Saturday, January 30, 2010

Belgian Beer Review 7: De Dolle Stille Nacht

I have always loved the label art for the De Dolle beers, dating back to my early years, working at the now-defunct One Stop Carry-Out in Athens, Ohio. Bill kept a few of them on stock, and although I barely remember trying them, the artwork stuck with me.

When I made my run this week to restock the sampling supply, I found this one on the discount rack, likely because it had 2008 stamped on the cap. This seasonal Christmas beer is huge (12%) and I knew that as such, it they should age well, so I took my chances. As an aged beer, this was a positive experience, although from reading through the Beer Advocate reviews, it sounds like I should also try a fresh version of this ale.

Brewery: Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers
Brewery Location: Belgium
Beer: Stille Nacht
BJCP Style:
16E. Belgian Speciality Ale
Serving: Bottle

Appearance: tawny, like a barleywine; I stupidly disturbed the sediment on the pour, so I had to let the bits of yeast swirling with carbonation settle before drinking. As you can see in the photo, a beautifully fluffy off-white head, three fingers thick.

Smell: alcohol, strawberry, and leather, with some sharp notes and hints of pipe tobacco. Low hops and malty, much like an aged barleywine

Taste: A confluence of dark, rich flavors--a mix of alcohol, plums, raisins, faded spices, and a pleasant sherry-like oxidation. A complex beer, with deep hints of pit fruits, leather, cherry cough syrup, tobacco, and malty notes of cocoa and caramel. The oxidation has given way to some slight medicinal phenolics and licorice, but those flavors are not yet over-bearing. It reminds me of aged Old ale or a 10 year old Barleywine, differentiated with an effervenscent Belgian yeast character.

Mouthfeel: big carbonation upfront, malty with a clean finish

Drinkability: A delicious beer, a blend of hauntingly rich and shadowy flavors. Very powerful (as my headache this morning will attest), so go lightly. The oxidation is just on the edge of being too powerful, so if you are sitting on a 2008 now, it'd be good to open them now. And, as I noted, this sounds so different from the fresh version that next winter, I'll have to seek one out.

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