aroma: Mulled spices dominate aroma backed with a small amount of malted barley. Not surprisingly it smells a little like fruitcake. No hops. Solid for the style and worthy of a Christmas beer.

Flavor: Interesting christmas-like flavor. Light nutmeg or cinnamon on the finish plays the role normally reserved for hops. Certainly an interesting seasonal delight. Somewhat sweet but not cloying.

Mouthfeel: Moderately watery mouthfeel is the greatest weakness of this beer. While not a major detraction, it seems like a small scaling-up of the malt and spices of this beer would improve it. The finish is relatively smooth with a kick of spices on the end.

Drinkability: The modest complexity of this beer surprises. It's easy to drink, smooth and alcoholic enough to give it a hint of a winter warmer. Not deep or heavy, this beer has a niche that should be explored by drinkers who like the occasional seasonal beer that isn't ridiculously spiced. Well done.

 1,130 characters

Photo of dotlikeimpact
3.73/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle picked up from from work, should be fresh as it just came through the door a week ago.

Pours with minimal head into a tulip glass, this is a british style bitter with very low carbonation.

Color is a mild amber.

Bottle proclaims that it is brewed with christmas spices, so in goes the nose and not too much happens, musty malt, faint grain hops smell and a smokey lingering aroma.

Taste: Subtle. If this was served at a bar with many distractions I might overlook lots of flavor aspects of this one. Full-bodied malt aromas, more toasted flavors than I had anticipated due to the color. Sharp hop presence on the mid swallow. The hops stay with you through the finish. Surprisingly refined but very flavorful.

Overall: I do like this beer, it sneaks up on you with some interesting flavors that you kind of have to go searching for, but nonetheless it is a pleasing pint.

 897 characters

Photo of Mark
3.96/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This cask ale poured it's typical brilliant clarity, a deep copper with a thinnish head. Lacing was solid and beautiful. Aroma was very earthy and inviting. Taste was a bit of a surprise, very sharp hoppy and seemed to have a strong licorice like presence. Whatever it was , I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I liked it though and it was a bit of a different experience here in cask ale heaven.

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Hop Back Pickled Santa from Hop Back Brewery plc
Beer rating: 3.29 out of 5 with 17 ratings
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