My favorite Christmas beer is Stille Nacht by De Dolle Brouwers. It’s not the normal malty style Belgium Christmas beer, which are wonderful, instead Stille Nacht is a golden, sweet, complex beer with fruit notes that ages beautifully.
Every 5 years, Kris Herteleer releases a barrel-aged version that he calls Reserva. The Stille Nacht Reserva 2015 is out and here’s the story.
I visited with Kris at De Dolle in October to buy bottles of the Reserva. It’s hard to get and immediately on release, if you could find it, you’d see it selling for $60-95 a bottle. At the brewery it was 20 Euros.
Stille Nacht Reserva begins as the regular Stille Nacht. The 2015 was lagered for 6 months, resulting in beer completely clean of yeast. Because he doesn’t want yeast in the barrels.
For the Reserva, he used new French wine barrels. And waited. Every month he topped up the barrel with additional beer, filling the gap created by the angels taking their share.
I noticed some sour notes in the 2010 Reserva. I wasn’t entirely sure that my bottle wasn’t off in some way, since I purchased it from a collector several years after release. Now I know, that’s the flavor profile Kris is looking for.
He said, “We wait and hope it gets a little bit sour. The first time we did that [barrel-aged a Stille Nacht] in 2000, it went sour after three years, a little bit, and that’s refreshing, that’s very good, I really like that very much.”
“So you’re trying for a little bit of a sour?” I asked. “Because I noticed that 2010 was a little sour, but the 2005 for me didn’t seem to be sour.”
“We don’t want to make a sour beer, but a little sour edge, a sharp edge is good. Because it’s in food as well, a little bit of sour is good, eh? In vegetables and in sour milk, I like sour milk as well.”
Another question that was answer for me was, Why wasn’t the Reserva released in 2018? Past Stille Nacht Reserva were released three Christmas seasons later. The 2005 in 2008. The 2010 in 2013. Yet, in 2018, no 2015 Reserva.
“Normally the 2015 should have been released the year before , but I thought by waiting it would have more chance to get a little bit sour.” Kris said in answer to my question. “Which has happened now, after three years instead of the normal two years in the barrels. And then another year for resting in the bottle.”
So how does it taste? It pours a hazy golden bronze with a lasting head of tiny foam bubbles. The nose is green apples and yeast. The taste begins with tart cherry, with sweetness as from pears, and finishes with dried fruit. It has a tart, zingy mouthfeel from the lively carbonation.
At 12% ABV, the alcohol is hidden, it’s not boozy at all. You won’t find the candi sugar sweetness of the regular Stille Nacht. This is a different beer altogether.
While barrel tasting during my visit to De Dolle, the barrel version tasted almost like a clean, dry cider. Giving the Reserva a slurp on my tongue brings out full-bodied, fruity, dry cider notes.
It will be interesting to see how the Stille Nacht Reserva 2015 changes over the years. It’s meant to be cellared. Thank you Kris for another winner!