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
De Struise Brouwers from Oostvleteren, Belgium has made quite a splash with their very agreeable beers. Tsjeeses a colloquial pronunciation of “Jesus” and this is their Christmas beer. Actually, Struise makes several versions of Tsjeeses. There’s the Bourbon Barrel Aged Reserva and this is the Port Barrel Aged Reserva.
I purchased this 2011 vintage in Belgium last Spring and carried back to the North Pole.
Tsjeeses Port Barrel Aged Reserva pours translucent copper, a little lighter colored than the Bourbon Barrel Aged, with a fine foam head. It’s unfiltered and unpasteurized. The nose has candi sugar, caramel, vanilla, dried fruit, and raisins. It tastes, well, yummy! It’s has sweet malts, vanilla, white pepper, yeast, and a touch of orange peel from the bitter hops. Tsjeeses is sweet but it’s not syrupy or jammy. It’s a satisfying mouthful of candied fruit, finishing with warmth that spreads down your throat from the 10% ABV.
Struise is related the Flemish word for “ostrich” (one of the brewers also runs an ostrich farm), which are thought by locals to be sturdy, thus De Struise Brouwers means “The Sturdy Brewers.”
Despite it’s age, Tsjeeses Port Barrel Aged Reserva 2011 is still available on store shelves. The brewery does much of the aging before it released this beer.
De Dolle Brouwers of Esen, Belgium is an old-school brewer using very old equipment bought from an out-of-business brewery in the early 1980s. Their name means “The Mad Brewers.” Stille Nacht is their Christmas beer. I’ll confess, that this is my favorite Christmas beer. I’m reviewing a 2013 bottle aged one year.
The photo shows two bottles of Stille Nacht. If you look closely you can see a few differences
Shockingly, Brussels has only three breweries, Cantillon of lambic fame which has been around since 1900 and two new-comers including Brasserie de la Senne since 2010. Senne produces an innovative and consistently good line up of beer. X-mas Zinnebir is their Christmas ale. I’m reviewing a one year aged bottle.
X-mas Zinnebir pours cloudy reddish-brown with a fine head that disappears quickly. Dried plums, raisins, nuts, spices and sweet malts
Gordon began the modern tradition of Christmas ales or Kerstbier in 1924 with Gordon Xmas Ale. Brewed by John Martin, the 1909 British transplant to Belgium. It’s a Belgian Strong Ale that says “Happy Christmas”!
It should be noted that the bottle that I am tasting is aged. It’s labeled 07.11.14, which if the brewer uses a 3 year dating system means this bottle was brewed in 2011.
Gordon Xmas pours mahogany with no head. It has wood, sweet malts, and a touch of
O.B.E.R. (Objective Beer tasters Essen Region) organizes its Christmas Beer Festival every year. For two days visitors can taste about 200 Belgian Christmas and winter beers. This year’s festival is December 20 and 21 in Essen, Belgium.
While plans are still in the works, the Kerstbierfestival has announced a list of confirmed Christmas beers for 2014. Twenty draft beers and 3 special beers brewed for the festival join 140 others. Here’s what the festival had to say about some of the special gems:
Abbaye des Rocs Spéciale Noël is an excellent strong Belgian ale with loads of sweet and spicy flavor with no added sugar. The malts do all the work!
Spéciale Noël pours deep amber with a tan head that turns to lace after a few minutes. Sweet malts strike the nose with a touch of spice, vanilla, and banana. On tasting it, I’m reminded of a dark Triple. In fact,