Ah…De Dolle. For Aleheads, the name conjures up warm and fuzzy memories. As makers of some of the finest and most challenging beers that Belgium has to offer (no mean feat, that), De Dolle has earned the respect of beer drinkers the world over.
De Dolle Brouwers translates to “the Mad Brewers” and one look and taste of their award-winning beers will tell you why. Decorated with whimsical, colorful cartoons, a De Dolle brew is immediately recognizable. Even more inimitable are the bold, complex flavors of one of their Oerbiers, Boskeuns, or Dulle Teves (the latter of which translates to the “Mad Bitch”). But perhaps their most famous creation is their Winter seasonal…the remarkable Stille Nacht.
The brewers at De Dolle call Stille Nacht their “prestige beer”. They claim that “it has the highest density of any Belgian beer (27°Pl)”. We at Aleheads can’t confirm or deny that, but I have no reason not to trust the Mad Brewers (they haven’t steered me wrong yet). The beer is boiled for hours and hours and is brewed with a shit-ton of pale malt and candy sugar. If that sounds sweet to you, well…it is.
The Stille Nacht pours from its colorful, snowman-decorated bottle with a gorgeous, three-finger thick head that lasts and lasts (and lasts). The lacing it leaves on the glass is nothing short of the sparkle of a thousand tiny gemstones (remind me not to drink before writing tasting notes). The beer’s color is a hazy, glowing copper. If looks could kill, this beer would be Liam Neeson in Taken.
The nose is sugary-sweet at first whiff, but as your olfactory bulb burns out on the caramel and molasses, the other notes make themselves known. There’s plenty of spice, pepper, nutmeg, medicinal phenols, and some pumpernickel. The beer smells, for all the world, like “the holidays”. It’s reminiscent of a tangerine or clementine that has been soaking in honey and rum. A yeasty, bready smell creeps in after the third or fourth sniff and a big, alcohol nose-burn (12% ABV on this monster) cuts through everything like a scalpel through balsa wood.
The taste, as expected, is replete with sweet maltiness. It’s a big, big flavor…slightly tart, spicy, with a massive alcohol finish. The booze-soaked citrus I noticed in the nose is very present, as is some of the aforementioned honey and caramel. There’s a touch of hops in there, but it’s more of an afterthought (I suspect the brewers quickly realized how pointless it would be to attempt to give the Stille Nacht any sort of hop profile…it would be like throwing a packet of Splenda into the Pacific ocean to “sweeten” it).
The mouthfeel is incredibly rich and creamy…but with enough carbonation to keep it from being cloying. It rolls across your tongue and slides down your throat with a drying, burning sensation from its wine-like alcohol content (though this is better than any wine I’ve ever had…which, to be fair, is mostly due to the fact that most wines taste like warm stomach acid to me).
Drinkability? Not on this sucker. 12% ABV…overwhelming sweetness…drying mouthfeel…massive spice and yeast notes. If you can finish more than one of these, you’re a better man than I.*
*Note: Not really…I’m much better than you.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. The Stille Nacht is a 4 Hop beer if ever there was one. It’s a unique, brilliant, prestige beer that shows why Belgium is still considered the premiere brewing country on Earth. The Mad Brewers at De Dolle deserve the praise of Alehead Nation for this one.