Belgian beer aged in Bordeaux barrels for 25 months. Do I have your attention? Stille Nacht Reserva comes from the Belgian concoctory known as De Dolle – they serve up their holiday brew with a twist. That twist is wine, oak, and 750mL of glory. I want to try this beer so I’m just going to cut straight to it. Time for them numbers…
Appearance: A fake tan orange dominates the body of this beer and gives way to the smallest white head I’ve seen. Zero lacing as I drank since the head vanished quicker than baseball players at a steroid convention.
Smell: Very vinous, caramel, wood, apples, sour butterscotch, dark cherry – overall, pretty complex on smell alone. Many sours give you straight citrus and acidity, where this throws a curve with how sweet the aroma is mixed with a big wine like acidity.
Taste: The first flavors I identified were sweet sugar, caramel, and grain, but then it tarts up nicely with freshly picked apples, grapes, and cherries. The fruity characteristics have a wonderful lightness to them and completely balance out the sweeter tastes I detected initially. After a few sips, this beer leans to being more tart than sweet; it also is hovering the line of wine v. beer for me. The sweeter, grain, caramel tastes originally had me thinking barleywine, but the sour notes I’m finding are reminiscent to a fine bottle of vino – fruity, acidic, and tart. This is one of the most complex beers I’ve had in some time and it delivers on so many angles. Underneath the sweet and fruity notes I’m getting some tannins from the wood shooting off some bitterness and a warming alcohol kick and some typical rock-candy, Belgian yeast. The finish is semi-dry and the booze found in here is present, but is so much like a nice red wine – warming, purposeful, and not overwhelming.
The more I think about this beer, the more amazed I am with how flawless this tastes. There are so many variables that can go awry when crafting a beer like this – over carbed, under carbed, too much contact with the wood, temperature fluctuations when in the wood, time in the barrels… somehow, this liquid makes it out and everything is OK. The carbonation is minimally present, but doesn’t detract from beer at all since it’s very liberal with the ABV, which clocks in at a grumbling 12%. The mouthfeel is naturally a little thicker because of this, but the flavors in here are light enough so that it does not become a distraction.
Overall: Decadent. This beer isn’t for everybody as it’s something truly unique in an over saturated craft beer market. When it comes to barrel aged Belgians, I can’t imagine that they get more complex than this. I have to give it an A+ and a nod into the HOF. Such a complex brew – it needs to be recognized.