Friday, October 17, 2008

Smells Like Monk Basement

You may have read here that I like to rate the beers that I drink on For the most part, I'm not very creative when I describe the quality of the beers I drink. I mean, you can only use so many of the same words to describe the same beer 500 other people have also described.

However, on my discovery of Belgian Tripels, I found a smell that I could only describe as "monk basement." I guess the proper European term would be "cellar," but tell me, if you keep beer stored in your house, and your specific geography allows for certain types of domestic construction, don't you usually keep, or ferment your beer in a basement? That is the first thing that came to mind when I smelled the yeast of those golden, strong, Belgian ales. I thought, "This has a smell reminiscent of all those damp, European cellars I occasionally found myself in when I lived over there." But to call the smell "European cellar" was not quite colorful enough for me.

Most Belgian styles of beer, according to my limited study of the style, were made by monks, so why not give them credit?

So please, I ask you kindly, use my terminology to describe the smell of Belgian ale yeasts. It's more prevalent in tripels, dubbels, and strong ales. Seek it out. Enjoy it.

Here are my favorite North American-influenced Belgian-style beers:

1. Pere Jacques (4.4) - Goose Island Brewing Company
Pours brown with a slight haze. Smells of toffee, caramel, and slight licorice. Taste is strong alcohol, but with a caramel back.

2. Hell Hath No Fury (4.1) - Bell's Brewing Company
Beautiful beer. Pours almost black. Smells fruity and slightly of monk basement. Tastes are many here: chocolate, coffee, fruit, licorice and dirt finish. I like it. I think it’s a decent example of the style.

3. La Fin Du Monde (4) - Unibroue
Nice blonde beer, with a little white fluffy head. Sweet smell. I notice the carbonation followed by a yeasty taste and slight alcohol burn.

4. Maudite (4) - Unibroue
Dark amber pour with a nice head. Fruity and raisin aromas. Nice mouth feel typical of all Unibroues.

5. 1554 Brussels Style Black Ale (3.9) - New Belgium Brewing Company
Black ale with a tint of red when held to the light. Beautiful. Smells of monk basement, malty, some nice chocolate overtones, and finishes with a "pinch of dirt" taste I always get from NB beers. I think I actually like aftertaste now.

6. Trois Pistoles (3.8) - Unibroue
Dark brown pour with fluffy white head. Has a fruity wine smell to it. Nice smooth, flavored mouthfeel.

7. Raison D Etre (3.8) - Dogfish Head
Dark red color. Slight head, no real lacing, just fades quickly. Smells like a sugary beer. Taste is malty, derived from raisins, and somewhat biscuity. Palate leaves a nice finish, and with two bottles, you can feel the alcohol burn.

8. Springboard Ale (3.3) - New Belgium Brewing Company
Pours a hazy light yellow. Nice white head that dissipates quickly. I can’t quite place the smell, but the yeast is nice. Has a nice citrus aftertaste and is an overall nice average summer beer.

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