Nick Carr on December 15, 2014 0 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery: Brouwerij Slaapmutske Location: Melle, Belgium Style: Winter Ale / Belgian Strong Dark Ale ABV: 7.4% IBU: 28 Appearance: Murky, Reddish-Brown with Tan Foam Aroma: Holiday Punch Bowl Combined with Warming Alcohol; Notes of Molasses, Chocolate & Caramel Flavor: Fruity Esters & Spice; Malty Background; Hints of Nutmeg, Ginger, Clove & Hoppy Bitterness Availability: Winter Seasonal Pairs With: Coca-Infused Desserts, Fruit Desserts, Braised Ribs, Spicy Wild Game Ok, time to go a bit further afield. The last four reviews have been Christmas seasonals from well-known breweries, so I thought I’d search out something, at least, a little more obscure. Luckily my beer of the month club selections came with two Christmas offerings from overseas. I say “search out”, but “fell into my lap” would be a much more accurate description of how this beer came to me. Kerstmutske Christmas Nightcap, or Slaapmutske Christmas as its sold in Belgium (Slaapmutske means “sleeping hat”), or just Krestmutske (Christmas hat), was the first beer sold commercially by brouwerij Slaapmutske. It all started when, Brewmaster Dany De Smet graduated from brewing school and, in that same year, became head brewer for the famous Huyghe Brewery. His insatiable love of brewing could not be slaked by a mere job in the field and he continued to homebrew, sharpening both his skill and recipes, any chance he got. At some point during this time Dany met Marleen Vercaigne, a fellow beer lover and, by happy chance his future wife. Add a third party in the form of Dany’s former Huyghe colleague Patrick Scheirlinck and brewing magic was bound to happen. In 1999 Dany and Marleen had a son, whom they named Jonas. They promptly celebrated the occasion with a special homebrew, boasting spicy-hop character and 9% ABV. He named it Jonasbier in honor of his newly born son. After the celebrations many people asked about purchasing the new beer. This interest made the new parents consider bigger steps in their brewing adventure. “Raise a glass of nightcap cheer, to those hidden-held most dear; To a comfort and hope warded deep, wakened with winter’s secret sleep.” They reworked the Jonasbeir recipe creating a malt-forward beer at a slightly lower ABV, but they didn’t know what to name it. One day baby Jonas wouldn’t stop crying and on a whim they took his soother and dipped it in the unnamed beer. pon handing it back, Jonas sucked for a moment then quieted and quickly fell asleep, prompting Marleen to comment that the beer was an excellent Slaapmutske, meaning sleeping hat, but a term also used for the last beer before bed. In 2000 they started to sell the beer locally. Their distribution and lineup has continued to expand out of this humble one-beer beginning. Pour and Aroma Christmas Nightcap pours a murky reddish-brown, the color of dark walnut wood. When light catches the edging a depth of red appears, highlighting it like dark unpolished smoky brown quartz. A three-finger stack of tan foam nips up to the top of my glass and creates sticky Belgian lace as it slowly drops, settling just above the level of dark liquid. Small bubbles rise, babbling, stirring the depths, and feeding the head. The nose is greeted with the deepness of a dark holiday punch bowl; candied-plums, meaty cherries, pomegranate, and hints of mulling spices; combined with warming vinous alcohol. Molasses, slight chocolate undertones, and caramel add to the overall aroma of holiday candy. Its fruitcake in a bottle. Mouthfeel and Taste Mouthfeel is rich, smooth, and thick; with just the right amount of warming to lend a cheery fire-heated presence to the senses. On the sip malt, fruity esters, and spice cross the palate. Nutmeg, slight ginger, and clove are noticeable, a play of phenols from the Belgian yeast. Fire-touched brown sugar, caramel, and molasses give sense to the malty background. The yeast also gives rise to the fruity esters so prevalent in this beer; fig, raisin, plum, and apple. Possible slight hints of hop bitterness on the swallow and aftertaste, and the hops balance the sweet well enough that it dry’s nicely through the finish. Finishing the Impression This is a decadent beer. It claims a combination of earthy tones and boozy fruit that comes pretty darn close to describing the warming feeling of Christmas spirit. Though possibly not as complex as some other winter warmers this one stays true to the rich darkness of a winter’s night. This beer is also a great presentation of what yeast imparts to the quality of a beer and how varying these notes can be. If you try this one, remember no fruit or spices were used—take a sip and bask in the wonder of it. Waes hael! Winter Beer Reviews: Winterhook #30 from Redhook Brewing Isolation Ale from Odell Brewing Company Jubelale Winter Ale from Deschutes Brewery Celebration Ale 2014 from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.