I’m so excited! The elves were out scouting around for some aged Christmas beer gems and look what they turned up! A 750ml bottle of Stille Nacht Reserva 2010 by De Dolle Brouwers of Esen, Belgium.
Do I need to remind you that Stille Nacht is my favorite Christmas beer? The 2010 Reserva was aged in Bordeaux wine barrels for 25 months before it’s release.
There have only been a few Stille Nacht Reserva releases 2000, 2005, 2008, and 2010. The Stille Nacht Reserva 2015 is in barrels aging as I write.
This bottle is going in the cellar, but I promise to open it this Christmas season and share a review with you.
The Good Beer Guide to Belgium by Tim Webb & Joe Strange is now in it’s 7th edition. For more than 20 years, The Good Beer Guide to Belgium has been the go-to reference. I tested this revised and updated version and it passed with flying colors.
I have a well used and notated copy of the 2008 edition (signed by the author no less!) that served me well on 4 different beer pilgrimages to Belgium. You can read about my latest trip hunting beer in Brussels here.
The variety and quality of Belgian beer inspired the American craft brewing revolution. Germany has it’s place in brewing history, but it’s Belgium beer that most touches the heart and taste buds of beer nuts everywhere.
The Guide begins with
To be ready for Christmas, the elves and I have to work all year long. Christmas beer takes the preparation too. The best Christmas beer needs to be aged a bit. So, I stopped by Brussels, Belgium to add a couple dozen bottles to my cellar.
On previous trips, I’ve driven to the furthest reaches of Belgian (never longer than 4 hours drive from end to end). I’ve been to Orval, Westvleteren, De Dolle, Struise, Rochefort, St Bernardus, just to name some of my favorites.
Brasserie D’Achouffe makes their spiced Christmas beer once a year. It’s a Belgium strong dark ale with lots of candy sugar and spice to make everything nice.
N’Ice Chouffe Limited Edition pours dark reddish-brown with an amber head of foam that settles quickly. There are aromas of roasted malts, yeast, and a touch of sweet cinnamon. Malts, figs, cinnamon flavors come through. N’Ice Chouffe is brewed with thyme and dried orange peel which both mix in well for a bit of spice.
Stille Nacht (Silent Night) is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale brewed for Christmas and for aging. De Dolle Brouwers (The Mad Brewers) took over an old brewery in 1980 and continue to use much of the traditional brewing equipment. Especially impressive is their 8 foot square and 18 inches deep cooling vat made of copper and open-air fermenting room. Natural yeast mixes in to give De Dolle beer an old style, slight irregular quality. Each batch is close, but not exactly the same!
Drinking a bottle of Stille Nacht on Christmas Eve is an old tradition of mine. Tonight’s bottle is from 2011.
La Rulles Brewery’s Christmas brew is a big, spicy, roasty Belgian Dark Strong Ale. Cuvee Meilleurs means “best wishes” in French and that’s what this beer gives you.
It is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and bottle conditioned. All of La Rulles Brewery’s beers are made with only American West Coast hops. This Christmas beer has no added spices, all the flavor comes from the traditional elements of hops, malt, yeast, and dark candy sugar.
Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux pours dark reddish brown with a firm, small bubble head of lasting foam. It smells of bread, malts and a slight sour note. It tastes neither too sweet nor too hoppy with caramel malts, citrus, herbs, earthly grassy notes. The yeast from Orval Trappist brewery provides a tiny bit of sour funk that makes this beer stand out. It’s very drinkable with a nice mouth feel and a good finish. The alcohol is a barely noticeable 7.3% ABV.
I want to have a go at aging a few bottles of La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux. My guess is a bit of time would reveal even more surprises out of this complex Christmas beer.
We’ve seen plenty of strong ales this Christmas season. How about a Scotch Ale from Belgium?
Canaster is a 9.5% ABV heavy-weight brewed in the Carmelite tradition. It pour coffee brown with a beige head of foam. There are sweet malts, bright citrus and a bit of yeast on the nose. Tasting brings malts, caramel, bitter chocolate, and a touch of licorice (anise). It has a long, balanced finish.
The brewery is called Kleinbrouwerij De Glazen Toren. An alderman, a lawyer, and a librarian began the brewery in 2004 in Erpe-Mere, Belgium, not far from Brussels. They use local Hallertau hops. The name “Canaster” is the name of Carmelite beer from centuries ago in the Aalst area. Reborn in this Christmas beer.
This is only the third beer from this brewery, a special one at that. Enjoy!