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Beer, Cider, & Sake

Strong Belgian dark ale blind tasting

TombstoneShadow | Nov 23, 201309:34 AM     26

In these previous posts I reported on a growing fondness for dark Belgian strong ales:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922625

So I did a blind tasting of the following last night:

Chimay Blue Grand Reserve
Gouden Carolus Cuvee de Keizer Blauw
Gulden Draak (plain white bottle, not the 9000)
Maudite (a Quebec-brew in Belgian style "with spices")
Rochefort Trappistes 8
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

I had really high hopes for this entire lot and was somewhat surprised by the tasting results. Actual notes follow:

Brew 1: Nice, smooth, rich. Carmelly-delish.

Brew 2: Okay too... think I like 1 better... there's kind of an off-putting nasty flavor note that gets in the way of an otherwise interesting brew...

Brew 3: Dry, barely bitter-sweet. More in the pale-ale flavor spectrum. [ was surprised by this]

Brew 4: Okay... a hit of spice a-la a hefe-weizen... not really craving this.

Brew 5: Again, bitter-sweet, more pale-aleish. Nothing bad, nothing great.

[note to the pale-ale comments, I'm really seeking a go-to sweetish carmelly brew as a go-to dark Belgian, so even if these pale-aleish brews are "right", they really aren't what I'm looking for. Had a ditto experience with a Triple tasting I reported on earlier]

Brew 6: Nice, rounder flavor... not as carmelly as 1 but overall competitive.

FINAL first tasting round notes: 1 and 6 are definitely the stand-outs. 1 is what I'm looking for, 6 is slightly weaker but with an intriguing spicey edge.

NOW to reveal the results to myself:

Brew 1: Gulden Draak !!!!!!!!!!!! My palate is at least consistent, I've done nothing but love this beer since a bartender first suggested I try it since she was out of something else (best drinking serendipity in a while. Report on that non-blind tasting here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/921520

Brew 2: Cuvee de Keizer

Brew 3: Chimay Grande Reserve

Brew 4: Maudite

Brew 5: St. Bernardus Christmas

Brew 6: Trappistes Rochefort 8

*****************************************
Follow-up (non-blind) tasting... so I sip on these brews for the remainder of the evening with the following additional tasting notes:

2nd TASTING:

"6 is pretty solid, getting better in the glass"

"2 has mellowed out, lost those nasty notes... as if it needed a de-canting of sorts...." [Note this beer comes well locked-up under pressure in a champagne-like bottle]... and it's been a favorite of mine in other tastings.

"3 still negligible"

"4, nothing evolves"

"5 okay, not that great"

"6 is really nice"

3rd TASTING

"2 is seriously evolving", "6 tasting &^%$# good!"
******************************
So, bottom line, Gulden Draak was the monster from the get-go with Rochefort 8 and Cuvee de Keizer also very nice, with Cuvee needing some time out of the bottle. BTW, this was 2013 Cuvee, I recently tried a 2011 which was delish (a smaller bottle, not in the champagne bottle).

Friends of mine at the tasting also really enjoyed these brews, especially the G-D and Cuvee.

My surprise at these results was that I expected all of these to be in the "dark carmelly" flavor mold... some were as noted, while other very "highly rated" brews were surprisingly much closer to a regular pale ale (or pale belgian ale) at least to my palate.

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