Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beer style of the week; Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Week 36 (Today is my son, Liam and future daughter-in-law’s wedding day! And niece, Jennifer’s Birthday! Cheers to all!)

Different than an English or American Strong Dark Ale, The Belgian Strong Dark Ale marches to the beat of a different brewer. Tannish to deep mahogany in color, big and bold maltiness, yet subtle in the hop and phenols department. Flavors of chocolate, toffee, coffee, dark ripe fruit are common. These are tricky beers. The alcoholic strength can be well-disguised, lurking quietly within the malty sweetness. Don’t be deceived, the Belgian Strong Dark Ale can provide a potent kick.

This is one of the styles brewed as a liquid “food” by Trappist monks to provide them with nourishment during periods of fasting. Drinking a few growlers of Belgian Strong Dark Ale on an empty stomach may bring you much closer to a God in many unusual ways.

From the land of origin

Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue) – Bieres de Chimay – Baileux, Belgium – 9% ABV

This unusual Trappist pours a deep mahogany with a frothy, foamy beige head and loads of clingy lace. The aroma is yeast, malty, hoppy with citrus and fruity notes. The body is heavy and a bit sweet and a little sour. Cloves, hops, over-ripe bananas and alcohol are in your face. A bit of spicy tastes lingers. This brew is really strong in most every way. Well made, but harmony and balance isn’t one of its strong points.

Abbaye Des Rocs Grand Cru Belgian Special Brown – Honnelles, Belgium – 9.5% ABV

This rare beauty pours an orange-tinted amber with a firm rocky beige head, and tons of sticky lace. The aroma is complex mix of crushed berries, damp earth, apples, sweet malt and light alcohol esters. A candy sweet flavor melds with fresh bread, caramel apples, mild lime-like bitterness, light pine, a hint of chocolate, and an ever so faint astringent camphor taste. A warming alcohol works its way through the crowded flavor field. The mouthfeel is buttery and smooth just after an initial fizzy effervescence. This should be a "must try" beer.


Trois Pistoles – Unibroue – Chambly Quebec, Canada -

This Dark Ale is a deep brown color with ruby highlights and tan head. The complex aroma includes roasted barley, spicy hops, fruit, cloves and fumes of alcohol. The deep rich malt houses flavors of caramel, toffee and a hint of banana. Highly hopped with spicy and lemony citrusy bitterness along with ripe mixed fruit. A powerful, well-made brew!

New England

Allagash Black – Allagash Brewing – Portland, Maine – 7.5% ABV

Served in an Allagash goblet.

Pours a blackened cola color with medium-sized khaki head and plenty of sticky lacing.

Smells of burnt roasted malts with notes of chocolate, coffee and toffee and some peppery spices.

Tastes like it smells with deeply roasted malt and mingling flavors of chocolate, resiny hop, spices and a slightly astringent yeasty background, followed a taste of dark rum.

A spritzy effervescence fades quickly and a fuller body is revealed. A bit more of the malty sweetness is noticed as it warms.

Others well worth a try

Raison d’etre – Dogfish Head (Rum-soaked prunes come to mind)

Mad Elf – Troegs Brewery (Fruity berries and extremely potent)

Local 2 – Brooklyn Brewery (Sugary and spicy and everything nicey)

Cheers and Salut!

Quote: “Life is too short to drink cheap beer” – Larry Hallahan, ‘Beer Styles’