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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Mikkeler It’s Alive!

mikkeler_itsaliveBrewer: Mikkeler Brewing, Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Sour/Amber Ale
ABV: 8.0%
IBUs:
Unspecified

Description: This beer is part of Mikkeler’s Sour/Wild lineup, and a tribute to Orval and Trappist brewing. Employing an amber malt base, the beer is also heavily hopped and bottle-fermented using wild stbrettanomyces yeast.

Tasting Notes: While this is a fitting tribute to Orval (they managed to imitate the taste and appearance quite closely) this brew is a bit heavy on the bitterness. However, it manages to grow on you, it packs the usual punch of a sour ale with notes of sour cherry and oak, and has the strong malt base and effervescence of a Trappist-style ale.

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Coarse malt, strong notes of oak and brettanomyces
Taste: Crisp malt, oak, sour cherry, yeasty effervescence, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, bitter yeast, oak flavor
Overall: 7.8/10

Goose Island Matilda Belgian Style Pale Ale

GooseIsland_MatildaBrewer: Goose Island Brewery, Chicago IL
Style: Belgian-style Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%
IBUs: 26

Description: Inspired by the legend of the grateful Countess Matilda who founded a monastery where, over centuries, monks have been brewing ale unique in character. In the character of a Trappist Ale, the Matilda is crafted using 2-Row and Caramel malts, bittered with Styrian, Pilgrim, Golding Celeia, and Saaz hops, and fortified with Candy Sugar. It is then fermented using the wild Brettanomyces yeast and bottle-conditioned for up to five years.

Tasting Notes: The inspirations were certainly clear in this bottle. Immediately, I got flavors that reminded me of a Flemish Red and a Trappist beer, combining the telltale sourness of the former with the solid malt and oaky undertones of the latter. I was not surprised at all to learn that this beer has brought home two silver medals and a gold from the World Beer Cup Awards.

Appearance: Amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smooth malt, peach, yeasts, hint of sourness, oaky overtones
Taste: Strong malt, yeasty tang, burst of lactic acid, peach, sour cherries, oaky finish
Aftertaste: Lingering oak, fruity esters, yeast and bitterness
Overall: 10/10

Trappistes Rochefort 10

https://i2.wp.com/www.theperfectlyhappyman.com/uploads/trappistes-rochefort-10.jpgHello again and welcome back to this celebration of Winter Beer and Trappist Ales! As we are coming up on the holidays, let me also wish everyone a very merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and any other holidays you choose to observe. May they be joyous, full of good food and drink, and may you be surrounded by loved ones for the duration!

Picking up where I left off the other day, I have yet another beer from the Trappistes Rochefort brewery. After sampling their 6 and more recently, their 8, I finally got a chance to resample their 10 and learn once again why I enjoy their lineup so much. Whereas the previous beers were a double and triple respectively, the lineup concludes with their “blue cap” quadruple ale; an extra-dark, extra strong (11.3% alc/vol), extra sugary beer with thick malts, a chewy mouth feel, and plenty of sugar, spice and fruit to go around.

Appearance: Dark brown, translucent, good foam retention
Nose: Rich malt nose, notes of dates, brown sugar and yeast
Taste: Sweet, heavy malts, viscous mouth feel, plums, raisins, dates
Aftertaste: Slight spice, sugars, slightly bitter finish
Overall: 9/10

Of the three, I have determined that the 8 is my favorite overall, mainly because it offers the best balance of fruit, spice and sugar. But that need not and will not apply to all people and palates. Sample the entire line and decide for yourself which possesses the most preferable characteristics. However, I must advise caution when drinking at this end of the Rochefort color spectrum. These beers are rich, sweet and very sugary, but that belies an intense strength which can knock you sideways. When compared to the red and green-colored caps, this last one can cause serious “Blue Shift”! Pour yourself one, preferably in a specialized Trappist glass, and savor. Savor!

Chateau Jiahu

Not that long ago, I learned something interesting about the earliest alcoholic beverages ever made. According to archaeologists, the earliest alcohol was to be found in a small Neolitic village named Jiahu, in the Chinese province of Henan. Interestingly enough, it was made from fermented honey, fruit and assorted grains, classifying it as a sort of mead. Based on the latest carbon dating, this alcoholic beverage was being made around 9000 BC, at roughly the same time that beer and wine first began to appear in the Middle East.

Not uncoincidentally, the Dogfish Head brewery (producer of the infamous 90 Minute IPA) released their own version of this beer back in 2005. Apparently, they did it at the behest of Dr. Patrick McGovern, a professor of molecular archeology who worked for the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Named in honor of the archaeological site, this beer is part of their Ancient Ale lineup (the more recent of which include Midas Touch and Theobroma).

Chateau Jiahu:
And like the original, it is made using honey, brown rice syrup, muscat grape, barley malt and hawthorn berry, and then slow-fermented using sake yeast. The result is a most unusual drink that is part beer, part mead, and very unique. In fact, its so far off the beaten trail for beer that I think a categorical breakdown might be necessary. So here it is, in terms of the big four:

Appearance: A clear, deep golden amber hue with light foam and not a lot of carbonation
Nose:
Jiahu’s scent comes across as very fruity, reminiscent of citrus and grapes. There is also just the slightest touch of floral bouquet that is reminiscent of orange fruit and blossoms.
Taste: Diverse and sweet, highly reminiscent of meads or strong honey beers. The palate is also malty and combines several kinds of notes, including honey, syrup, and a variety of fruits (I noted sweet melon, passion fruit, and pineapple in the mix)
Aftertaste: Very clean, light notes of honey and fruit
Overall: 8.5/10
Serving Info: Best when served chilled, or, if you’re into historical accuracy, you could try it warm, as it would have been traditionally consumed. Also, best when enjoyed in a snifter or a specially designed Trappist ale or barley wine glass

The folks at the liquor store asked me to let them know what I thought. The bottle and label alone tend to draw the eye, and the description is certainly enough to pique some interest. However, the experimental look and price can tend to intimidate the average consumer. I will happy to report back to them that I enjoyed it’s unique, complex and experimental flavor just as soon as I’m back in their neck of the woods! Check out the company website for info on where to buy:
http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/occassional-rarities/chateau-jiahu.htm