Brother Thelonious | North Coast Brewing Co.

very good
1,045 Reviews
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Brother TheloniousBrother Thelonious

Brewed by:
North Coast Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.40%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
"Vital Statistics

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

Added by sloejams on 05-04-2006

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Reviews: 1,045 | Ratings: 2,984
Photo of jmerloni
1.5/5  rDev -60.4%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

A - Dark walnut brown, moderate head that doesn't lace real well and has zero retention. Dull looking, though.

S - Almost nothing here, some grape, cherry, raisin, and other dark fruits. Little maltiness to speak of on the nose. Kinda just smells like rum. And vinegar.

T - Ew. Dark fruits that taste molded. No hops to be spoken of and nothing but nasty white sugar. Wow. I didn't expect this beer to be the disaster that it is.

M - Terrible mouthfeel. Light to medium bodied. Tastes like a skunked beer that's thinned out from a decade of sitting there. I feel like I should stir this shit every time I take a sip because it's so out of whack. The flavors are entirely disparate and not together. The alcohol comes through entirely, and the only thing I can taste on the swallow is vinegar and it stays there.

D - Atrocious beer. Worse than anything I've ever tried. This is a pathetic attempt at the style and a pathetic attempt at a beer. This should be used as a salad dressing or something. I've grown to know and love beer, and this beer is a disaster at its fullest. Worst I've tried to date in a list that includes "Cave Creek Chili Beer" - whatever that is. Don't ever buy this beer - this is awful and I feel insulted that a respected brewery would put this out on the market.

PS: I should note that Ruedrich's Red Seal amber ale is one of the three beers I've ever rated as 5 stars - right next to Pliny The Elder - so it's not like this brewery can't do better than this crap. This is fucking terrible and they should be ashamed of themselves for thinking they can swindle people into buying this just because they price it at 11 dollars a four pack and think they can convince people it's good via the price they set. Pathetic.

PSS: Fuck - I can't believe I have to finish this. Picture the worst wine you've ever drank and imagine drinking a 3 liter bottle in one sitting.

This is embarrassing for this brewery - I can't believe they put this crap out on the market. They should be ashamed of themselves. I don't care if I never taste Ruedrich's Red Seal ever again - this brewery deserves not a cent of my money for putting this beer out. They will never get a cent of my money again. This beer is shameful. I don't support the idea of good breweries putting out shit beers and thinking they can make money off of them just because they have a good reputation and because THEY THINK THEY CAN FOOL PEOPLE BY CHARGING AN INORDINATE AMOUNT FOR IT. Beer drinkers are not fools, North Coast - I'm sorry. I will have no part of giving you another cent. What a joke.

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Photo of chumba526
1.93/5  rDev -49.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Beer appears a dark brown color, thin light brown foam. It doesn't look much different from coke.

The smell is very sweet there is a strong overtone of prunes dates and a noticeable metallic smell.

The taste is overly sweet: there are tones of dark fruit like raisons and prunes but it's as if they were coated in a crazy amount of sugar. Kind of tastes like a fermented dr. pepper. There is also a very unpleasant metallic taste to the beer. The high carbonation makes the rough on my palate: it is not smooth. If you like Dubbels to have a huge amount of sweetness with no balance and if you like your beer to have the carbonation of soda you might like this. For me though, it was a drain pour.

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Photo of twelvsies
1.99/5  rDev -47.5%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

I had this beer probably five years ago when I first saw it. Wasn't impressed, but I figured it was worth another try at least so I can put the awesome Monk bottle next to the DFH Bitches Brew bottle I have. Anyway, on to the beer...
Actually, one interesting side note - I've opened probably hundred's of thousands of corked bottles (6 years of bartending, several beer bars) and this was the hardest bottle to open.
OK, now on to the beer. Dark brown color, odd colored brownish head, dissipates quickly. Man, the nose on this is quite funky, not in a good way. Definite whiff of soy sauce, not a good sign, and cardboard. Unfortunate. It really is an alright tasting beer, but if I catch that whiff before a sip it kind of ruins the whole thing for me. Sticky mouthfeel... Too bad - I really wanted to like this beer. I am a jazz musician myself and Thelonious Monk is one of my idols. Too bad the beer does not represent. Awesome label, great brewery (otherwise), yet a terrible beer. It's ok, it was worth the $9 to have the bottle on my shelf.

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Photo of bubseymour
2.17/5  rDev -42.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

Appearance - Very scary looking dark and murky with 1 finger large bubbled head that isn't that impressive.

Smell - whole lotta sweet spice. Scary again.

Taste - Horrendous. But then again, Belgian Strong Ales don't work for my palet at all. No hop notes, spicy and boozy. Warming to the belly.

Mouthfeel - The 1 decent point of this beer is that its smooth and creamy.

Overall- This is a very love/hate beer and style I suppose. This isn't a drinkable liquid to me however.

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Photo of mactrail
2.19/5  rDev -42.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This is a surprise. I remember this as being rich and a little sweet, but this batch seems to be rather thin and definitely on the acidic side. Looks well enough, more red than coppery in the Duvel tulip. Nice head but coarse bubbles. The nose is a little vinegary.

Sharp and hints of some kind of bacteria like a Grand Cru, only much drier. Where did all the sugar go? Tart, rather bitter, quite earthy. Body is thin. Flavor makes me think of shellac. Aftertaste is very bitter and dirty.

From the 12 oz bottle from the cooler at Olive Tree in OB. I'll give this a taste if I see it on tap, but I'm leery of the bottles now. It was quite tasty in the big bottles but it has been three or four years since I've tried it.

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Photo of rembrant
2.21/5  rDev -41.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Pours a medium red brown with a 1/2" head that's gone quick. A more down the middle pour can form head but it still fades. Not much lace but a pretty color

Aroma Not much. Seems a touch of malt and something yeasty-tangy.

Flavor Well, there's a moderate malt,some yeasty old wood thing that's hard to figure. Second swig I get some trace of fruit-herbal hops and a metallic aftertaste. Progressively, barnwood and scrap iron tastes grow. Reminds me of an old wood box full of bits of old hardware, copper,steel,aluminum and old musty wood.
Mouth Body and carbonation about medium, aftertaste lasted awhile...but in this case,that's not very pleasant.

Drinkability. Well, impulsively I added this to some other singles on the spur of the moment. I had confused it with an IPA I wanted to try,and also had no idea it was over $3 a bottle.

I'd never cared for Belgian. Some years ago I went way over budget on one supposed to be good stuff...and found it almost too abrasive and rank to finish. Deja Vu

I can't see that dank wood and assorted metal as a taste I'd acquire. Worse yet, it STAYS on the palate. Easily the least drinkable brew I've had in some time.

That I could have indulged in a Bell's Expedition at about that price makes me very sad.

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Photo of Vancoubeer
2.22/5  rDev -41.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

I love dark beer. I try to buy one everytime I am at the local beer store. This beer really let me down. It had the smell of motor oil. It looked great. Dark beer with brownish head. But the taste was lame. It tasted almost as it smelled. It was like nothing I have had before. I had a hard time tasting the normal ingredients found in beer. It was more like a syrup. I will stay away from this. I am mad because North Coasts Old Rasputin is one of my favs on nitro. But this was a disappointment. IF you like abbey ales, try it but beware.

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Photo of Kudashov
2.27/5  rDev -40.1%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

25 .oz bottle poured into a clean chalice . With a very aggressive pour there is little head , none . Not like the the chalice on the label . The head faded so quick , very disappointing . Smells of chocolate and fruit. Brown clear hue with no lacing as head reduced to nothing . Taste is spicy like BBQ sauce but also very watery . This not the worst brew I have had during my new hobby but this is bland , boring , brown water . Bleak . When this quest of finding " new beer " was started there have been some lousy beers but this is very disappointing . The 9 abv is well hidden , hidden behind a boring lousy brew for 9+ bucks a bomber . First time , last time .

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Photo of BasterdInABasket
2.29/5  rDev -39.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12 oz bottle poured into tulip
A- hazy brown/red with 2 finger off white head slowly dissipates into thin layer after couple of minutes
S- Raisin, lots of sugary sweet raisin, can smell it immediately as the bottle is opened, very strong and distinct
T- Same as smell- Lots of sugary raisin sweetness, not my thing, trying to get over it but really can't
M- Medium-Full Bodied, Good amount of carbonation. The flavor reeally lingers on the tongue
O- I dont see myself revisiting this one again, My taste buds just don't agree with this one.

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Photo of albern
2.3/5  rDev -39.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

I'm giving this one the thumbs down. I was sorely disappointed and was hoping for so much more. The beer pours a nice cloudy, tawny brown, with a caramel consistency, and a smallish head. The head dissipated quickly, no lacing either. The smell is caramelized, yeasty, perhaps a tinge of some fruits, such as apple, rind, and lemon. The beer is medium bodied and then it goes down hill fast. This beer does a terrible number in terms of masking its robust ABV, in fact, I got nothing but harsh, throaty alcoholish burn. The beer had none of the candied sugar fermentation, the sweet yeasty malts of a Belgian, or the complex fruity carbonation and warming notes. This beer just hit all the wrong notes. I drank a small glass and got rid of the rest. What a disappointement. It seemed that they just let this one ferment too long until it carmelized what should have been warming notes, and lost its redeeming Belgian character.

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Photo of beernazismustdie
2.31/5  rDev -39.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2

It looks picture perfect when you pour it: thick, rich, and smooth with a small head. However, it's all downhill from there. It's like taking a beautiful girl home only to find out she's a bizarre headcase.

"Complexity" is a common word used to describe the taste of this beer. "Complexity" is evidently nice beer-snob word that's synonymous with "vomit inducing." This stuff is nearly the strength of barley wine and does not hide the alcohol well, as others have noted. Frankly, it tastes like a porter with cough syrup and molasses mixed in.

This was by far the most disappointing beer I've tried, and I've spent the last several years developing a taste for "finer beers." I would rather drink your typical mid-grade macro brew yellow water than this crap again.

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Photo of bobhits
2.33/5  rDev -38.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

deep amber 2 finger head. Tones of bubbles racing to the top.

Belgium yeast and new. Touch of alcohol.

Sweet, yeasty, amber, caramel malt covered in yeast...simply boring as hell. If you like this style be default enjoy...otherwise avoid like the plague.

Lots of carbonation, medium body...very drinkable very nice mouth feeling.

Abby ale is another word for crappy yeasty mess more often than not. I have had so many beers of this style and I keep being left baffled how people enjoy it. Candy and sweetness are not positive unless balanced by a bitter flavor. These beers lack that and ultimately suck as a result. Factor in this isn't an overly well done one for the style and things just get worse. It's odd I can love a beer of this style if they get it right...and i mean RIGHT, but even the slightest failure and it's crap. This sadly is crap.

If you like the style give it a try but for me and at 9.4% it's just a keep away.

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Photo of capeannbass36
2.42/5  rDev -36.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Cork was a pain to open...then just a pop.

A- Pours a dark ruby mahogony with a one finger tan head that fades quickly....although the lacing hangs around for awhile.

S- Sweet malt, almost too sweet.

T- Oh my god....this is too sicky sweet. Feel like a little kid rejecting some nasty childhood medicine. Horrid. Forced two more sips down, for a total of 3. Dumped this one.

M- Somewhat slick and oily.

O- Perhaps this was a bad bottle?? I tried tweaking my review...can't....I am shocked at how bad this was.

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Photo of MrGroovy
2.48/5  rDev -34.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.5

I signed up with Beeradvocate to review this beer. I agree with one reviewer who said it has a delicious, rich, complex initial flavor.... quite appealing... That reviewer mentioned the flavor of figs.... Yes, a fruity, complex and delicious FIRST flavor was evident and appealing....

But in the bottles I had it went downhill FAST after a nice beginning. Some kind of sweet and awful taste rises up as it stays in your mouth and as you swallow -- I wouldn't call it an "after" taste because it starts BEFORE you actually swallow the beer!!!

This is sad because the first flavors in the beer are great but it quickly takes on a strangely rich fruity awfulness.

Maybe it had gone bad and skunky in its own way? I bought it chilled at an upscale market... so I assume it wasn't THAT old....

Having read another reviewer who noted the same problem, I wonder if the brewery knows about it? Someone should tell them -- Great beer at first, strange and awful secondary flavor / aftertaste....

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Photo of tonistruth
2.5/5  rDev -34%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A- 2 finger off white head with good retent, dark bronzed amber, lacking lace

S- fruity, sweet & spicy alcohol, sweet

T- alcohol present throughout, sweetness rather tame, fruity, dried fruit, hints of cardboard, sugary, simple, alcohol can get harsh awith warmth

M- medium body, but very light on palatte, hagher carbonation barely felt, alcohol burn (especially with warmth)

D- simple for a belgian, bland at times, nothing worthwhile, at least its for a charity

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Photo of GarthDanielson
2.51/5  rDev -33.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass, the beer is a very cloudy, almost murky, reddish-brown coloring. Very translucent around the edges. It had a slight film of head on pour, but was gone by the time I sat down with the glass. The beer has a sweet, toasty smell to it, with bits of toffee and earth. The beer is carbonated and sharp on the front of the tongue, paving the way for a darkly sweet mid-bodied rush over the tongue. Sour notes at the back of the tongue, with caramel, raisin, and apple flavors. The beer feels awkward in mouth, and the flavors don't seem to blend well. The finish is sharp and quick, and the aftertaste is a sour earthy taste that leaves some sense of a film in your mouth. Not one that I would reach for seconds, and I'm glad I only picked up a loose bottle.

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Photo of Lostcarkeys
2.53/5  rDev -33.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Bought this a few weeks ago and finally got around to trying it,

A- Almost a cherry coke color with minimal head and lots of fizzle

S- Barely noticeable distinctions. A sweetness and nutty notes is overtaken by fruity raisin taste embezzled in there somewhere

T / MF- A bit of a disappointment. I do have to say I was a sucker for the label, but the sourness and sweetness were not a good concoction in my mouth. Be ready for the high carbonation!

O- It was worth a shot, but I don't think I will be buying this one again

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Photo of Yojimbo1941
2.55/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 1 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

Poured from a 1pt 9.4 fl oz bottle into a tuilp glass

A - Dark brown with reddish hues, slightly off-white head which quickly dissipated

S - Dark plums, raisins, a bit of cherry, brown sugar, cinnamon, some dark bread, dates, gingerbread

T - A weird sushi flavor is the first thing I noticed. Odd. Soy sauce? Overripe plums, vinegar, rotten fruit

M - Medium

D - At 9.4% this is not one to session, but relax with, which makes it all the more frustrating that the flavors are off. Maybe I got a bad bottle so I'll hold off posting this review until I've finished my first glass.

Post-first glass:

Gets a bit better taste-wise but I'm still confused by the first impressions. Again, maybe I bought an off-bottle. I'll try it again some time but until then I can't really recommend this beer. I am disappoint.

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Photo of rarbring
2.55/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

A dark brown beverage with a ruby red tone, a beige head, leaving some curtains and a few spots as lacing.

The smell is sweet, dried fruits, figs, dates and raisins, some alcohol, sherry and yeast.

The taste is sweet, sweet, sweet, like liquid Christmas pudding. One with a bitter tang at the end, like from raw flour.

Medium carbonation, soft and like thin maple syrup.

This is really too sweet, I can't enjoy it even as dessert. Sorry!

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Photo of WVbeergeek
2.56/5  rDev -32.5%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

I was under impressed by the bottled version so I decided to give it another go on draft at Mad Mex Robinson during happy hora I figured $2.50 it can't hurt me this time unlike buying the 750ml portion. Appears with no head whatsoever light cream collar of lace is left with each sip though dark ruby brown body. Aroma has light chocolate, raisin, and apple tones with alcohol evident with other over ripened fruits. Taste has a slightly spicy character with a touch of herbal hops, let me say though the flavor is so weak overall diminished by all standards trace of fruit and alcohol very watery presence espeically on draft in bottle I didn't like the way the flavors melded on tap I don't think it's flavorful enough. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied texture is way too light give me something I can bite into like Thelonious's music. Drinkability...I'm not going to bother again support his foundation I guess but this beer doesn't represent the artist or the music very well. Not too many clunkers from North Coast but this one's weak.

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Photo of cbl2
2.56/5  rDev -32.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

$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.

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Photo of jsh420
2.58/5  rDev -31.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

pours cloudy dark amber orange with a 1+ figner head that left no lacing

smells of dark fruit and the strangest thing hot sauce??

taste is a little better then the nose - brown sugar dark fruit malts but there is still some flavor that is way off and i cant put a finger on it - not a good example of the style

mouthfeel is right - medium body with good carb

drinkability is not good - off flavors - maybe a got a bad bottle but it will be a while before i buy another

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Photo of n2185
2.58/5  rDev -31.9%
look: 1 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: Pours a clear mahogany even when the bottle is swirled (no yeast?) with a meager one finger of off-white head that completely vanishes with no lacing.

S: Some spicy notes followed by some bubblegum and banana aromas. There are some slight dark fruit and yeast notes towards the finish along with a bit of an alcohol aroma.

T: Slight spice flavors at first followed by some bubblegum flavors. The finish has a light breadiness with some dark fruit notes and a noticeable alcohol burn.

M: Medium body with low-ish carbonation, this beer isn't too thick and sweet at least, but it needs more carbonation to give it a crisp feel.

O: A pretty unimpressive BSDA. It's all around just bland, ugly, and has very little carbonation for a style that should have a lot.

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Photo of SteveKay
2.58/5  rDev -31.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

Definitely not a Belgian strong ale. Absent are the strong yeasty malty flavors and it lacks the sweetness. Color was very dark. Not especially full bodied. Somewhat thin mouth feel. It was drinkable after it warmed up bit. I will try something else next time.

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Photo of Armand
2.6/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a chilled pint from Oggis. One overpriced beers due to the ABV. Big deal. I'd pass on this one.

A: Pours a very dark brown. There is a small light tan head which fades quickly.

S: Smells primarily of caramel malts, raisins, and sweet fruit.

T: Raisin, and caramel, sweet liqour due to the ABV, with a citrus note that I don't car for too much.

M: Syrupy and overall too much to sit back and enjoy. Didn't car for this one too much. Even for the ABV I had to down it quick like you would a BMC

O: Too harsh and strong to enjoy.

Serving type: draft

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Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing Co.
3.79 out of 5 based on 2,984 ratings.
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