Brother Thelonious is the perfect marriage of Belgian ale and jazz. I love Belgian beer, and I love jazz, so North Coast Brewing’s Brother Thelonious, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale named after jazz great Thelonious Monk has a special place in my heart. This beer pours a rich dark golden brown with a champagne-like head that doesn’t hang around very long. The nose is mild and Belgian in character, with some apricot, plum, and yeast notes. The middle ticks all the right boxes but with flavors that are brighter and less subtle than you’d often see in a traditional Belgian offering. It’s fruity and malty with plum, cherry, and vanilla. These are the things you’d expect from a prototypical Belgian Strong Dark Ale, though there’s a bit of artificiality to it, as if the cherry were of the maraschino variety rather than picked fresh off a tree, for instance. The alcohol (9.4% ABV) comes through strongly in the finish giving it some heat, and there’s a bit of prune in there at the end as well. All of the characteristics are right, but the execution here is just a bit off. This is a fun beer and I enjoy it for the marketing tie-in with jazz and the style they’ve chosen, but it’s not what I’d want to use to introduce someone to the Belgian Strong Dark Ale style. North Coast Brewing is an outstanding brewery, and they have some amazing beers, but this isn’t one of their best.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5.