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Grottenbier - Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

Not Rated.

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

264 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 264
Reviews: 202
rAvg: 3.77
pDev: 13.26%
Wants: 21
Gots: 9 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV visit their website

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: 264 | Reviews: 202 | Display Reviews Only:
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.

rdrummer, Apr 19, 2004
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.

RedDiamond, Apr 18, 2004
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.

Billolick, Apr 03, 2004
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.

jdhilt, Mar 13, 2004
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.

Gavage, Mar 03, 2004
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.

TheLongBeachBum, Feb 29, 2004
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.

cokes, Feb 26, 2004
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.


benmiliron, Feb 18, 2004
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!

GreenCard, Feb 16, 2004
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.

ark57, Feb 15, 2004
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”.

RoyalT, Feb 12, 2004
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.

Jon, Jan 28, 2004
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.

ADR, Jan 22, 2004
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?

Hefe, Jan 19, 2004
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.

Imbiber, Jan 16, 2004
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.

hyuga, Jan 11, 2004
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.

moulefrite, Jan 09, 2004
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..

francisweizen, Jan 02, 2004
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.

feloniousmonk, Dec 22, 2003
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.

gueuzeonhigh, Dec 19, 2003
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.

putnam, Dec 18, 2003
Photo of marburg
4.55/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This beer seems to revel in its own well-integrated simplicity. Molasses cookies, "exotic" microbrewed root beer, and cinnamon spice. A very appealing, coherent aroma.

Very smooth brew. Somehow this beer feels sweet, but it's remarkably dry. Molasses, cloves, and doughy bread are the backbone here with touches of the spiciness hinted at by the nose. Straightforward and simple but remarkably well integrated. I mean, this thing tastes like it's a natural liquid of the Earth. Light hop finish. Alcohol presence dominates as it sits out and warms. Superbly drinkable.

marburg, Dec 08, 2003
Photo of tavernjef
3.83/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Color is a solid dark chestnut brown, but the head is what made this one heavenly looking glass of nectar. Poured slowly into my B'De Kluis Hoegaarden Abbey glass, and instantly a tannish head emerged staying consistent in girth the whole way up to the rim which sat about a finger high, its foamy and creamy with some divets but it eventually just became like melted butter sitting on top and never fading. Amazingly whipped and sits like fresh snow on the needles of a spruce. Lace sticks like glue in shelving globs and sheets of finely stitched lace. Beautiful!
Aroma is mostly yeasty covering realms of clove, pepper, and cinnamon, musty bread, touch of citrus and banana, underlaying tones of malty sweetness. Taste is more of the same with a nice strength of one dimensional flavor with yeast that has some light notions of clove, pepper, musty bread and a backing of sweet semi-sugary malts. Not all that complex or layered, but a favorable sweetness and yeastyness holds for a good time with a medium body and a somewhat weak finish that has a very light nutty dryness. A fine drinkable Belgian Ale, but nothing to keep on the shelf for to long.

tavernjef, Dec 03, 2003
Photo of ManekiNeko
3.63/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 mL bottle served slightly chilled in a Delirium Noel glass.

Appearance: Clear brown with ruby overtones topped by a nice healthy beige head. Streamers of bubbles keep the head pretty decently replenished and assist in leaving decent amounts of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell: Strong spicy clove aromas dominate, with some light pepper, bubblegum, yeast, and banana scents kicking around.

Taste: Clovey and peppery with some nice caramel malt and candi sugar sweetness to balance it all out. Not overly complex.

Mouthfeel: Great carbonation on a medium bodied beer. Relatively crisp.

Drinkability: Pretty decent, but there are definitely better beers out there in this style: Maudite, Trois Pistoles, and La Terrible to name a few.

ManekiNeko, Dec 02, 2003
Photo of Bierman9
3.6/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

30MAR03. In all honesty, I'd never even heard of this bier before now!

It poured an opaque, deep brown color. Forget about any light passing through this! From what I could tell, it had a cloudy, sediment-induced character. The head formed was huge (almost Bighuge!). Lightly tan in color, it was quite well-lasting and rocky, with a fair amount of lacing.

The nose was hard to pin down. it had some dark-fruit type hints about it, but also an aroma somewhat like a Coke or Pepsi! How bizarre!!

The body tended to border on medium, or perhaps a nudge below. A more than fair amount of carbonation resulted in a bubbly/prickly feel on the tongue. Still acceptable to me.

The initial flavors I encounter are of mildly tropical to dark fruits, though not overly pronounced. There seems to be a subtle chocolate-type flavor lurking beneath the surface a bit as well. At the finish a small dollop of bitterness comes into play, and it ends in a dry manner. Makes me think of a Dubbel that is just lacking a bit more of the malty and fruity aspects. Nonetheless, an enjoyable treat on a cold, raw, New England day.

Thanks must go out to Denali, who surprised me with the gift of this bier upon meeting at the Black Forest Brew Haus on Long Island! Prosit, Bro!! (This bier was somehow originally listed as Grottenbier Bruin, from Brouwerij de Smedt/Brouwerij Affligem... Bottle pictured is same that I have...??)

overall: 3.75
appearance: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 3.5


beer review id: 57787 / 03-30-2003 12:22:32

Bierman9, Nov 16, 2003
Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
85 out of 100 based on 264 ratings.