Stille Nacht Reserva is a legionary ale with an accidental beginning. De Dolle Brouwers (The Mad Brewers) began brewing in the early 1980s and used yeast provided by Rodenbach. In 1999, the new owners of Rodenbach discontinued selling yeast to De Dolle so a batch of Stille Nacht was made with a new yeast – that exploded bottles after a while.
What to do? De Dolle couldn’t sell bottles that were exploding due to over carbonation from bottle conditioning. Instead, the brewers poured the beer into used wine barrels and aged it for 18 months before re-bottling it and releasing it as Stille Nacht Reserva 2000. You can see more history and a photo of the barrels with an empty Stille Nacht bottle serving as a bung here.
That first Reserva turned out so well De Dolle released another 5 years later in 2005. There was a special very limited release in 2008, and then a full release again in 2010. This year’s Kerstbierfestival in Belgium De Dolle brought a Reserva 2013. Here’s what the festival said about it:
Mad Brewer” Kris Herteleer arranged a new wine barrel from the French region of the Languedoc to age his prize winning beer Stille Nacht on for 8 months. The result has 12% in alc/vol and hints of cognac and wood. Exclusively to try at the festival, from keg as well as bottled. The bottles are however not for sale, not at the festival, not at the brewery. (By the way: the complete 225l brew is in our hands, so no need to stalk Kris Herteleer for it.)
I traded for a bottle of Stille Nacht Reserva 2010 earlier this year, and see no reason to wait any longer. It’s in a 750ml bottle that is sealed with cork and bottle cap. I found moisture and some mold under the cap and on top of the cork. My guess this is from the pressure of the flight from Virginia last summer. No worries. I washed the top thoroughly and pulled the cork. The bottle was unaffected.
Stille Nacht Reserva 2010 pours cloudy copper with no foam at all. It smells tart with sour cherries, green apples, candi sugar, malts, butterscotch, and wood. The taste is more sour than sweet, which is surprising since Stille Nacht is so sweet. It has sour plums, apples, and dried fruit. There’s a nice oxidization similar to Fino Sherry. The mouthfeel has a zing, followed by a slight pucker from some Brettanomyces, perhaps. The finish shows more bitterness than sweetness, almost as if there were tannins from the Bourdeaux barrels remaining, but those would surely have gone after 4 years in the bottle.
The flavor resemblance to the regular Stille Nacht increases as Reserva warms in the glass. But Reserva 2010 is an all new beer. Twenty-five months in Bourdeaux barrels have transformed the flavor into an amped up Strong Belgian Ale for Christmas.
Stille Nacht Reserva 2010 is very difficult to find and trades for $75+ in the United States. The 2015 Reserva is still far off. I estimate Christmas of 2017.
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