The other day, I
was talking to my mother back in Rhode Island. We are in the custom now of
sending each other checks and gift cards for Christmas, these being easier
to get from state to state and generally pleasing the recipient. Anyway, she
asked what I had spent my Christmas money on, and I replied “beer”, which
was true. She seemed to find this amusing enough, and when I asked why she
was laughing, she related the following story.
She had asked my grandfather, who will be 92 in March, what he would like for Christmas this year, and after a bit of reflection, he replied that he could not honestly think of anything. Until Christmas Eve, when he called my mom on her cell and announced that he had thought of something he would like: beer.
“Good beer,” he said, “not that light crap.” My grandfather is quite fond of a beer a day, you see, and he likes to make that one brew count. So, my mom acceded to his wish and brought him a few cases of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, which are now in his cellar. I guess it just runs in the family.
One of the beers I bought with my Christmas check was Stille Nacht from Belgium’s De Dolle Brouwers (The Mad Brewers). This is their Christmas ale, “Stille Nacht” meaning “Silent Night” in English. Our Christmas carol of the same name is actually derived from a German carol that shares the name of this beer.
De Dolle is renowned for their amazingly complex brews, and Stille Nacht is no exception. A hearty, fortifying strong brew perfect for a cold winter’s night, it is also somewhat rare. The tiny brewery only makes about 900 barrels of beer annually, which as Jim Koch used to say is probably less than most megabreweries spill in the same period. Stille Nacht is brewed with spices and apples and an addition of candy sugar for extra richness in body and a higher alcohol content.
Stille Nacht pours to a yellowish orange color with a thick foamy head and nose that hints at sour green apples and exotic Belgian yeast notes. A fine layer of Brussels lace clings to the sides of my glass as the liquid descends. The palate is surprisingly different from what the nose suggests, however, at least at first. Rich and fruity with suggestions of pineapple and pear and crisp, sweet sticky malt. Cotton candy, rock candy, and a hint of apple are apparent, too.
The finish is balanced with a drying nugget hop bitterness, hints of spice, an emergence of green apple, vanilla, and a generous alcohol warmth. At 12% by volume strength, this is certainly a sipping brew and perfect as an aperitif or digestif, served before or after a meal (but not with one). There’s a touch of sourness, too, but only a touch. If your cap is marked “spec brew 2005”, as mine is, then it will be less sour than the bottles stamped “spec brew2” according to the importer. Apparently, the yeast strains have changed recently.
Yes, this is pricey at $6 for an 11.6 ounce bottle, but its well worth it. Whether you’re 22, 42. or 92, Stille Nacht is a great beer to have if you’re having only one. Or maybe even two.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.