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Brother Thelonious - North Coast Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Brother TheloniousBrother Thelonious

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

2,340 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,340
Reviews: 944
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 13.76%
Wants: 48
Gots: 208 | FT: 4
Brewed by:
North Coast Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Belgian Strong Dark Ale |  9.40% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
"Vital Statistics

Style: Belgian Style Strong Dark
Color: Dark mahogany
ABV: 9.4%
Bitterness: 32 IBU's"

(Beer added by: sloejams on 05-04-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,340 | Reviews: 944 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of TheBungyo
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%

Much thanks to Clickpush for including this in a recent trade. A big expensive beer like this is his generous idea of an extra!

Pours a gorgeous ruby brown with a crown of brown foam. I'd say the head is about an inch and a half. Sadly, it departs before I can take a sip.

Nose is strange. At first I don't smell much of anything ... later on I get rum, cherry syrup, and brown sugar. And even later I don't smell anything again. Odd.

Taste is again cherries (not tart and only mildly sweet), a certain "meatiness" that isn't totally unpleasant, caramel, and minor brown sugar. I dig it like Mr T.

There was a lot of fizzing going on during the pour but the mouth was just about on the money.

I would definitely buy this again, and hopefully the reports that this will be making it's way to Seattle are true so I can!

TheBungyo, Sep 10, 2006
Photo of dgallina
3.2/5  rDev -15.3%

750ml brown bottle without freshness date.

Pours luminous red-tinged brown. Small film of of-white head with good lacing. Smells darkly fruity and grainy. Alcoholic grapes, plums and a hint of coffee malt in the background. Dry and slightly bitter alcoholic grape flavor up front. Fades quickly to a somewhat acerbic toasted caramel and coffee malt finish. Medium-heavy and sticky body with light carbonation. Pretty peculiar and somewhat lacking for a Belgian-style dark ale.

dgallina, Sep 10, 2006
Photo of taez555
4/5  rDev +5.8%

Caged and corked 750ml, opened with a small pop.

This beer poured an opaque brownish body with a small but thick white head.

Nose was a mix of classic belgian dark smells. Ripe dark fruits, plums, raisins, dark candy sugar, phenols, yeast, coco powder, maple syrup and dates.

Medium to full bodied with a creamy and somewhat course mouth-feel. A mixture of dark malt flavors. Dark ripe fruits, plums, raisins, caramel, lots of dark sugars, some toasted malt with faint touches of vanilla. A surprisingly bitter beer that I could completely see mellowing out with age. Alcohol is very present and comes out nicely as it warms giving just a touch of alcohol warmth without being overpowering.

Sort of like brother thelonious's music. Classic all the way around but a bit rough around the edges. Straight, no chaser. Really a very good beer though. Right up there with classic belgians like chimay, but just... rougher. Some aging could do it well, but it's still a very nice beer.

taez555, Sep 09, 2006
Photo of watermelonman
3.78/5  rDev 0%

This poured to a nice dark ruby color with a small head. Lace is minimal.

The smell is mostly of dark malts. Some minor esters and yeast comes through too. The taste starts with dark malts and esters, with a bit of alcohol coming through in the end. The mouthfeel is fairly sharp, while drinkability is pretty good.

watermelonman, Sep 07, 2006
Photo of ADR
4.3/5  rDev +13.8%

Deep and dark translucent burgundy-brown appearance, rock-solid tan head of over 1/2 an inch. Laces in scattered patches. Malty aroma, not particularly yeasty, lots of pears and syrup. Mouthfeel is thick, carbonation lower, giving a nice smooth impression. Flavor works well for my tastes, deeply fruity with a candied sense, approaching a sweeter mincemeat with some tangy and spicey offshoots. The finish is especially nice, chocolate and a full sense without an astringent twang or any fall-off in body. This one works well for me, nice North American rendition, and one of the few examples when I seem to like it MORE than most of the others putting in their thoughts. There is a somewhat odd mothball kind of thing on warming, but its not as bad as that seems or pronounced. The whole Thelonious angle, fine but probably mostly for jazz posers

ADR, Sep 04, 2006
Photo of kmpitz2
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%

750 ml. This one pours a nice murky dark brown color with orange highlites. There is a light head over top that falls to a patchy coat that stays around nicely. The brew has a light carbonation that works up, and clarity is moderate. The aroma is nice, with a moderate raisin malt, with big spicey notes and some banana esters as well. I'd like to see more maltyness in this one. The flavor is definately dominated with the esters, with the spiceyness associated with the yeast playing second string to this. The dark fruits from the malts are in the background, but still detectable. I was a little overwhelmed by the esters in this bottle. The feel is thick, with a lighter carbonation. It is not too filling though. Overall, this is not a bad beer at all. I have had it on tap and I would take that over the bottle any day, as it didn't seem to have the same estery profile. This is good, but the fruity esters are way too much for me.

kmpitz2, Sep 01, 2006
Photo of SilentSabre
2.95/5  rDev -22%

I wasn't terribly impressed with this offering from North Coast. It looked quite nice, pouring a dark bronze red colour with a khaki coloured foamy head. The head stayed around for a long time, and left wonderful, thick lacing on the sides of the glass. Smell was sweet malts, alcohol, and stewed fruit, and in that order. Taste was aggressively sweet, followed by assertive alcohol. In fact, the finish, as well as the taste left in one's mouth several seconds after swallowing a sip, is quite alcoholic. Almost like someone took something like Gulden Draak and put just a pinch of sugar and a half a shot of vodka in it. I think this could benefit from lying down for 15 - 24 months. You could do much worse, and I certainly won't pour it away, but if I buy another, I'll cellar it for sometime.

SilentSabre, Aug 31, 2006
Photo of Foxman
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%

It pours with a murky light brown core inside a halo of garnet. Two fingers of pithy beige head swell, then drain to a fuzzy quilt. Crystals of lacing frost the inside of the glass.

The aroma grants a sweet grain aura, with caramel, vanilla, raisin, and green apple. Yeast is tangy and bready, and alcohol bubbles through a thin layer of spice.

Upon tasting, there arrives a toasted grain sweetness, briefly flashing caramel and sloe, then becoming more vinous, reminiscent of port. The yeast is muted, but fairly doughy and slightly tangy. Alcohol is hotter here, and virtually spirit-like, The grain comes back, mildly tart and sweet, and the finish lingers with a mellow minty and dry clove bitterness. It's not bad, but it feels disjointed and not so much blended as tossed together.

Medium bodied, it coats capably, and has a fair lingering presence, but the carbonation is punchy and too present.

The name is a nice memorial, but while the beer is fairly present, I can't help but feel it falls short of where they were aiming. The style itself sets some lofty expectations that many beers meet and exceed, but this one doesn't quite get there. Still, it mostly suffers by comparison. The ABV kicks and is hotly apparent, and serves a minor challenge to the drinkability. So, it's not as otherworldly as its namesake, and while that's to be expected, it's just not up to its name.

Foxman, Aug 31, 2006
Photo of JulieRFoster
3.03/5  rDev -19.8%

First of all, kudos to the oustanding naming of this beer. If Thelonious Monk was a beer, he would definitely be a Belgium strong dark ale. However, I'm not sure this beer does credit to the artist...

Bilious creamy toasted head tests the very laws of physics on the rim of my glass. Tight and thick lacing coats the sides. The head eventually falls to gracefully dusting the surface, like frost on a frozen lake.
The color is a deep burnt umber with warmer red tones. It’s very dark, but not quite opaque.
Nose is VERY sweet with quite a bit of alcohol up front. An almost bourbon smell, as if it was aged in a bourbon cask. A little black cherry in the nose as well. The smell is very powerful, but almost indiscernible and monster scents meld together.

The taste is smooth and warm; a tad sour and reminds me of hig-caliber whisky (single malt, aged 12 years) or calvados. The flavor is very rich, sweet and smokey. Tangy, like sweet bbq sauce.

Light carbonation, with a medium-to-light mouthfeel. Poor drinkability, as it’s excessively sweet and alcoholic (even for a Belgium strong ale, which is hard to imagine) and the alcohol goes straight to your head, and leaves you feeling like a booze hound.
The first sip is delicious, but it’s hard to polish off the glass. Get a half pint of this one and relish the first few sips – then pass it around to your friends.

JulieRFoster, Aug 25, 2006
Photo of Gavage
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%

Appearance: clear dark brown in color with a 1" head that lingers a bit. Light lacing develops.

Smell: caramel sweetness, yeast spiciness, and a bit of licorice.

Taste: caramel, light chocolate tones, raisins, prunes, and a touch of cherries. This is a bit bready, and the yeast provides a bit of spiciness along with a bit of licorice. Alcohol is barely noticeable.

Mouthfeel: lightly crisp at the start, smooth and dry at the finish. Medium-heavy in body. Short aftertaste.

Drinkability: pretty good in my opinion. This abbey ale is a nice version that hits the spot when you are in the mood for the style.

Gavage, Aug 25, 2006
Photo of rhoadsrage
3.3/5  rDev -12.7%

(Served in a Chalice)

A- This beer has a mahogany brown dense body that is clear and lets some light in through the bottom of the bowl. There is a strong carbonation of tiny bubbles that supports a light tan head for a bit. The head fades to a thin film but there is some decent lacing with each sip.

S- The smell of sweet toasted malt is blended with notes of caramel, a faint hint of dark fruit and a finish of brown sugar. Each aroma is note distinct from one another but they are all blended into one smell giving less depth that in they were more separated.

T- The muted malt flavors has notes of toffee and a dry carbonic finish. There is a light fusel bite in with the malt flavors. As it warms there is a note of prunes in the fizz finish. This beer is note sweet or as complex as the smell was, and could use more flavor of malts.

M- This beer his light in the mouthfeel with a fizz texture in the finish and there is some alcohol heat as the beer warms a bit.

D- This beer is not really complex or all that interesting for a big beer of this style (Abbey Ale) with 9% alcohol.

rhoadsrage, Aug 23, 2006
Photo of Gueuzedude
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%

Sampled August 2006
As I pours this brew it shows a brilliantly clear, brown amber color, as it sits in my glass though it is a dark, opaque, reddish tinged deep brown color. The head is frothy and the color of creamed / frothed maple syrup, that is to say it is a amberish, dark tan color. The aroma is quite fruit focused up front; notes of raisins, figs, and concord grapes mix together to form a rich, concentrated fruitiness. The fruit is just slightly balanced by a hint of spicy clove, and a maltiness towards the finish that is a blend of toasted grain, and caramelized malt. This finishes with just a touch of alcohol; the combination of fruit and alcohol makes me think of rum, or perhaps a cherry liquor, or better yet a sweet plum wine.

Sweet up front, with an initial light chocolate note that quickly gives way to an intense concentrated fruit note. Notes of prunes are prominent, but right underneath this is a large amount of more traditional malt flavors. Notes of caramelized raisins intermingle with a touch of toasted grain and, of course, that note of lightly bittered chocolate. This beer has some definite fermentation character as well. Of course there is the amped up fruit notes, but there is also quite a bit of clove here, as well as an earthy spiciness. The clove is quite prevalent, yet because of the sweetness & fruitiness of this beer it only plays a supporting role. Other spice notes seem to be a mix of allspice, a touch of ginger, something a bit like coriander, and even a hint of cola-like cardamom. As this beer warms up a bit the earthy, coriander-like note becomes a bit more noticeable. It helps to add some balance to the dominant sweet fruitiness, but that is still "dominant".

This is quite an interesting take on this Belgian inspired brew. Quite a bit sweeter than many, though in truth I have had quite a few increasingly sweet examples from Belgium, so perhaps I should say it is sweeter than my favorite examples. This does strike a nice richness to it, and is quite an appropriate way to end off an evening of culinary indulgence. This beer hides its strength fairly well. Also it is fairly light despite the sweet fruit character. Certainly an enjoyable tipple and I think I might just need to stash a few of these away to see how they age over time.

Gueuzedude, Aug 20, 2006
Photo of ithacabaron
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%

Pours an absolutely beautiful deep, glowing scarlet red into my glass. Perfectly clear. Wonderful. The head is minimal, and it fizzes away, but with a brew of this strength, that's not a shock. Would have liked a little more lacing as I drank however, as what was there was spotty and sparse at best.

Aroma is Crystal malt sweetness, with an overlay of plums, and slight, dusty yeast. Not a wower, but not bad. Some inappropriate fusels.

Taste is tobacco, papaya, date sugar, a dash of lactic acid, and a flintiness/steel-beam stiffness that comes from my tastebuds being exposed to high alcohol levels. For what it's worth, however, this doesn't give off a great amount of "heat" in the mouth.

Mouthfeel is a little bit prickly, a little snappy. Lots of individual points, instead of a steady "blanket" of carbonation.

Drinkability is pretty good, although the 9% starts to make you feel a little flushed as the bottle gets emptied. Definately one to share with a friend.

In short, I'd call this a Quad before a Belgie Dark Strong, but it's Tomato, Tomahto. Not bad, not bad at all. I'd certainly have Monk at my table again.

Thanks to nrrd for the bottle!

ithacabaron, Aug 19, 2006
Photo of rajendra82
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%

Out of the 750 ml. bomber, and into the St. Bernardus chalice, this Belgian style Abbey Ale poured out deep red. The head however was quite small, and not anything like the overflowing glass that Mr. Thelonious Monk is shown holding on the label. The aroma was a mix of floral and sweet smells, with a hint of spice. It smelled quite strong at first, but after starting the sipping, it became less aromatic. The taste was quite a bit tamer than the real Abbey Ales. I could detect some brow sugar, raisins, and chocolate, but everything was marred by the thin body, and the ever present alcohol. This beer was quite a bit less filling than I was hoping for, and lacked the complexity that the best Belgian style beers exhibit. On the plus side, it was quite easy to drink. In the end this felt like a sweet and alcoholic ale, with little else to remember it by.

rajendra82, Aug 19, 2006
Photo of ViveLaChouffe
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%

Pours a deep reddish brown with a 1/4 inch tan head. Head dissipates to a wisp and leaves no lacing on the goblet. Cherry and rich malty aromatics eminate from the glass. Hints of oaky vanilla.

Taste is the same rich tones as the smell. Hint of alcohol, a bit of port. Lots of sour cherry and rich malt. A bit less body than you would expect. More medium bodied than heavy. The flavors don't quite mesh. Maybe with age? Mixed feelings on this one but not a bad Belgian-style American ale.

ViveLaChouffe, Aug 14, 2006
Photo of Franchise
4.13/5  rDev +9.3%

Pours a dark brown murky in appearance with a thin tan head. The aroma is brown sugar, cinnamon, cookies, vanilla, malty and fresh. The taste starts syrupy thick, with a pancake syrup sweetness balanced quickly with a bitter hop spiciness that is delicious. This is a quality brew but a little heavy on the sweetness needs more hop balance IMO but good brew overall.

Franchise, Aug 10, 2006
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%

(On-tap at the Brick Store Pub).

Appearance: What a beaut! Crimson red hue capped with a rather sturdy tan-colored head.

Smell: Suitably rich, yeasty aroma consisting of bananas, cherries, and spice layered with a pleasing malt presence.

Taste: Hefty malt sweetness upfront with notes of chocolate, brown sugar, almonds, and more cherries (providing just a tinge of tartness). Ends with just a soft touch of pepper in the otherwise sweet, lingering finish. Never really delivers any substantial hop bitterness or flavors.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, and surpassingly soft on the palate.

Drinkability: Are you up for a decent American attempt at a Belgium style? This can be that beer. It will be that beer.

ChainGangGuy, Aug 09, 2006
Photo of edchicma
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%

Pours a dark, red caramel with a half-inch head supported by carbonation. Smell is yeast, malt, cherries..very nice. Taste is a bit sour..cherry-like...alcohol elements..a bit harsher tha expected, expecially with the aromas present. Mouthfeel suffers from the alcohol notes and unexpected tartness. Drinkability also suffers because of the above mentioned characteristics. Not really a great value at $7.99 a bottle. Suggest anything else in the Unibroue line as a substitute.

edchicma, Aug 07, 2006
Photo of weeare138
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%

On tap at TDR Exton...
Appears a dark murky toned brown with red hue toned edges when held to the light. A lush, light tan head that starts off as a 3 finger cap slowly fades into a mild, rocky cap. Scattered lace is left around the glass.
Smell is of sugary caramel, brown sugar, raisins, and Belgian yeast.
Taste is of the aromas with a rich, maple syrup infused, malty, brown sugar, and bready yeast taste.
Mouthfeel is of a boozy abv punch up front with a sugary candy presense that is enticing at first, leading to a Belgian, sugary yeast that blankets the palate.

weeare138, Aug 07, 2006
Photo of AlexJ
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%

An agressive pour into my St. Bernardus goblet reveals a deep mahogany brown brew touched by shades of burgundy. An initially creamy dense head of light mocha looks great at first, but lasts only minutes. It's perfectly clear and inspection of the bottle tells me that this is not bottle conditioned, strange for this style.

Aroma is toffee malts and brown sugar, sweet stewed plums, cherry jam, raisin bread, and light fruity yeast notes. It's nice and actually smells Belgian, but is definately not very complex.

Flavor is abundant malt notes of toffee, buttered raisin toast, dark dried fruit, stewed berries, light yeast spice, clove, and some peppery and earthy hops in the finish. Better as it warms, it reminds me of a homebrewed clone of Chimay Grand Reserve.

Body is on the big side and feels dense and chewy, not quite the right texture for this style. It has light carbonation and the last glass felt a bit lifeless. A hot bite of alcohol makes this one a sipper. A nice effort from North Coast.

AlexJ, Aug 06, 2006
Photo of jmz62565
2.95/5  rDev -22%

This beer pours a clear dark red mahogony with a huge tan foamy head. There is a ton of carbonation in this beer. The smell is weak with only abit of candy sugar and malt detectable. The taste is malty with an alcohol presence along with dark fruit and a "bisquity" flavor. The m/f is light,but the flavors don't mix all that well. This is a beer that I was disappointed with. I was excited to see this in the store,but it didn't live up to North Coasts usual high standards.

jmz62565, Aug 06, 2006
Photo of RoyalT
4.28/5  rDev +13.2%

Appearance – This is a solid brown in color with a rather smallish head on a hard pour.

Smell – The deep, rich yeast is always my favorite and made up for the lack of a good appearance. It’s dark and doughy and dominates the nose.

Taste – The big malty yeast comes out in spades at the taste. It is very bready like undercooked toast. There’s a light yeasty sweetness as well.

Mouthfeel – This is big in the mouth but shy of full-bodied. The carbonation is light and tickling on the cheeks. It shows a light bitterness just at the very end as you’re walking away from the glass.

Drinkability – This is my kind of BSDA. It’s big but not gianormous, heavy on the yeast, and goes down smoothly.

RoyalT, Aug 04, 2006
Photo of cbl2
2.55/5  rDev -32.5%

$7.99 750 mL 9.00% No best by date.


Poured with vigor this dark brown ale with hints of ruby produces a quarter inch of tan foam that rapidly settles in my chalice.


Malty sweet, but punctuated by an odor of rotten wood and alcohol.


Coarse biting mouthfeel, there really isn't much more to this beer. Once the carbonation settles all that is left is a mildly bitter, mildly sweet bland mess.

I feel bad for the Thelonious Monk institute of Jazz which is associated with this beer, and only receives $2 for every CASE of this swill sold. I'll finish the bottle, but I won't be trying this again anytime soon.

cbl2, Aug 02, 2006
Photo of andjusticeforale
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%

This poured and looked so close to a st. b. abt 12 that i was getting excited as the brown gray hit my Duvel tulip and tan froth emerged. The smell also, vanilla banana clove; I could smell belgian yeast; I really was impressed; I have had the North Coast pranqster and I fould the yeast smell similar here.

THe beginining and middle were terrific, alcohol, huge malt, some faint sweetness and fruit; big yeasty embodiment of a big mouthfeel. But perhaps its the water, the finish had a bit of a harshness, almost astringent ripcord at the end to wake you up out of this Belgian dream. As the beer sat the carbonation subsided and unlike some other BSD's this did not do exactly "well" with warming up .

A great american effort though, And I will by this one again.

andjusticeforale, Aug 02, 2006
Photo of scooter231
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%

Quite a pretty brew, ruby colored cola with a creamy eggshell colored head, and fairly nice lacing. Smell is awesome- reminds me quite a bit of Ommegang. Dark fruits, nothing too sweet, with some coffee notes in the background. Fair amount of malts and breadyness. Taste is kind of harsh, alcohol wise. More dark fruits, lots of malts, a bit of roastedness. This just tastes like it might be a bit too young, still a bit too harsh on the alcohol level. Mouthfeel is a bit thin for me, and flat-ish, but chewy enough. Drinkability wise, it's a Belgian, it doesn't suck, but it's just a bit too young...

scooter231, Jul 24, 2006
Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing Co.
85 out of 100 based on 2,340 ratings.