I spoke with Kris Herteleer the brewer at De Dolle Brouwers about the history Stille Nacht beer. He told me the story of the first brew back in 1981.
In 1980, De Dolle Brouwers (meaning: the mad brewers) brought back to life a 150 year-old brewery, closed since World War I. The first batch of what was to become Stille Nacht was brewed the following year.
I’ll let Kris tell the story:
“The first time it was like a stronger version of ould beer. It was dark, and the people they complained, they wanted the good Stille Nacht, and they got ould beer.” (Ould beer, means “old beer” a malty style.)
“And I said, is ould beer not good enough? I said, I will change the recipe, and put our pale malt instead of the complex malt situation of ould beer. But the first was not called Stille Nacht. We had not yet a name. It was called Special Brouwsel. With white labels.”
“It was a very dark beer, and was very strong, boiled for a lot of hours. In fact it was too strong. So the fermentation did not work as it should go, and after one year of lagering, we finally bottled it, but we didn’t know much how to bottle.”
“Even though we would have problems to let it re-ferment because the density is too strong, maybe with champagne yeast, which we are using now for the Reservas. It’s not always certain to have a refermentation with such kind of beers. So we had the beer, and it was flat. We say beer in Belgium must foam, otherwise we cannot serve it.”
“We were a bit ashamed with our microbrewers and homebrewers.”
After that first brew. Kris changed the recipe and the name, producing Stille Nacht to this day, one of the best Christmas beers in the world.