Ale Monk

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some time ago, I traded some beers with ATK regular The Infamous Roger (who, by now, should be brewing his ass off at Bear Republic, if I'm not mistaken). Roger sent me a thorough selection of excellent california beers and per his request I sent him some Michigan- and Midwest-made IPAs. Turns out there's a regional differenec in IPA construction.

I digress.

Over the next few weeks, I will post my notes on the beers I got from The Infamous Roger. This week's beer happens to be one I have wanted to try for a long time now: North Coast Brewery's Brother Thelonius.

My unlce, a jazz aficionado, got his hands on some rarer-than-rare Thelonius Monk stuff, and I came to enjoy Thelonius more than I ever did before. One thing leads to another, I see North Coast has this beer, funny name, I like Thelonius Monk, I like Belgian Dubbels, I want this beer. And Roger delivered. But enough of the wind-up. Here's the pitch.

The Monk poured into the glass a rich Grand Piano mahogany, replete with a gorgeous haze that seems to refract light and a light effervescence that crawls heavenward giving thefeeling of a complex light show to accompany what will surely be sweet music. The pour yielded a dense one-finger head the color of cream and the consistency of meringue. As I quaffed the elixir, it left a signature "Belgian Lace" all the way down the glass. The stage was set, the band was ready.

My nose danced to the tune played out as nuts, raisins, plums, roses and cloves pciked up. Alcohol was present just enough to make the dance a little less self-conscious. Toasted malt joined in as well as just enough funk to make it interesting. Top it off with a hint of chocolate, I didn't know if I could keep up.

And then things got hot. The club was hopping. Dried cherries, raisins, and chocolate kicked this tune into high-gear. The alcohol burn was enough to lubricate my bravado just enough to not care where the dance took me. Caramel came in at just the right moment, and got balanced with the pepper-and-rose I remember from the start of the song. This tune balances towards the malted side, leaving the hops as more of an afterthought - maybe that hint of a minor note in the chord.

This is as full-bodied as you get before you slip away from this jazz and get into some deep modern-era classical compositions. But for as much going on in here, it's smooth, not hot. Smooth and savvy.

This beer met all of my expectations as I sipped the very last drop and set down the glass. I was expended but felt satisfied, not tired or bored. Elated, not exhausted. Great music like this will do that to you.


Bob 9:01 AM  

Dang. Excellent review as always.

The beer may not be available in Michigan, but the review wants me to drop in some 'Monk when I get home.

George 2:05 PM  

I think I need a cigarette. And I don't smoke.

Christian 7:46 AM  

Just read a piece on Trappist ales. Interesting. Are they that much better than abbeys?

Smitty 10:17 PM  

Technically, a Trappist Ale is an Abbey Ale, at least as far as I understand the history. An Abbey Ale refers to beers brewed in Monasteries. A Trappist Ale is from one of the particular sects (the Trappist monks). So the "difference," as I understand it, is the difference between a Trappist abbey ale and any other abbey ale.

Smitty 10:20 PM  

The perceived "superiority" of Trappists over other abbey ales is more a question of popularity and superior marketing; in fact, many people consider one of the most popular Trappist Dubbels and Tripels, Westmalle, to be overrated.

For my own personal taste, I'll take Corsendonk Pater Abbey Brown Ale (a Dubbel) over Westmalle's dubbel any day.

Mike 6:41 PM  

I agree. "Trappist" means nothing more than the fact that Trappist monks (whatever the hell they are) brewed the ale. Other than Chimay, I haven't been blown away by the five or seven or whatever the number is "official" trappist ales.

Not only will I take non-trappist Belgians over Westmalle or Orval, but I'll take Ommegang over Chimay: just as good (though different) and significantly cheaper.

Christian 8:43 PM  

I haven't experienced any of the Abbey's yet. They tend to be heavier, more full beverages, right? Not bitter so much?

I'm picturing cream of wheat in a bottle. In a good way.

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