Although most people have been rejoicing at the early arrival of the summer weather, I have been in denial. While, like most graduate students, I rarely see natural sunlight, I also happen to like the darker months and the rich beer styles that are typically served in cool weather. This week I decided to have one last fling with dark beer before I give in to the weather and start buying double IPAs.
The beer I chose this week is St. Bernardus Abt 12. This beer is brewed in the town of Watou in West Flanders, Belgium. This brew was originally prepared by monks of the St. Sixtus Trappist Monastery, who moved to this remote location in the late 19th century to escape an anti-clerical movement in France. The monks moved back to France after the war, and in 1945 they decided to stop selling their own beer. The brewery has continued on even though it is no longer allowed to use the Trappist name; “Trappist beer” is now considered to only apply to beer brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery. The beers brewed in Watou are thus technically “abbey style” beers.
This style of beer should be poured into a tulip or goblet. I recommend pairing this beer with red meat. Given the strong malt profile I think it will go well with grilled food, especially a good dry rub. Stronger, sharper cheeses will pair well, as anything too creamy will clash with the sweetness. A blue cheese like Stilton will also go well, as will most savory foods.
The beer poured a hazy and translucent golden brown, almost dark enough to be opaque. The head formed as a half a finger of light tan foam, which dissipated quickly, leaving almost no lacing behind as the beer was consumed. The aroma was very sweet with a dark, bready malt nose, but also contained some fruity notes such as cherry and grape and a noticeable alcohol character. The body was quite thick, coating the mouth and lingering after the beer was swallowed. The carbonation was quite high, which helped offset the thick body. This combination rendered the beer pleasant to drink but still thick and heavy. The taste was very malt focused but lacking entirely in roasted character, which is good for this style. The malt profile was quite sweet with some caramel and toffee highlights that really expanded the flavor, giving it plenty of depth. Also present were hints of cherry, a low level of chocolate, and just some hints of lemon, which accented the taste beautifully.
Overall, I thought that this beer was very smooth, especially for a quad, and far more balanced than I expected. I highly recommend trying this beer, especially to those who tried Guinness and then decided that they do not like dark beers.