Spencer Trappist Ale

spencer_trappistBrewer: Spencer Trappist Ales/St. Joseph Abbey, Spencer, MA
Style: Trappist Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: Unlisted (mild)

Description: This brew is the Abbey’s only brew, and is made in the Trappist fashion using a proprietary blend of 2 row and 6 row malted barley, and some caramel Munich specialty malt from Wisconsin for color. It is then bittered using a combination of Willamette, Nugget, and other hops from Washington state’s Yakima Valley. It is then unpasteurized and unfiltered with active yeast still in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: This brew was a fortunate find. It definitely has the character of a Trappist ale, possessing that same oaky, yeasty flavor that I have come to associate with beers like Orval and Chimay. But it is also delightfully subtle and lightly colored, and comes with notes of fruit – the foremost being cherry and apricot – that you don’t usually get from a Belgian Trappist. I will be definitely be seeking more in the future.

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt base, floral hop bouquet, traces of citrus and orchard fruit
Taste: Smooth malt, hints of oak, mild traces of cherry, apricot, yeast
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, oak, yeasty aftertaste, quite clean
Overall: 9.5/10

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Porcupine Quills Karoo Red

Quills_karooredBrewer: Porcupine Quills Brewing, Bothas Hill, South Africa
Style: Red Ale
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 49.4

Description: This dark “real ale” is the brewery’s second creation, and combines deep red malt with a generous hopping using Willamette whole flower hops. At 5.5% alc/vol, just under 50 IBUs of hops, and yeast cultures still in the bottle, it strikes a nice balance of rich malt, floral hops, and yeasty effervescence.

Tasting Notes: This is my sampling of the Quills Brewery, courtesy of my local beer store selling off all the beers that were part of advent calenders that didn’t get sold. In a lot of ways, I was reminded of Orval, mainly by the rich, yeasty malt base and the trace of oak flavor. At the same time, it had some strong caramel flavor (similar to Tripel Karmeliet), and an interesting hint of floral hops. Definitely wish I could find more Quills around here!

Appearance: Deep amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, strong notes of caramel, bread pudding, yeast, oak
Taste: Sharp start, yeasty, notes of caramel, hints of oak and flowery hops
Aftertaste: Lingering caramel, yeast and malt flavor, mild bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Trappistes Rochefort 8

Minolta DSCWinter season always seems like the perfect time for Trappist Ales! And thanks to my having discovered a place that is well stocked in my more obscure favorites (Cook Street Liquor Store), I was able to procure a few bottles in preparation for a little sample pack!

To start, I’ve decided to go back to some old favorites that I have not resampled in years. While I’ve found no shortage of Chimay labels and even the occasional Orval here in BC, I’ve been hard pressed to find any of their closely-related kin. Trappistes Rochefort is one such brewery, a renowned operation run by the Abbey St-Remy in Rochefort, Belgium. This Abbey and the brewery date back to the High Middle Ages and continues to produce true Trappist Ale to this very day.

Today, it’s the Trappist 8, the breweries triple-fermented ale and the second in their series of three ales. Colloquially, this one is known as the “green cap” because of the color of the bottle cap, is a brown ale, and weighs in at a hefty 9.2% alc/vol. Of the three beers produced by the brewery, this one is the most renowned and fits in the middle between sugary-sweet and spicier end of the spectrum.

Appearance: Cloudy, orange-brown, good foam retention
Nose: Mild fruit and yeast, notes of plum, cherry, and raisins
Taste: Strong malts, slightly sweet, caramel, raisins and plums
Aftertaste: Mild spicey finish, very nice and smooth
Overall: 9.5/10

Of the three, this one has been my favorite over the years. Whereas the Rochefort 6 is milder and smoother and the 10 is the most fruity and sugary, this one holds a place of honor in the middle. Balancing smooth malts, fruit, yeast and just the right amount of spice, its all around pleasure to drink and well paired with appetizer plates consisting of cheese, bread, fruit and pate, or with desserts featuring chocolate and fruit compote. If you can get your hands on some, do so!