Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: A jazzy abbey-style, and a peek at OctoberBy JIM BEAUREGARD August 16. 2017 12:29AM
I spotted a beer at the grocery store that I’ve had and liked before, but not written about in quite some time, so thought it would be worth a look.
As I’ve mentioned in some recent columns about Belgian ales, their style is used in many a New World craft brewery, and no longer specific to Belgium or northwestern Europe in general. Belgian abbey ales — that is to say, those that are made in Trappist abbeys of certain rigor — are few in number, and they’re the only ones that can officially refer to themselves by the name.
But anyone who wants to can attempt the style, as in a “Belgian style abbey ale,” and that’s what we have today in Brother Thelonious Belgian-Style Abbey Ale from the North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg, Calif.
Yes, it’s named for jazz great Thelonious Monk. The brewers are lovers of jazz, and in fact for every bottle sold they make a donation to the education programs of the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz.
Brother Thelonious is 9.4 percent alcohol by volume and comes in a 750 mL bottle. It’s under a champagne cork, so use due caution while opening.
The beer is more in the ballpark of a Belgian double than a triple, a dark amber ale, some brown, with a medium-sized creamy head not quite as big as you would expect for a Belgian ale, but still respectable. The nose is malty, but there is some hops poking through. It is dry on the palate, with a good strong malt profile that includes caramel, giving the beer just the slightest impression of sweetness. It’s certainly not a sugary sweet blend by any stretch of the imagination, just good strong caramel flavor, along with bread, grain, and some toasty notes. It’s got medium bitterness and the alcohol is very well integrated — doesn’t feel hot at all. The body is medium plus, and has a certain silky feel to it. Very good flavor intensity. Long finish. A very good beer.
The other issue we must contend with today is that as we pass the middle of August, we are now in striking distance of October. As any beer lover knows, October means Oktoberfest. A German festival, it celebrates harvest time and the good things of the earth. The Germans, having both punctuality but also foresight, actually begin celebrating in September (at the end of the month), but the party continues into October.
To that end, I would like to mention the recently released Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest from the California brewing company of the same name. They have brewed this batch in conjunction with the German brewery and it sells as a six-pack (12-ounce bottles) for $9.99. Weighing in at 6.1 percent ABV , the beer has a fairly large white head that diminishes fairly quickly, though frothy while it lasts. Gold beer with a good strong malt nose, medium plus intensity that brings aromas of bread, cereal, caramel. There are some hops on the nose as well. The beer itself is dry, with medium bitterness and acidity, well-integrated alcohol, whatever the level is, medium body and medium texture with a flavor profile that captures the hops and the malt I mentioned above, as well as some spice flavors. A good beginning to the fall harvest.
Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com.