Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Dubbel and a Quad: The Weekend Allowed a Few Nice Trappist Tastings

This past weekend I managed to taste a Trappist dubbel and quadrupel, at Toronto's Sin & Redemption, that I had not, as yet, gotten my hands on.

Before I turn to the two I just tried, I am going to go on public record as saying, I have never been a huge fan of the modest amount of Abbey and Trappist beers that I have tried.  That said, I like them.  I just didn't get the super-hype.  I think the live yeasts don't always sit as well with me in practice as in theory, though the complexity is remarkable.  Or maybe it is simply my evolving palate.  But the last few Abbey/Trappist beers I have had are either better, or they are growing on me!

Regardless, I generally prefer a dubbel to a tripel, and (due to their Ontario/LCBO scarcity) had yet to try a quad.  So I was excited to try a La Trappe Quadrupel on draft when I found it (without realizing they'd be at the LCBO a few days later!) and a bottled Rochefort 8.

The Quad review stands alone for me since my frame of reference is to Trappist beers generally, as opposed to other quads (though some St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Rochefort 10's are on their way to my beer cellar in the near future).

The Quad (with an ABV of 10%) has the typical yeasty cloudiness of many Trappist ales alongside a nice deep amber colour that could perhaps even be described as copper.  The draft poured an ever-so-slightly off-white head with relatively poor retention, though it offered a smooth, creamy lacing while it lasted.

Aromas of cloves, cherry, pear and apricot could be discerned (alongside slight traces of rye bread) amidst the yeasty/malty combination that characterizes these extreme beers.

It is difficult to describe this taste, but it offers a warming spicy/sweetness.  That is to say, I was met with a more subtle, balanced, and drying semblance of the notes present in its fruity aromas, while more strongly affected by clove and cinnamon (yeasty) spiciness, alongside a bit of banana.

On the mouth, this beer is medium-bodied (or perhaps light for its style) though it is slightly creamy and its high alcohol percentage is slightly evident both in taste and in the smoothing/warming sensations in the mouth.  My first sip could almost be described as syrupy, though this diminishes as the beer does and the warmth becomes more present as the glass goes on.

It is a very nice beer, but my lack of any other quadrupel frame of reference makes me rate it against other Belgians and strictly my own tastes.  I see the complexity of this style and did enjoy drinking this beer, but would not buy it regularly.  It is a treat, but perhaps not my favourite treat.  B+

The gem I once again save for last.  The Trappistes Rochefort 8, a dubbel with 9.2% ABV, delighted me (and I intend to pick up some more alongside the 10 for the pending quad comparison).

This dubbel pours a nice beige head with good retention that offers a very smooth, creamy lace.  It presents a nice deep, dark brown colour with semi-cloudiness.

On the nose, aromas ranged from stronger hints of hearty bread, sweet figs and molasses to lighter semblances of chocolate and bananas.

Taste-wise, look for a delicious fruity malt characterized by sweet figs, though not to the exclusion of a drying finish.  On the tongue, this delicious beer is finely balanced between a creaminess and a prickly carbonation which masks the high alcohol very well!

After the quad, my first taste of this beer was underwhelmed, if pleasant, but by the end of the glass I was licking my chops in delight, such that I ordered another.  Unlike many high-alcohol brews, this one just gets sweeter and tastier and by the end of my second I was even more thrilled with the beer and, as I had devoured three 9%+ beers, my notes become less legible (which is odd, since I typed them into my phone)!  Regardless, the Rochefort 8 is easily my favourite Belgian and favourite Trappist beer so far, and ranks among my favourite beers in general. A+

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