It’s no secret that Santa’s favorite Christmas beer is De Dolle Brouwers’ Stille Nacht. It’s a Belgian Strong Ale made with brewing equipment from a long-defunct brewery in the eastern Belgium town of Esen. Several friends bought the equipment in the 1980s called themselves the Mad Brewers (De Dolle Brouwers) and began to brew beers with life – yeast – still in them. The little guy on the bottle is often mistaken for a snowman, but is actually a yeast, representing the living nature of bottle-conditioned beer.
Stille Nacht Reserva was birthed after an accidental yeast overdose in 2000 exploded bottles as the yeast bottle conditioned. The Mad Brewers opened the bottles and poured them in Burgundy wine barrels to continue fermentation in a less confined space for 12 months. The result was a Christmas miracle of flavors.
Stille Nacht Reserva was produced in 2000, 2005, 2008 (“friends and family” only), 2010 (my review here), and 2013 (only at the 2014 Kerstbier Festival). I’m expecting the 2015 Reserva to be released around Christmas of 2017, after the usual 25 months aging.
The 2005 Reserva pours burnt orange with a white foamy head that dissipates to nothing in a few seconds. The aroma is white raisins, raw honey, candied pineapple, cognac, and citrus. It has none of the sour I smelled and tasted in the Reserva 2010, which makes me wonder if the bottle was infected.
Oh yes! It tastes amazingly complex. Smooth, with dry sherry, raisins, and pitted fruit. The long finish reminds me of the aftertaste of raw honey, you know, the bitter wild funk, not the sweetness. It’s medium bodied with little carbonation but good mouthfeel. The flavors just keep evolving.
Sille Nacht means, Silent Night, perhaps the most famous Christmas carol. Traditionally, in Europe it is sung only on Christmas Eve. A good time to enjoy this special beer. Merry Christmas!