Can you guess what I like the best about the traditions of monks? Come on, go ahead and guess what I like the most from all these Belgian Abbeys and Trappist monks. You guessed the beer, right?
WRONG: It’s the groundwork experiments by Gregor Mendel that lead to the science of genetics. But a strong tradition of beer is a close second! The monks definitely loved their beer, spending generations perfecting their craft. If you were in a life that was 50 percent poverty and 50 percent Bible study, wouldn’t you need a good drink now and again? I guess they liked to pay more mind to quotes like Ecclesiastes 9:7 than they did to Ephesians 5:18.
Either way, this is a highly recommended brew. It’s got world-class ranks on the two big beer-rating websites, as well as a laundry list of accolades. At 10.5 percent alcohol by volume, it was certainly enough for the most indulgent of friars, but I was happy with just my one goblet.
Generally, any Belgian style ale above 10 percent is a Quadruple, but outside of that there is no strong definition for what is or isn’t considered a Quad. But if you see a Belgian, especially one with ‘Abt’ -the abbreviation for Abbot – and the number 12, then it’s probably a quad.
This particular one pours hazy and rich, almost purple brown. There’s a bit of a fluffy head, but it quickly subsides into a very lacy ring. It gives off a scent that is very similar to some good barley wines. It has plenty of dark grape and raisin flavors, some of that dark candy syrup, and some distinctly Belgian yeast. I also got a bit of a boozy hit to the nose, but I will chalk that up to the temperature it was served at. You see, I had it in one of those places that have something like 50 taps, but is still mainly a chain-restaurant. It’s just kind of cruddy how even though you have this big walk-in fridge full of taps, the beer is just kind of hanging out in these tubes suspended overhead. Especially if you get a less popular beer, there isn’t much chill left to it by the time it hits your glass. A glass, which by even a greater degree of likelihood, was probably placed at the bartender’s station just steaming hot from the automatic dishwasher. Just a cautionary tale on why you should support your local mom ‘n’ pop brewshop.
Anyway: The taste. Surprising, to say the least. You get just a cornucopia of dark stone fruit. More of the grape and raisin, but then some date and fig as well. Yes, and plenty of that unique Belgian yeasty funk. In fact, this is one of the first Belgians I had where the yeast wasn’t played up so hard that it was obtrusive, or where it was so unremarkable that I barely noticed. The yeast in this was playing a second string, but doing the hell out of it, just a perfect balanced portion, right where this rockstar belongs.
There was still a noticeable booze heat to it, especially at the end. However, it wasn’t entirely unwelcomed. It acted almost as a bit of a palate cleanser, keeping me from getting too much of a sticky aftertaste. After finishing, I could see why this brew got such great ratings. As far as Quads go, or even Belgian Abbey styles, this one is just downright… Heavenly. I could see myself really enjoying this anytime, or even after a long day of scripture copying and gardening. Yes, something tells me the monks of St. Bernardus Abbey have got it pretty good.