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Something Sinterklass and Pere Noel could agree on.
I love Christmas. For the special seasonal beers, that is. Here in Belgium, the highlight is undoubtedly the annual trip (or maybe even twice per winter if you have enough visitors) to the beer shop to load up on Christmas beers. It's fun to see who has added a new one since last Christmas or one that you haven't been able to find in prior years. They're nearly all dark beers, high in alcohol and conducive to enjoying fireside or over a hearty winter stew or hot meal. Hell, these beers are good enough to just enjoy on their own with a cone of hot frites!

This year my favorite was the Corsendonk Christmas Ale. I love both Corsendonk tripel and dark anyway. So it was no surprise that the Christmas was delicious - rich velvety smooth feel with strong tones of chocolate, citrus and malt as it goes down. It's beautifully colored in the light too - a rich darkness balanced well with amber and chocolatey tones.

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Stille Nacht christmas beer from Dolle Brouwers
My favorite all-time Xmas beer is probably still Stille Nacht from Dolle Browers brewery in West Flanders. This family-owned brewery cranks out nothing but outstanding, high-alcohol beers with seasonal offerings for both Christmas and Easter. Stille Nacht is 12% ABV with a cloudy amber appearance and wonderful, complex smell of citrus and caramel malt. The taste is sweet but not too sweet, IMO, with hints again of citrus and, at least for me, nutmeg and caramel. It really says Christmas, this beer.

(PS: I love this brewery, as a prior post explains. They recently launched a stout for their US distribution. I've never seen it in Belgium but would be curious to taste it. There aren't a lot of Belgian stouts and few are anything special.)

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We made a trip last weekend to De Dolle Brouwers brewery in West Flanders. It was one of those delightful "only in Belgium" kind of experiences that lingers in the mind. It's almost two hours west of Brussels near Diksmuide, and not any place you'd just stumble upon. You really need a reason to be out there. Fortunately, this wonderful family-owned brewery gives you plenty of reasons to visit.
The brewery (also a distillery back in the day) originally dates back to the 1830s. It ran for three generations until it died before being revived in 1980 by two brothers who continue to run it to this day, still very much as a family enterprise. The brewery is only open on the weekends and they offer tours Sunday afternoon, which we were lucky enough to time perfectly.

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The brothers' 93-year old mother led our tour in English, crediting her health, longevity and excellent humor to her strict regimen of a daily beer. One brother is the brewmaster and the other an artist who creates the charmingly colorful logos for the company's beers. Their flagship brew, Oerbier, is a strong dark beer at 9.5% but eminently drinkable with a fruity taste that doesn't overdo it on the sweetness. Their blonde, Arabier, is most memorable for its large foamy head. It's just as tasty as the dark and lower in alcohol at 8%.Next time you're out in West Flanders, pay a visit to this place. You won't regret it. Support your local brewer!

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Nat en straf (West Flemish for wet and strong)