I love Belgian beer. Witbiers, Trappist quads, saisons, Flemish brown ales… Belgium is to beer what Japan is to animation.
While there are many Trappist “style” beers out there, only six monasteries actually qualify for the designation. One of them is Trappistes Rochefort, and like most of the Trappist breweries they offer three beers. Tonight I had a bottle of the Trappistes 8 at Le Trappe, the fabulously atmospheric beer cellar in North Beach, San Francisco. The “8” is a Belgian Strong Ale, 9.25% ABV – their “middle” beer if you will. And it’s a stunner.
As you would expect, this is a deep reddish brown beer, which pours with a surprisingly robust tan head which dissipates quickly into a remnant of lace. The nose is one of dried fruits and a little smoke. Mouthfeel is full and soft, creamy with a moderate carbonation. Initial taste impressions are of dark chocolate, bittersweet and rich, followed by a strong rush of dried fruit – figs, perhaps? As the beer develops in the glass (and always at Le Trappe you get the appropriate glass) the dried fruit is joined by a hint of licorice and smoke, and always present is that bready Belgian yeast. With all the fruit and chocolate there isn’t much sweetness here – just an incredibly deep and complex array of flavors that begs to be sipped slowly on a cool evening.