Grottenbier - Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

Not Rated.
GrottenbierGrottenbier

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BA SCORE
85
very good

268 Ratings
THE BROS
62
poor

(view ratings)
Ratings: 268
Reviews: 202
rAvg: 3.77
pDev: 13.26%
Wants: 22
Gots: 13 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV visit their website
Belgium

Style | ABV
Belgian Dark Ale |  6.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
From Pierre Celis, brewed at Brouwerij St. Bernardus.

(Beer added by: Todd on 09-19-2003)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 268 | Reviews: 202 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of ngandhi
3.08/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dominating phenolic Belgian yeast. Highly carbonated, causing the cork to shoot out once the cage was loosened. Constantly fizzy with no head. Served at cellar temperature, this comes off as more of a tripel than anything else with minimal dark fruit -- a little raisin maybe -- on the dry finish which also helps accentuate some chocolately malt. Cola. The midpalate is balanced, but that dry finish brings too much into the forefront with an ultimately astringent yeasty spice that lingers, troubles me.

Relax, relax.
ng

Photo of Wildman
3.63/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured a dark reddish amber color and formed a nice bubbly white head that left circular lace as it subsided. A medium amount of carbonation is present. The aroma was of malt, cinnamon, and spices. The flavor was of malt and spices. The finish was fairly light and sprite. Compared to the other from this brewer, it was a bit of a let down, but it had a lot to live up to. It is a servicable brew, just not outstanding.

Photo of mickeymac
3.68/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It comes in a regal-looking 750 ml bottle. The beer pours a deep, dark brown with a billowy off-white head that leaves plenty of lace. The smell has traces of ripe fruit and just a bit of tartness but nothing really outstanding. The same holds true in the taste: interesting fruit flavors with a slight sour note but nothing particularly noteworthy. For some reason, I was reminded of a piece of fruit-flavored chewing gum that had been chewed too long, leaving little of the original flavor. The mouthfeel is decent and it goes down well. It's just not one worth searching out when the world is full of so many outstanding Belgian Strong Dark Ales.

Photo of ZAP
3.73/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Auburn colored...big fluffy ol white head...nose is musty....a bit spicy....flavor is sweet tropical fruits....some spicy pepper...some cinnamon on the finish...subtle flavors...smooth....almost creamy texture...perhaps a bit light bodied and flavored...

Enjoyable....not a powerhouse of flavors, but is more of a smooth, understated Belgian....

I'd buy several others before this but I'm glad I tried it once...decent enough..

Photo of rdrummer
3.55/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Okay, I'll admit from the start that I expected this to be a beer that would beat all my prior experiences. It didn't. It is one beautiful beer from the first cork pop to the effervescence of the pour. It is a beautiful, deep amber color with a pure white head that is not long lasting.

The aroma is above average but hard to distinguish. There is the hint of clove and cinnamon with a serious malty base. There is a hint of the hops in the nose as well.

Things start to go down hill from there. Maybe, it is wrong to rate beers because they don't meet expectations, but with Pierre Celis name on the label, the idea of cave aging, and the praise from Michael Jackson, I expected much more than I got. There is an exteme dryness to the maltiness of the beer. It is representative of cheaper brown ales that have little taste. I was expecting more not the same amount of taste from a Celis beer.

This is a dry beer. I like dry wine and some dry beers, but this was parching. It could be that this is simply not aged enough or aged too long. My ability to taste is not up to that distinction.

I was not impressed enough that I would seek out this beer again, and was certainly not left desiring more. It's a good beer, but not a great one.

Photo of RedDiamond
3.28/5  rDev -13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Absolutely the most violent cork busting POP I’ve ever gotten from a corked beer. And the ensuing carbonation roils and blazes with the jubilant overabundance of champagne. A thick tan head sits like it intends to stick around awhile. Sourish aroma gives me some concern. Is it supposed to smell like that? Best guess is yes. Still…..

The color of course is brown. It is the brown of a chestnut mare, the brown of sad puppy dog eyes, the brown of soiled bus depot toilet seats or the air above Mexico City. It’s pretty darn brown.

The flavor – alas, I was hoping I could just stick to the color and carbonation. The flavor is fairly disappointing. It says “Chimay” at first, which is good. But the body is thin and aside from all that mad-as-a-hornet CO2 that’s surging up from the glass, there’s nothing robust here or especially compelling. There’s no accentuated clarity or verve. There’s nothing to savor or sing praise about.

I suppose this brew would do well at a picnic in which one’s attentions may be focused on one’s food and paramour. And honestly, the Grotten Brown does inspire some appetite. Mind you, this is not an awful brew. But it doesn’t inspire any profuse willingness to drink the stuff. And I don’t care how many Belgian caves this has been aged in or if, as the label proclaims, it is Michael Jackson’s beer of the year. Must have been an uneventful year, and I believe MJ needs a cup of coffee.

Seriously, a good Chimay tops this one any day of the week.

Photo of Billolick
3.93/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

large bottle, with cork and cage. Pours dark and cloudy/muddy. Burnt figs and yeast in nose. Tastes of yeast, sludgy malt,burnt fruit, chocolate, coffee. Lighter then expected body, nice smooth, and slightly oily mouthfeel. A lighter duty strong dark ale. Decent enough, but did not amaze with body or complexity.

Photo of jdhilt
4.13/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours with a three-finger light brown head that stays and leaves a good lace. Nose has hints of raisin. Medium bodied. Very good carbonation and a cloudy amber color. There are traces of yeast. Starts and finishes sweet, not an intense brown. $7.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Photo of Gavage
4.2/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Arrived bronze in color with thick 2 inch head. The aroma was light as only some maltiness was detected. There were many flavors that make this up, as roasted malt, light spice (nutmeg, allspice ?), decent bitterness, and prunes were nicely married.

The mouthfeel was smooth as the malt seemed to ride the tongue well into the aftertaste. Carbonation levels were light. Nicely drinkable.

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.38/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Presentation: A fancy looking 750ml brown glass bottle that appears to have a front and back label, but they are actually screen printed onto the bottle. The dark blue and cream colored screen printed obverse label lists the beer as ‘Pierre Celis Signature Selection Grotten Brown’. It also lists the beer as 6.7% and ‘Belgium Cave-Aged Ale’.

Appearance: Silky smooth pour that readily forms a nice thick head. Well carbonated and creamy in appearance, the tan brown head is resolute and remains throughout the drink.

Nose: Another let down, deep inhalation does reveal some dark fruits, malts, yeasty aromas. Hardly complex, but entertaining at times when you can get deep into the nose.

Taste: Smooth but grainy malts, when I started this it reminded me a little of some Milds I drank in England. In the middle it develops some cinnamon towards the end and an astringent nutty finish. It goes as soon as it comes, so to speak. It improved a little as it warmed, but not any significant degree. I found this to be lacking to be honest.

Mouthfeel: Thin and uninspiring it has no depth, but the finely attenuated carbonation and smooth feel on the tongue rescues it from a lower mark.

Drinkability: Reasonably quaffable but a little boring. Inoffensive, but a tad one dimensional and timid. I am glad I shared the one bottle I had, because it may have been a chore to get the whole bottle by myself.

Overall: The presentation of the bottle and the ‘cave-aged’ hype all fooled me into thinking that this would be something special. Sadly it wasn’t. Not that bad, but really just above average. But given its background, hype and price, it was a big disappointment. Think hard before dropping your money on this one.

Photo of cokes
3.43/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Particle-strewn ruby-brown under several inches of wet cement.
Molasses lathered tangerines and prunes on the nose, with a pepperized yeast backup.
Begins dusty and vacantly fruity. Figs and raisins, with more tropical suggestions deeper down in. Molasses cookies (or at least gingerbread) stripped clean of their sweetness. Spicy, with cinnamon and ginger. Black pepper mingles with a forceful astringent dryness. The minor sweetness that appears suggests saccharine-constructed grapes. Closes musty, like a basement long unattended, full of damp cardboard boxes.
The mouth is medium, spritzy, and especially dry.
Not a bad beer; It's just a bit dull.

This was not done any favors by the cave.

Photo of benmiliron
2.25/5  rDev -40.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Paid $6.99 for a bottle.

Beer of the Year my ass. The cork popped off as soon as I removed the wire restraint. Must have had an infection. No hop character, just musty, brown funk. Was tolerable though, as most infected beers appear to be. Further inspection revealed a lot of residue near the miniscus of the the beer, validating the infection hypothesis.

Bleh.

Photo of GreenCard
4.13/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Sampled 33cl bottle...

Appearance: chestnut brown, thick layer of tannish foam that compacts into whipped cream, lots of bubbles

Aroma: malt, dark bread, dried pears, clove, speculoos

Flavor: mild malt sweetness, a slight acidity, dried fruit, spice, yeast, mild continental hop flavor, very balanced, finishes semi-dry with a dark malt aftertaste

Mouthfeel: medium body, zesty carbonation, slight warmth, very smooth

Overall Impression: Tried this beer for the first time at The Belgian Beer Weekend 2003 and I was quite impressed with it. It seemed to be somewhat of a "sleeper" hit at the festival. Not a lot of it on hand, but it was gone by the end of the weekend when word had gotten around. Great beer with a lot of subtle things going on. Nice, tasteful label too!

Photo of ark57
4.28/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Another masterpiece from Pierre Celis. There is a great spicy phenolic and hoppy aroma. The body is reamy and rich and yet lean at the same time. I find it elegant to drink. It finishes spicy, and left me wanting a lot more. A wonderful beer to savor and it is not as bad to finish the whole bottle because it is not as high in alcohol as many other Belgians.

Photo of RoyalT
4.5/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance – The luscious, thick brown body was topped with a beautiful head that went down slowly and pooled in the center of the ale.

Smell – The dark, malty yeast came out big here, even while it was still cold. As it warmed, the flavors erupted. Besides the wonderful yeast I could pick up a dash of cinnamon and some beautiful brown sugars.

Taste – The taste came straight from the nose. The yeast in particular was big and inviting, while the sweetness brought up the finish. In between there was some wonderful flavors of tobacco, figs, cherries, and a hint of anise.

Mouthfeel – The carbonation was moderate and very tight, tickling the tongue and cheeks nicely. The body was a tad over medium.

Drinkability – A fine BDA fit for a king. I’ll close the night with this one.

Update – I first reviewed this with a 2003 vintage so thought I’d give it a formal review again using an ’04. Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

The aroma of this beer is amazing. The yeast and malts are just huge, even when cold, which is what struck me in my initial review. The flavors are complex and explosive, and the carbonation was much bigger in this latest example. I’m upping all my ratings to 4.5s and considering that “reserved”.

Photo of Jon
3.8/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ruddy brown color with a fluffy, taupe-hued crown. Lavish rings of lace remain on the glass. Spicy aromas exhibit traces of spiced citrus, pepper, and cinnamon. Some malty, caramel sweetness penetrates, as well. Spicy, fruity flavors reminiscent of the detected aromas permeate the palate en route to a mildly astringent, dry finish. Well-carbonated, moderately bodied and a rather light and pleasant mouthfeel leads to good drinkability in this full-flavored Belgian Brown. Very good, though it failed to exceed my expectations given its acclaim.

Photo of ADR
3.55/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Opaque dark brown appearance, big rising pale head of a good inch. Laces in intricate and thick bands. Slight yeasty aroma, some orange. Lighter-bodied some sense of wed wood, almost cedar, pronounced nutmeg, floral crocus-like stuff. Finishes with full carbonation and a solid but not pronounced astringency. Initial impact is a little light, the finish is slightly fizzy and unsettling to me. Not a bad beer, doesn't really rock in my book.

Photo of Hefe
4.43/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted on tap at RFD in DC on 1/17/04

Appearance: Hazy, bordering on murky brown, with a tannish head that becom a nice sticky lace after several minutes.

Smell: Wowsers! Ridiculously complex, notes of orange rind, banana, toffee, asian spice, peat, caramel malt, yeast, and on and on.

Taste: The aromas follow through to the tastebuds, everything in balance, no one flavor dominating. This finish lingers for quite some time.

Mouthfeel: Just a little less full than I would have liked. Still, yeasty and creamy with slight acidic bite.

Drinkability: Thank you sir may I have another?

Photo of Imbiber
4.5/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Reddish brown with a lively white bubbly head, slightly hazy. Aroma is yeasty, slightly peppery, with a hint of spices. Lots of flavours, this is a complex beer. Malt, cloves, hops (to a degree), candy sugar are all interwoven and doing what they do best on the tongue. Aftertaste is quite spicy, there's a long finish with this beer. Not the most outstanding Belgian I've had, but quite high on the list; a bold beer.

Photo of hyuga
4.1/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A brown brew as would be expected, and topped with an off-creme colored head, which settles to thin lacing after a couple of minutes. Kind of a bakery frosting sweetness in the aroma and that St. Bernardus candy sugar with a bit of caramel malt and and a hint of hops. Not as complex as I'd expected, but still a nice aroma. The flavors are also not as complex as I'd expected, but it's still a tasty beer. Cinnamon notes are easy to pick up, it's almost as if this was actually brewed with cinnamon. Good caramel malt and hints of candy sugar make up the sweetness, and hops sting at the tongue with a slight peppery flavor and the help of the carbonation, which is like a thick layer of small bubbles on the tongue, as is usual with this style. A little less thick and chewy than I like for this style. Certainly not a bad beer, an enjoyable one, but it wouldn't be my pick of the year.

Photo of moulefrite
4/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a really nice deep chestnut color. A soft pillowy head forms, subsides and can be easily coaxed back into action with a slight swirl. The lace is minimal yet again with some coaxing....aromas are deep and warming with banana and spice up front with a mild and very pleasant sweetness drawing one in. The mouthfeel is crisp and exciting with cleansing carbonation. The taste is complex and displays some of the qualities I find in the Trappistes Rochefort stuff-especially the blue cheesy like flavor. Again, flavors of ripe banana surface. An intense bitter chocolate like quality emerges also. Traces of roasted coffee linger and ripe "Cave Aged Blue Cheese" flavors return with a passion.This is very much like a low octane Trappist brew in my opinion. Quite tasty, but certainly not my choice for "Beer of the Year?" I'd love to pair this with a Blue Cheese Crusted Tenderloin and a side of Pomme Frites albiet.

Photo of francisweizen
4.08/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml corked and caged bottle. 2003 Pierre Celis signature selection and Michael Jacksons "beer of the year". Quite a heavily hyped brew...but does it deliver? The pour yields a dark brown, burgundian brew in my chalice with a nice off-white head of foam. The aromas are very strong and consists of molasses, cloves, bananas and other fruits, belgian candy sugar, belgian malts, hops, and yeast. The taste is quite yeasty, very fruity, amazingly dry, and quite complex...but not as complex as the aromas would make you believe. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth and the drinkability is nice. A nice beer, but not worth the $9 I paid for it..

Photo of feloniousmonk
3.95/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: a deep, ruddy brown, no closer to violet, so let's settle on eggplant, and possessed of a thick, fluffy, cream-soda-toned head of foam.
Aroma: Ah! Beautiful! Grapes, plums, raisins, more, with plenty of spice, tingling and tantalizing, stimulating, arousing, feeling both ancient and exotic and altogether inviting.
Taste: the fun continues on the tongue, with a luscious wave of hops, a brilliant blitz of spices. Very fun in the mouth, at first, hops and spice keep the palate occupied. But later on, disappointment arrives, as the mouthfeel dips in enthusiasm some, falters, mellows too much, the finish is not quite as we'd desire, a bit short, flat, light.
A pity that the initial promise did not deliver any greater complexities, but it's a nice enough beverage as it is, just nothing too terrific.

Photo of gueuzeonhigh
4.25/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sculptured foamy head. If I wasn't so excited to taste and poured a bit more meticulously, I might have created a story book appearance of the beer peacefully resting in my glass.

Not much of a nose. Hints of sweetness, maybe a note of hops.

Caramel flavor on the start. Opens with a barrage of caramel and a clean flavor of malt and yeast.

Light body, lingering finish; the flavor hangs in there but the caramel notes dissipates and a certain sweetness is left on the palate.

Nice enjoyable drinkability. I could easily consume 1500 ml in a sitting.

Photo of putnam
5/5  rDev +32.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A 16oz. shot into my 34 oz. wine glass produced a 3 inch tall merengue of off white and tan. It lingered even while marble-sized explosions on the surface carved deep craters on the top. The liquid is quite dark and brown.

The aromas are of cinnamon-dusted, candied orange peel in front of doughy, candied pineapple and vanilla.

On the palate it melts away with undulating surges of flavor. Bitter chocolate - simple, clear, and pure - benignly rules as it borrows light herbal bitterness, bready sweetness, milk cream and exotic fruits and spices from other, more transparently arrayed elements.

It is velvety, with only the barest, sooty dustiness to offset the impression of melting buttercream.

What is truly stunning about this beer is that when you think it's going to zig, it zags. It appears exotic, with citronella hints on the nose; but, on the palate, it is classically proportioned with chocolatey, powdered slate flavors. The texture is broad, but there is no residual sugar. It is fruited, but bitterly dry. Simple but soulful. Considering its lightness and seriousness, it is amazingly drinkable.

Any fan of St. Bernardus beers, especially Prior 6, needs to seek this one out. Wonderful beer.

Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
85 out of 100 based on 268 ratings.