Unibroue Grande Reserve 17 2016

unibroue_17_2016Brewer: Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec
Style: Extra Strong Ale
ABV: 10%
IBUs: 35

Description: This Trappist-style ale is a limited release which is put out every year to mark the brewery’s anniversary. In 2014 (the last time I tried it), it garnered a number of accolades, which include two Gold medals from the 2014 World Beer Championship (for vintage 2013 and 2014), a Gold Medal from the World Beer Awards (2013).

Tasting Notes: The 2016 Reserve was an definite improvement over the last I tried, which was in 2014. Consistent with the previous vintages, it packed some strong malt, alcoholic warmth, notes of raisins, brown sugar, and some yeasty effervescence. But this time around, it was also less coarse tasting and has a subtler malt base. This made for an all-around more pleasant drinking experience.

Appearance: Dark brown, cloudy, thick lacy head and strong carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, dark fruits, strong yeasts
Taste: Smooth, sweet malts, brown sugar, raisins, dates, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering sweet malt flavor, alcohol, yeasts
Overall: 8.8/10

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Phillips Monkey Drummer and the Incomplete Octave

monkey-drummer-label-cropped-e1373999969432That’s quite the long name, but after so many specialty and limited releases, you gotta figure the people at Philips have to get creative. Released in honor of their 11.9th anniversary, and brewed to a strength of 11.9 % alc/vol – because apparently anything reaching 12% puts it into a new tax bracket or something – this beer is a very strange combination, and calls to mind their Pandemonium 11th Hour Anniversary IPA, but a lot more so! Whereas that beer was discernible in terms of style and just cranked to the point of being extra strong, this beer kind of falls on the far side of indefinable.

Monkey-DrummerAt once cloudy, extra-strong, and loaded with hops and alcohol, its pretty much a mashup, somewhere between an Imperial IPA and a Belgian Tripel, albeit an extra strong one. And once you pour this beer out and begin to sample it, you’ll begin to understand the interesting and colorful description behind it:

This hop-beast drinks like a chimp fisted blast beat from a subtribe percussionist. Slightly off tempo and heavier than a gorilla playing 12 bar blues.

Yeah, that about covers it! It’s hoppy, but that takes a back seat to the ham-fisted alcoholic punch in the mouth! And the oaky, tripel-like malts are also subdued when compared to the sheer alcohol content. In short, drinking this beer is like locking your lips with a freight train! Not to be consumed when operating heavy machinery…

Appearance: Light blonde, slightly cloudy, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong citrus hop scent, sweet, coarse malts, mild tropical fruit
Taste: Slightly sweet start, followed by quick hit of alcohol, mild oak, bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering alcohol bitterness and mild hops
Overall: 7.5/10

While I am tempted to give this beer high marks for being just so damn powerful, I am forced to mark it down for taste. Basically, there isn’t much to speak of. The alcohol taste overpowers both the hop content and the malt profile, which is too bad because they both seem like they would be nice if allowed to come through. Still, this beer has to be the strongest I’ve had in recent memory. You have to respect that much about it!

Unibroue Grande Reserve 17

Don’t I feel privileged! It seems that I came into possession of a bottle of Unibroue’s Grande Reserve 17. Back in 2007, Unibroue commissioned this specialty brew in honor of their 17th anniversary. Seems a bit random, but who am I to complain?

Having looked into this beer’s background, it was apparent that it was not widely distributed. How to explain then how I just found it in a Cowichan Bay Liquor Plus right outside of town? I guess they got that distribution problem licked! Needless to say, I was intrigued, bought myself a bottle, and began sampling as soon as I got home.

To break it down succinctly, this is an extra strong brown ale (10% alc/vol) that is refermented in the bottle (much like all of Unibroue’s products) and also aged in French Oak. In many ways, I was reminded of Trois Pistoles, another extra strong brown ale made by Unibroue which has been known to kick things up a notch! But of course, they go a step further with this special reserve, aging it longer, and in oak, which makes for a stronger, suppler taste.

Appearance: Dark brown and translucent with a thick head
Nose: Sugary with notes of spice and toffee
Taste: Sweat malty taste, notes of molasses and brown sugar and spice
Aftertaste: Lingering spiciness and mild bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Yeah, I’ve come to approve of just about anything Unibroue produces. But that’s only because they have never disappointed me with any of their products. This latest installment in the growing lineup of Unibroue products that I’ve sampled only adds to the ball.