For the second beer in my Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection series, I’m trying out Thirteenth Hour. It’s called “A Dark Belgian-Style Stout with Notes of Spice, Coffee, Chocolate, & Oak.” So, what does that actually mean? There’s a bit of oak in the nose, with some traditional Belgian fruit. The middle is mostly Belgian strong dark ale, with cherries, plums, prunes, and a bit of brown sugar, but then some stout flavors start to come through in the finish…Chocolate and coffee, and a big kick of vanilla from the oak. There’s still tart fruit all the way to the very end so you never forget this is predominately a Belgian, but the malty notes of a big English stout are a fun twist and they blend well; this is a nicely executed beer. The 9.0% ABV is more typical of a Belgian Strong Dark ale than a stout, and it hides nicely and is never boozy. This is another very nice beer.
I give it a 4.3 out of 5.
Delirium Nocturnum is another Belgian Strong Pale Ale from the Huyghe Family Brewery, also the makers of Delirium Tremens which I’ve reviewed before. This is a fabulous Belgian brew that doesn’t have the huge rich dark fruit of many other strong dark ales. Not that it isn’t huge and rich, it just has a flavor profile that goes in a different direction. The nose is yeasty, with licorice and aniseed, and it is fruity, but the fruits are more along the lines of pear and apple rather than the plums and prunes and raisins that are typical of the style. The middle continues this theme with tart apple and sweet pear followed by a bit of herbal bitterness, and then a hint of chocolate. The finish is dry, big, boozy, and spicy with a bit peppery heat. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol level is significant at 8.5% ABV. This is a really nice, and somewhat different example of my favorite style.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
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.