SevenPack Beer Blog

Archive for the 'Abbey-style' category

Ben - February 20, 2007

Val-Dieu Grand Cru

Val-Dieu Grand CruMe and Matty were just discussing what exactly a “Grand Cru” is. To be honest with you, I don’t really know. I just know the concept that I’ve devised in my head based upon the several Grand Cru ales that I’ve had. My theory is that a Grand Cru is a subset of abbey-style ales, and generally is considered to be a ‘slightly better’ abbey-style ale. Maybe the abbey-style that the brewery is most proud of, or one that tends to use better ingredients or a more long-winded brewing process. I dunno – that’s just what I think. You guys can tell me if I’m way off. Regardless of definition, this is an absolutely fabulous beer.

The pour of this is very dark and not too viscous. It is only mildly cloudy and most of the debris seems to have settled kindly to the bottom of the bottle. The aroma of this is sweet with vanilla and maybe even a bit of butter, which is strange but good. In the mouth, this is a delicious beer, while not terribly consistent with my concept of an abbey-ale. It is altogether sweet, with just a hint of hop bitterness around the middle of the tongue. Surrounding this touch of bitterness are different levels of sweetness reminiscent of blueberries and vanilla. I still just get a tint of a buttery richness, although I’m hesitant to say it for fear of grossing people out, because it is really delicious. The major absence that I notice is that there is none of the aniseed flavor that often gets into abbey ales. Instead, this is just sweet and delicious. To be honest, it reminds me a bit of the Cold Mountain ale from Highland Brewery, but it isn’t QUITE as potent in its sweetness. It’s just a delicious and subtly sweet brew that I would like to drink much more often.

Ben - January 12, 2007

Gouden Carolus “Grand Cru of the Emperor” Carolus d’Or

Gouden Carolus Carolus d'OrI mean, seriously, if you call a beer the “Grand Cru of the Emperor”, then it’d better be pretty good, right? I’ve seen some lofty claims on a beer before, not the least of which is “The Champaigne of Beers”. Even so, this big bottle of goodness seems to bear itself in rather high esteem. Also, being a brewery that is rather young (by Belgian standards), I’m impressed that these fellows are willing to make such large claims. However, when all is said and done, I’m happy to say that the folks at Brewery de Ranke turned out one of their best yet with this brew.

This beer pours a very dark brownish-red that is obviously unfiltered. The aroma is reminiscent of an abbey-style ale with just a hint more pizzazz. The aroma carries lots of anise and spice with some dark cherry tossed in for good measure. In the mouth, this beer is packed with flavor. The initial flavor is dark cherry which quickly grabs onto a slight anise bitterness. On through the mouth we taste a barrage of grape flavors, ranging from dark grapes to raisins to a bit of prune. While this sounds a bit bizarre, it makes for a very rich and sweet flavor balanced nicely by that anise bitterness. At the back of the mouth, a raisin sweetness sticks around until the next sip.

This is the first abbey-style ale I’ve had in a while, and it’s good to be back in the saddle. Although I don’t have anything recent to compare this to, I’ll have to say that this tastes like a great offering. Even though the Gouden Carolus beers are a bit pricey in the states, this one might just be worth the $10 pricetag. Very tasty, and fairly heavy at 10% abv.

Ben - December 6, 2006

North Coast “Brother Thelonious” Abbey Ale

North Coast Brother TheloniousThis little gem I picked up from Virginia because, as I’ve said before, they get better beer than we do in NC. The gimmick here is that the beer was made to help out the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz – for every case of this sold, North Coast is donating $2 to help along the jazz community. So, being a fan of jazz, I’m happy to have been able to contribute $0.17 to the cause. And, as if helping out the music community isn’t enough, this beer is also very, very tasty.

The brew pours a very cloudy ruby-brownish color. It’s a lovely beer, although this much cloudiness often worries me that there’s a bit too much trub that might taint the intended flavor of the beer. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with the Brother Thelonious. The smell is very spicy – lots of molasses and brown sugar. The initial taste is rather strong – it has hints of anise, although not overpowering. In addition, the brown sugar and sorghum come to the forefront and stick with the beer from start to finish, lingering in the aftertaste. There is also a complex flavor of other mixed spices that I can’t quite place, but they, coupled with a decent carbonation, give the beer an interesting cola-like kick and flavor. All in all, I would consider this a fabulous American-made abbey-style ale, and one I would love to drink again if I could get it. North Coast often delivers great brews, and this is no exception.

Will - November 8, 2006

Stone “Double Bastard” Ale

Stone Double BastardSo, I must confess: I’m stepping it up double time. I’m getting precocious. I’m skipping grades. I’m stepping to the Double Arrogant Bastard Ale, and skipping the ol’ joe-schmoe Arrogant Bastard Ale.

At 10 percent abv, this puppy ain’t a shy one, and it’s got the straight-outta-Stone diatribe on the back to prove it. She pours a deep reddish-brown, like a translucent caramel or dark honey, bubbling with a fine ebullient head that lingers in a pleasant way. It’s bouquet is like a fucking flower shop, without the allergic potential because of microscopic pollens.

It’s got that strong taste of a big brew trying to balance that alcohol, though I don’t think it does the job with the supremacy of some imperial somsabitches that I’ve had before. Once I am at it’s end, I am near my end. Like most high abv beers, no matter how you felt about it when you started drinking, you’re ready to start high-fiving it’s brewers when you’re finished (when you start hitting on their daughters, and then get mightily pounded yourself. Beware).

In sum, you get good literature for the price, but not all the beer I had hoped for. The malts fight a losing battle with the alcohol, the hops are ripe to the nose but overmatched to the tongue. And now that I ponder it, the writing on the back (Sample: “It is unequivocally certain that your feeble palate is grossly inadequate and thus undeserving of this liquid glory.”) serves some odd duel purposes, on one level winking at you in its sarcastically ponderous way, but at the same time lulling you into the very same self-satisfaction that it makes fun of—it is disturbingly easy to trust the beer, much like the well-marketed beers it certainly strives to mock (Sample: “Double Bastard Ale calls out the garrulous caitiffs who perpetrate the aforementioned atrocities – and those that buy into them – and demands retribution for their outrageously conniving, intentionally misleading, blatantly masturbatory and fallacious ad campaigns.”). A riddle wrapped in an enigma, you say? Bullshit for the bullshitters, you say? Very well then. Very well.

I like it, do not love it. And I am wary.

Ben - November 6, 2006

Unibroue Seigneuriale

Unibroue SeigneurialeAny time I see a new Unibroue beer, I pick it up. Period. These guys make a tasty brew – in fact, I’ve never had a bad brew by Unibroue – so I can always buy these with assurance. Plus, it is possible to pronounce the brewery name like “Uni-brow”, which is a descriptor that is near and dear to yours truly. So, when I saw the Seigneuriale (which I can’t possibly pronounce correctly) bottle, I hurriedly picked it up and rushed to the register without any knowledge whatsoever about the style of beer contained therein. I tried to do some research before popping the cap on this to pick out what type of beer I was entering into. But, it seems like all of the reviews online are fairly ambiguous. And, now that I’m drinking the beer, I understand why. it doesn’t quite fit any category. This beer pours a unique color – it is a murky brownish-yellow with just a tint of rose in it. The aroma exhibits a great deal of citrus and a bit of sweet banana. In the mouth, the beer is much lighter than the appearance would suggest. The mouthfeel is very crisp and sweet. Initially, the banana flavors take center-stage, with citrus undertones that come and go through the mouth. There is also a taste of vanilla that creeps in towards the back of the mouth and joins the banana for a delectable aftertaste that sticks around for some time. This beer is dessert-like while also being crisp enough to be refreshing on a hot day. All things considered, I think this is a very versatile beer that encompasses flavors found in tripels, hefeweizens, and perhaps even a light amber. For lack of any better genre, I’m going to call this an “abbey ale”, because we know those monks make abbey ales that encompass all manor of flavors, so it’s a nice catch-all for a tasty deviant such as this.

Ben - July 3, 2006

Brewery Van Steenberge Augustijn Ale

AugustijnThis beer is classified as an authentic Belgian Abbey ale, and it can certainly stand behind the title of ‘authentic’ as it was one of the earlier breweries to brew this style. As a matter of fact, this particular ale has been brewed by Van Steenberge since 1295. That’s a little longer than Anheiser-Busch has been making the revered Budweiser Light beer, I’d wager.

Considering this is an abbey ale, it pours a remarkably light golden color. The aroma on this one is exceedingly spicy and full of citrus. And, in keeping with the aroma, the flavor is extremely lemony. The flavor of the beer hits you with a sudden burst of flavor when it enters the mouth. While ‘crisp’ might be a good term, I don’t believe it is adequate. Rather, this is a ‘sharp’ beer – and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a virtual explosion of flavor entering the mouth, and the citrus and spice stick with you through the back of the mouth, lingering with just a slight sourness in the aftertaste. I don’t believe this is terribly complicated, compared to come other abbey ales I have had. However, it gives you a consistent and enjoyable flavor in a high dose. I would recommend this as a great Belgian ale for the summer months.

Ben - June 13, 2006

Andelot Brewery Mystique

Andelot MystiqueNow, this beer is everything that the Angelique should have been. From reading the label, it labels this as a ‘Belgian abt Style Ale’ – quite frankly, I don’t know what this means. From some research, I find that a lot of folks don’t know what this means, but the nearest I can come is that maybe this is close to a quadrupel-style ale. Regardless, this tastes to me like what a great Abbey-style ale should be. It is MUCH less boring than the Angelique – it contains a tastier aroma rich in dark cherry and raisins. In the mouth, you get lots of dark fruit, light hints of horehound, and just a touch of cinnamon. This all combines for a very complex beer that is also very tasty. The beer leaves you with an aftertaste heavy with fruit. I find this a highly agreeable beer, especially at the $7 price tag. I will certainly drink this again, and I would recommend it to any discerning beer drinker on a budget.

[Ed. Note - Since this is apparently like a Quadrupel, but tastes to me like an Abbey style ale, I'm putting it in both of these categories - you have been warned.]

Ben - June 12, 2006

Andelot Brewery Cuvee Angelique

Andelot AngeliqueThis beer is a new one to me. After a bit of research, it seems that a Seattle-based importer is importing 4 beers from the Andelot Brewery in Belgium that ‘over-deliver on quality and value’. From the pricepoint (about $7), I feel like these are being marketed to compete with the Ommegang Brewery offerings here in the States.

One thing that I both like and dislike in this line of beers is their labelling. They have 4 varieties – Angelique, Diabolique, Mystique, and Euphorique. This format, I like. What I don’t like is that each of the varieties lacks ample description of the beer. The Angelique offers no description except that it is a ‘Belgian Ale’. Thanks, Cochese, that tells me a lot, since this comes from the country with the largest number of ale varieties in the world. What I found out after corking this is that this beer is basically a Belgian Abbey-style ale. It isn’t bad for the money, but it isn’t great. The pour is a cloudy purple-amber. The aroma is heavy with licorice and some dark fruit. The taste is fairly typical, but maybe a bit bland for the variety. It has the expected flavors of licorice and cherry, but lacks the spicy complexity that I prefer. I believe this would be a great first beer for someone just getting accustomed to the Belgian offerings. And, it will be a good go-to beer for anyone looking for a good value in a Belgian ale. However, it lacks the complexity to rival much on the market, including the similarly priced Ommegang Abbey ale. In the end, it’s a great beer, but not one that garners any exceptional review.

Ben - March 16, 2006

Unibroue Terrible

Unibroue TerribleDon’t let the name fool you – this Canadian ale is anything but “terrible!” This beer is essentially the lovechild of a Belgian abbey-style ale and a British brown ale. The color is dark brownish-purple, and the aroma is heavy with alcohol and anise. The flavor through the mouth is heavy with plum and chocolate with just a hint of anise and a pleasant carbonation bite. Overall very well-balanced and a good beer for those wishing for a mild experimentation between varieties. It’s another victory for the folks at Unibroue who, while often experimenting with odd combinations and varieties, seem unable to make a bad beer.

Matt - March 9, 2006

Unibroue 2005 Edition

Unibroue 2005Wow, what an unbelievably great tasting beer. At 10% abv one would think this beer may be difficult to drink. But this is FAR from the truth. This brew is as fruity as Scott Cunningham and as delectable as Reid’s mom on a crisp summer’s morn, hi-ohhhhh! The only drawback is the slight bitter aftertaste, but this is quickly resolved by taking another sip. I can say without reservation that this is the best beer I have ever had. It tastes of grape jelly and black cherry, and Jesus biscuits its good. The 2005 will lighten your wallet, at $12.00/bottle, but it is well worth the price.

Jon - March 6, 2006

St. Bernardus Abt 12

St. Bernardus abt 12The St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a delightful brew, with wonderful color and accents. It pours beautifully, with a rosy, auburn color and sweet flavorful scent emanating from the bottle. Each taste possesses a rich flavor, full of spice and fruit. It has the highest alcohol content (10.5 abv) of any of the St. Bernardus beers, but the alcohol flavor is not heavily present in the taste of the beer. The Abt 12 possesses a smooth, drinkable taste, and one could easily imbibe several of these in one sitting. Of course, if one were to imbibe several of these, it would probably end up being a short evening.

Overall, this is an excellent beer, and the happy little monk on the label should be more than pleased at the job he has done. At a respectable price ($2.50/beer; $10/four pack) this beer could easily be enjoyed for several nights.

Ben - March 5, 2006

North Coast Cru d’Or Ale

North Coast Cru d'OrThis is a good beer, but not great. It borrows some from abbey ales in the tradition of Ommegang’s Abbey-Style ale. It contains a bit of licorice and a bit of raisin to go with its cloudy ruby hue and licorice scent. Apparently it is a limited edition offering from North Coast, who also bring us the excellent Pranqster and Old Rasputin. Altogether, a decent representation of the brewery, but nothing fantastic. For the price, I believe there are better offerings available.

Jon - March 3, 2006

De Dolle Brouwers Boskeun

De Dolle BoskeunThis intriguing beer is made at the De Dolle Brewery in Esen, Belgium. The beers are all made by three brothers, and this golden ale is representative and named for one of the brothers who favors brewing his blond beers at home. The Bos Keun has a relatively robust 8.9% alcohol by volume, but maintains a wonderfully light flavor throughout the tasting. This beer is pleasing to the palate and is truly delightful.

This is a special Easter beer, and the brewers list it as the second true Belgian easter beer and is produced and best tasted at this time of year. This is a perfect beer for a wonderful spring afternoon. There is a slight favor of honey and spices, and further sweetness permeates the beer and reflects the overall brewing method. The bottle is as pleasing to the eye as the beer is to the mouth, as a winsome little rabbit sits under a tree with a full beer and an all-knowing smile that seems to say, “This is good livin’.”

Ben - February 26, 2006

Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

Stone Arrogant BastardOh lordy, this is good. The Arrogant Bastard has a beautiful dark, cloudy amber hue. The aroma is quite pungent and heavy with dark fruit. At first, the taste is very smooth but aggressive at the front of the mouth with the same dark fruit sweetness, but it finishes aggressively hoppy down the throat and sticks with you for a while. The description on the bottle is quite haughty and the general aire of the packaging is very braggadocious. But, surprisingly enough, it lives up to every claim. One of the best beers I have had in quite some time, although it requires a rather weathered palate to handle the barrage of flavors.

Ben - February 23, 2006

Allagash Grand Cru

Allagash Grand CruThis is yet another Abbey style ale. I know that I keep reviewing Abbey ales and Belgian Tripels over and over. But, these are my favorite varieties, so you have to bear with me. Once I drink every single Belgian Tripel out there, maybe I’ll journey into some other porters and pilsners – we’ll see.

But, back to the beer – This is a delicious representation of an abbey style ale. It is fairly dark, but not overbearing – quite light enough to be amenable to the less adventurous drinker. The aroma is very spicy and fruity with hints of plum and cherry – very nice. There is a slight taste of the licorice that I’m not always into. But, it is nicely off-set with heavier tastes of dark fruit. The mouthfeel is heavy and effervescent through the mouth, and the aftertaste sticks with you long after the beer is gone. An excellent brew, and one of the best American representations of an abbey ale that I have tasted.