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Brother Thelonious - North Coast Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Brother TheloniousBrother Thelonious

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

988 Reviews

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Reviews: 988
Hads: 2,735
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 12.17%
Wants: 70
Gots: 446 | FT: 6
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:
Beer added by: sloejams on 05-04-2006

"Vital Statistics

Style: Belgian Style Strong Dark
Color: Dark mahogany
ABV: 9.4%
Bitterness: 32 IBU's"
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 988 | Hads: 2,735
Photo of Lucular
3.67/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Update: 12-9-2014: My opinion is almost totally changed since my initial review earlier this year. Brother Thelonious is a good example of a Belgian strong dark ale, nothing mind-blowing, but quite tasty and enjoyable. I won't seek it out now that my original four-pack is gone but I realized I needed to update my review from the initial 2.15 score. Maybe my first bottle was somehow tainted because I don't see how I could have thought it was as bad as my first review said.

Original review: 7-26-2014: Appearance: Poured into a tulip glass. 1/2 inch head disappeared within a couple of minutes. Not bad but still disappointing for the style.

Smell: Bottle said to enjoy at 55 degrees. It was definitely colder than this when I poured, so given the 9.4% abv I was not surprised that the smell of alcohol predominated at first. No matter, I didn't want to drink it quickly so I had no trouble sipping slowly to allow it to warm up a bit. It was around 60 degrees by the time I was done. But it didn't help much--even at warmer temperatures all I could smell was alcohol and some coffee.

Taste: Not surprisingly, my first sips were all alcohol and burnt coffee. As the glass warmed up a bit it improved marginally. Overly sweet with some burnt toffee. Some spices that were overwhelmed by the alcohol. The lack of complexity is hard to believe until you've tasted it for yourself. I could barely detect some dark fruits--figs, raisins maybe?--struggling to come through without much success. This is such a fantastic style and this beer fails completely.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation was about right and at least the alcohol didn't give a burning sensation.

Overall: I'm not sure how I could enjoy this at any temperature.

The worst part is that I didn't even mean to purchase this beer. I bought a four-pack of Three Philosophers--at least that's what the carrier packaging said. I didn't look at the actual bottles at the store, and when I got home, lo and behold I was stuck with four of these. And now I have three more of them to suffer through. I'll update this review if the boozy Brother Thelonious somehow grows on me. (2,127 characters)

Photo of Phocion
3.81/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz. bottle poured into Westvleteren chalice. Dark cloudy mahogony with a finger of beige head which very quickly drops to a thin crown, but leaves substantial lacing.

Rich malty aroma. Complex caramel and toasted malts combine with an almost toffee-like candi sugar aroma. Strong dark fruity esters; fig, date, black cherry, etc. Lightly phenolic, but more of a black pepper than clove. Slightly alcoholic.

Flavor is sweet, but not cloyingly so. Mostly a combination of malts and candi sugar, along with some well-defined but not quite overpowering alcohol flavors. Very estery and with a bit of spice on the finish. Just a touch of dry, earthy hoppy bitterness as well.

Medium-heavy body and medium-high carbonation, but little "bite." Alcohol content definitely provides a bit of a warming sensation. Silghtly chewy.

Overall, this is a good American attempt at a BSDA. The flavors are all there but it's just lacking a little something. The yeast doesn't quite compare to a good Belgian version of this style, and the finish is a little too dry. On the plus side, I'm a jazz fan and at least the money I spent on this beer is going to a good cause. (1,157 characters)

Photo of Dsimenson
3.84/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bottle into a pilsner. No head, crystal clear medium brown color, no lacing. Aroma is fruity floral hops, and toasted malt. Flavor is toasted malt, fruit--figs, a bit of toffee and yeast, delicious and unique! Overall this is a very good to outstanding medium brown ale. Hint--drink it closer to room temperature, not ice cold. (341 characters)

Photo of Andrew041180
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A - Poured straight down the middle into a St. Bernardus goblet. The beer immediately produced a ton of light, fizzy bubbles that subsided very quickly. No lace. Glass was quite clean upon finishing the beer. The color is a deep brown mahogany. Tough to see through at that color, but it looked like it would have been fairly clear.

S - As expected, but fainter than I would like. Also with a bit of a mustiness that I sometimes detect in abbey-type beers.

T - The basics are there, but there are some flavors that I'm not too happy about around the edges. There was something of a metallic taste on the finish, as well as a musty flavor as well. The main thrust of the flavor is the typical kind of dark fruit that you would expect, although this was a bit lighter than I would like.

M - Decent at the start, but it seems like the carbonation left the beer all too quickly, producing a beer that was pretty thin and without substance. Should have drank this one colder and faster.

O - One and done for me. Lots of strong darks out there far better than this one. (1,067 characters)

Photo of burntoutphilosopher
4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A – dark ruby or deep amber colored. An off white head that holds well. I would like some sediment or cloudiness for an Abbey. This is very clear when held to light, with no Lees.
S – lightly roasted malt. Very soft… deceivingly so. You’d think it was a mild, flavorless ale at first whiff …
T- softly sweet …so smooth, with a caramel taste. What strikes me is the hops and malt both hit and last for the same time. Usually beers like this are sweet with a bitter after taste, this one, the flavors are so perfectly blended. It’s both sweet and bitter at the same time. It has a LOT of flavor, but not a noticeable alcohol presence. It really attacks the senses (in a good way). No aftertaste, washes cleanly away very quickly.
M – exactly what you’d think of an Abbey … like a 1554. I expected more thick sediment and syrupy texture, but this beer is of average viscosity. Lightly carbonated, and leaves no residue on the palette.

O – 9.4% alcohol, and you can’t even taste it. This is one of my favorite beers. I’ve had this about five times now. It’s sweeter than most beer I like, but it is so pleasantly so… some of these strong abbey’s can have almost a syrupy sweetness that is too much. But this is the most well balanced and blended beer of this style I’ve ever had. It is sweet… it’s supposed to be, but something in the smokey malt flavors really balance it. I don’t directly taste it and find ‘hops’ but there is some element of a dry bitterness there subtly in the background. It washes so cleanly, that it makes a great sipping beer. One of the few beers I consider too good to chug. (1,645 characters)

Photo of fgmiele
3.38/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Pours dark amber with a small lightly foamy head. Smell is boozy and fruity.. Can tell this is a strong ale. Cider-y. Flavor is bitey with booze but tastes sweet...almost a cane sugariness to it..definitely a dessert like barley wine. Mouthfeel is thin and boozy with some mild heat. Overall not this biggest barley wine fan..but this isn't bad. (345 characters)

Photo of Bouleboubier
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

(poured into a Steenbrugge goblet)

A: relatively clear, deep brownish-ruby hued liquid... head disappears as quickly as it forms

S: raisins, dark bread crust melanoidins, hint of molasses... brown, sugary rum... nice aromas, however, not terribly potent

T: raisin-y liqueur, brown sugar, dark rum... late molasses burnt bitterness... flavor of darker crystal malt kernels and their worty sweetness, toasted sugar melanoidins... ultra mild allspice in the aftertaste

M: fairly round, mildly velvety viscosity... FG around 1.020-1.025?... hardly any heat or burn even at 9.4%

O: overall, rough around the edges - looks-wise - but very nice flavors, despite lacking some dynamics and dimension (695 characters)

Photo of u2carew
3.61/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz stubby

A) Pours with a two finger head. Slightly off-white and settles to a nice lacing on top. Clear body. Mahogany in color.
S) Toasty notes of buttery caramel. Slight medicinal aroma. Hints of raisins.
T) Sweet malts. Raisin. Spicy notes - hints of clove, cinnamon. Boozy and finishes sugary sweet.
M) Medium body on the heavier side. Thin in the finish.
O) A Belgian Dubbel - no doubt. Just wish the taste profile was a bit more complex. (448 characters)

Photo of rangahy
4.24/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I heard about this abbey ale a few months ago while traveling in California. Unfortunately I had so much my palate during the trip I was never able to make time for a Brother Thelonious. Imagine my excitement when, soon after returning to the Ohio Valley, I spy a 4 pack sitting oh so obligingly in a local beer spot. I took her home, chilled it a bit but not too much and the rest, as they say is history. Sweet and Delicious, plus you can't beat that label. Who doesn't want to promote Jazz music? Nobody, that's who. (519 characters)

Photo of MickeyD
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poured from a 25oz bottle into a clean tulip

A: very dark reddish brown. Thick head two fingers with aggressive pour faded quickly.

S: sweet malt and cherries.

T: sweet cherry, bananas

M: good carbonation, thin and goes down easy leaves a slight warmth on the back of my throat.

O: Outstanding abby style ale. Very good representation of the style and helps a music that I love. Part of the proceeds go to promoting jazz organizations. (441 characters)

Photo of Mikus
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Haven't had one of these beauties in a while. Just a ton of delicious dark fruits, subtle funk, and warmth. Medium body. Crisp and clean with just a bit of a lingering yeasty note. Winner. (188 characters)

Photo of Ozzylizard
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle dated 07172013 at cellar temp into imperial pint
Aroma malt with spices
Head large (6.5 cm), creamy with rocks, light brown, rapidly diminishing,
Lacing none to spotty
Body a deep red-amber approaching garnet
Flavor begins with malt, spice and dark fruit, sweet, no diacetyl, no alcohol
Ends with a slight alcohol burn
Palate medium, creamy, carbonation lively

A decent Belgium-style ale I’m revisiting after 7 years. Very pleasant and easy drinking. (461 characters)

Photo of CowsandBeer
3.96/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into an Achel Trappist glass. No visible “bottled on” date. Purchased as part of a four pack on 01/12.

Appearance: Pours a finger and a half of soapy, bone colored head. Quickly fizzes away to a ring. Reddish brown body.

Aroma: When the beer was colder it reminded me of a boozy red wine. As it warmed, rich dark fruits, cherries, brown sugar, and a very nice breadyness came through. Pleasant perfumy alcohol.

Taste: Follows the nose with sticky sweet dark fruits, cherries, sweet bubblegum yeast and brown sugar. Same pleasant perfumy alcohol presence.

Mouthfeel: Very warming and sticky sweet. Prickly, peppery carbonation. Medium mouthfeel.

Overall: An enjoyable Abbey style ale. A very pleasant aroma and taste of dried fruits and sugary dark malts. The alcohol warmth makes itself known but only as a positive, “floral”addition. I’d like to try this aged on fresh oak or some kind of spent spirit barrel. (948 characters)

Photo of weltywm
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Deep ruby/purple, with at least two fingers of light tan foam.

Smell: Very ripe fruit: plums, cherries, and raisins.

Taste: More fruit: prunes and raisins, with other stonefruit present. A little bit of toasty malt and faint hops. The tastes get a little more tart as I keep drinking. Yeast, and some winey esthers. Nice and balanced overall.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with lively carbonation. Very pleasant to drink.

Overall: Not super complex, but still pleasant, and easy drinking. Pretty ok. (535 characters)

Photo of Immortale25
4.04/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured into a Due South Brewing Co. snifter. Base of the bottle says 09172013.

A- Pours a reddish medium brown color with a 1/2 inch light tan head that doesn't retain long before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and some fading wisps of surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing leaves a solid ring behind.

S- Belgian candi sugar and yeast brings a large dose of raisin and banana.

T- Flavor is more tame as the yeast becomes more earthy. Still, there's plenty of dark fruit notes to go around plus some spice. More sweet raisin. Very drinkable for the ABV.

M- Semi-viscous with medium carbonation and a fullish body.

O- Though it's nothing incredible, the drinkability would have me coming back for more as long as the price is reasonable. Unfortunately, with North Coast, that doesn't seem to be the case very often. (837 characters)

Photo of youknowmyname
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Odor: Sweet. Smells of Plums, dates, possibly honey. Very good smell.

Pour: Pours a dark brown with hints of amber can barely see through the glass at the edges. looks very thick pouring out. Left a Medium size head that lasts throughout the entire drink. Filtered. Very nice lacing on the glass.

Taste: Semi Sweet. Received the tasted of plums and dates almost a slight pine taste in the background. Not nearly as spiced as most Belgian darks I've had in the past. Actually more tart than I expected; almost a slight vinegar taste. Also not nearly as thick as it looked pouring it into the glass. A little alcohol warmth but no alcohol taste.

Opinion: North Coast brewery was the brewery we visited when my wife and I went to Northern California last year. We enjoyed this place a lot. Not sure if it was a different batch, the brewery or just being on vacation, but I enjoyed this a lot more when I was out there. Definitely not a bad beer, but not my favorite Belgian Dark by a long shot. (1,000 characters)

Photo of maxcoinage
4.09/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle ( no date) to DFH signature glass
a - 2 finger off-white head. settle smoothly. dark brown with an amber hue
s - sweet malts, caramel
t - brown sugar, molasses, dark fruit, a tad bit of alcohol
m - good carbonation for this style (on the lower side), medium body, a bit syrupy but smooth
o - a great sipper, enjoyed it more as it warmed up. (352 characters)

Photo of Darkmagus82
3.71/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from bottle into a chalice glass

Appearance – The beer pours a deep mahogany color with a ruby red shine and a two finger head of a thick cream colored foam. The head has a fantastic level of retention, very slowly fading to leave a decent level of streaky lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma of the beer is heaviest of darker dried fruit smells composed of raisin, fig, and prune. Along with these smells are some candied aromas and a good level of banana and bubblegum. Some brown sugar and light cherry are there as well and mix with a bit of yeast and clove to produce a nice sweet Belgian strong dark smell.

Taste – The taste begins with a sweet darker fruit flavor of raisin, fig, and cherry along with some flavors of bubblegum. A bit of a lightly roasted bready flavor is also present upfront with it getting slightly stronger as the flavor advances to the end. A yeasty taste develops right after the initial taste, with it gaining intensity toward the end, only to fade again. Around the middle of the flavor profile some clove and cardamom spice as well as some banana come to the tongue. Around this time the taste of the beer sours a bit with it taking on flavors of some tart cherry. Some of the sweetness fades at the end with a bit of an alcohol flavor coming to the tongue. This with a little bit of a grassy taste and more spice, end up leaving one with a somewhat unbalanced, slightly drier, bready and fruit flavor to linger on the tongue

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is on the medium side with a carbonation that is average as well. The combination of a medium body and carbonation are rather appropriate for the dark fruit, bready and spice/yeast flavors of the brew.

Overall – A decent but nothing too exceptional Belgian strong dark ale. Worth a try, but one I wouldn’t take over most other Belgian strong darks that are readily available. (1,906 characters)

Photo of Paincane
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark mahogany brown body with reddish tinge & tan head.
S: Boozy rich malt aromas and spiced dark fruity presence.
T: Dark roasted malt, fig, brown sugar, raisin & spice flavors.
M: Medium bodied, smooth and well-carbonated.
O: Very flavorful dark ale with style characteristic flavors and aromas. (304 characters)

Photo of BeerWithMike
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampling right now on 1/24/14 down in my home bar. Single 12 ounce bottle chilled down to 36 degrees F in my beer cooler and poured into a pint glass.

Pours a deep amber with ruby highlights in color. A very thin off-white head was seen with some spotty lacing when sipped. the aroma is of sweet dried fruits, caramel and toffee. the taste actually has more going on than the aroma. Goes down pretty easy but you aren't going to have too many of these at all due to the high alcohol content. No harsh or bitter aftertaste. Perfect carbonation as well. (552 characters)

Photo of BierJager89
4.45/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a dark, purplish brown with a mocha head.

S: Grape is the dominant scent in the nose, along with dark fruits.

T: Grape comes up dominant again in the taste, but less so, and more well blended with the dark fruit.

M: Medium-full bodied, fairly smooth.

O: Well worth a try. I love this brewery. (313 characters)

Photo of ryan1788a5
3.32/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle poured into a sturdy Brother Thelonious branded goblet.

A: Deep maroon color on the pour. Clarity looks to be good. Head retention leaves something to be desired. Thin wispy ring of lacing.

S: Sweet candied aroma. Raspberry reduction sauce. Hint of grapey candi sugar. Light wafts of brown bread and cocoa pull through occasionally. Clove and cinnamon sort of spice note.

T: Concentrated syrupy sweetness up front. Cherry juice. Cherry cough drops. Candi sugar. A little bready. Spicy clove and cinnamon. Yeast makes an earthy contribution that gets lost amongst the sweetness. A cherry cough syrup taste lingers foe a while.

M: Medium thick body. A little sticky and syrupy, coating the mouth with a film. Aggressive seltzery carbonation can't even lift away that filmy coating feel.

O: This is a beer I remembered much more fondly from the early days of my foray into better beer. It's not doing much for me now. It feels half-baked and far too sweet in both taste and texture, even for the style. Pass. (1,023 characters)

Photo of BWE
4.18/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I'm a fan of Belgian beer in general, but the Abby's are the best. When trying this one you have to go into it with the mind set that it's not a Belgian Abby.... it is a Belgian "Style" Abby. And I think they definitely put some style into this.

Pours great with a large head that has a brownish tint too it. You can taste the Alcohol coming through a bit, witch adds to the taste in my opinion. The only way I can describe the other flavors is Rich. Rich smell and Rich taste. Try it. (487 characters)

Photo of Nugganooch
3.99/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

750ml C&C bottle split two ways into my Chimay Chalice
Notes taken from 12/31/13

A: Deep auburn color with some visible hazing across the body. Plays between an amber and brown in the color spectrum. Thick finger width of coarse khaki suds with a fair amount of hang time. Some minor dots and streaking lace are formed as the beer swishes across the glass.

S: Strong dried fruit aromatics of fig and rum soaked raisins with bread crust, toffee, mild alcohol, and some Belgian yeast spices. A little light banana with some clove and coriander there. Very nice and malty with some subtle phenols noted.

T: Bready malts and dark Belgian candi sugar with pronounced dried dark fruits like raisin and fig. Similar to a bread pudding with plum sauce. Caramel and toffee like malts segue into some very controlled Belgian spice presence made up of light banana and cloves. Perhaps a dash of fruit gum there and a few hints of milk chocolate. Sweet but dry and spiced with some noticeable alcohol coming through. Although the ABV’s are very well integrated in flavor here for 9% plus. There is a light mineral bitterness to the beer with a nice dry finish. Has a wide array of developed malt character without being terribly complex. To me there is a pretty nice balance of flavors and this is quite tasty.

M: Medium body and slightly on the heavier side. But very smooth with a frothy lightness to the texture. Slightly sticky with some warming alcohol noted. Seems thinner than it actually is. Nice drying at the finish and fairly clean overall.

D: A very solid Belgian made in ‘Merica. Have had this one a few times recently and it is vastly becoming a favorite. Big malt flavors with balanced alcohol and understated Belgian yeast esters.
Highly recommended for getting into Belgian Strongs. One I think is a bit underrated here. (1,840 characters)

Photo of William_B
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I really enjoyed this Belgian Abbey Ale. The aroma and the appearance are the best attributes overall. The aroma and mouthfeel strike me as among the best of the Belgian style ales I have sampled. The flavor and aroma combine for a cornucopia of spiciness, malt flavor, and a nice balance of sweetness.
The modest four pack of bottles traveled a long way to my local monger. The trip was worth it as I appreciate the availability. I am anxious to try other varieties from North Coast when they make the trip east.
Brother Thelonious does not disappoint. I love Belgian style beer, and this one ranks among the best I have tried. (628 characters)

Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing Co.
85 out of 100 based on 988 ratings.