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Brother Thelonious | North Coast Brewing Co.

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very good
1,031 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: 1,031 | Ratings: 2,950
Photo of Sammy
3.38/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

amber with soapy big head, lace. Watery, sweet and orange peel, which makes it easy to drink, herbal tea spicey which turns it off for me. A tad toasted malt. Thanks Derek.Big alcohol, not noticeable, but inefficient to the taste. Serviceable beer, not quite up to its style. So passable.

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Photo of GRG1313
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Found in 12oz bottles and gave it a try having passed by, for some reason, the larger bottles.

Pours a dark copper red/brown with a lovely thick off white head.

Nice nose of malted fruit-cooked bananas and hints of tangerine peel and gives way to smells of big, rich cherries.

Flavors are a bit short and quick but nice. Flavors of roasted grain, cooked fruit, malt and bananas with some carmel and toffee and with an overwhelming cherry back palate and character.
Has a nice acidic character or bright fruit, almost more like wine than beer.

Sweet fruity finish that is not unpleasant but a bit of a "soda pop" character all around; perhaps too much of a cherry character; may not be all that food friendly. Just my opinion, as always.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap for the 4th Annual LA Beer Week Beer Festival at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA.

Pours a slightly murky honey brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, grain, brown sugar, caramel, yeast, and spices. Taste is much the same with a mild spice bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is tasty and easy to drink.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.2/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

definitely nothing special here. let down for sure. pours a transparent deeo ruby red color with a very small head that fades to nothing. smells malty, but not in a pleasant way, like something went rotten a little bit, sugary too, and just a hint of belgian yeast. flavor is about the same, off-putting malt character, a bit metallic, and overly sweet. feel is weird in the stomach, carbonation is fine, but something is just off about this one. im hoping i just got a bad bottle or something, but this was on the verge of undrinkable for me, thick and sweet and funked out. im reluctant to try it again, but i guess i have to at some point given the largely positive reviews. north coast has been a bit of a disappointment for me thus far.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This brew poured out as a dark reddish brown color, the head was a cream color and looked pretty fluffy. The smell of the beer had some dark malt aromas giving off a little sweetness and some bready Belgian yeast as well. The taste of the beer has a little bit of dark fruit in the mix along with some earthy notes. The mouthfeel was about average for me on this one, it's smooth but just doesn't wow me. Overall this beer isn't bad, I know a lot of people who love it but I've had it a few times and I still haven't been overly impressed by it.

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Photo of metter98
3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer poured rather dark amber in color with a thin beige head that quickly dissipated into just a few bubbles around the edge of the goblet. A light amount of carbonation is visible.
S: The aroma is rather complex and the nose has notes of caramel, cherries and plums.
T: The overall taste is relatively sweet and has flavors of cherries, raisins and malty sweetness.
M: It feels light- to medium-bodied and very smooth on the palate.
D: The beer is very easy to drink and the alcohol is well hidden.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A really good attempt at packaging of this product. The cork and tie-down, the label, and 750 mil bottle all make a convencing Belgian look; even with a bit of sarcasm in the image. Pours a rich, rust color with a 50% haze and good head retention. Very sweet in the nose--some of malts, some of complimentary grains, sugars, and fruity esters. Tastes very sweet with barley malts, candy sugars, wheat malt, and an underlying confectionate sugar flavor. Balanced with a mild hop bitterness, alcoholic bite, and fruitcake variety. Still, lacking the complexity and true Belgian yeast characters. Not as tart or pepery as I like in true Belgian varieties. Just not funky enough. The feel is nearly sticky-sweet, rich, and full; helped out with some alcohol thinning, but remains very sweet well into the aftertaste. Overall, a fine brew, but cannot compete with the Belgian greats, especially for the price.

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Photo of largadeer
2.86/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

750ml bottle. It's a dark but beautifully clear crimson red. The head is off-white, fairly lasting. It smells like fried bananas, raisins, bubblegum and licorice candy.

Flavors are similar, banana especially, sweet and overripe. There's a bit of cocoa that only enhances the sweetness, along with raisin, date, iron - the dried, concentrated fruit flavors are intense. It's not a terribly rich beer, but it is overly sweet, and the yeast strain fails to impress.

I've had this beer several times over the years, and it's never made a strong impression on me. Merely an OK example of the style.

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Photo of brentk56
4.06/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a dark mahogany color with a decent head that disappears way too quickly and leaves a few spots of lacing

Smell: Brown sugar and banana with various fruity esters, including prunes, apricots, dates and applesauce along with some distinct fusel alcohol aromas

Taste: Starts with a rather fruity element that mirrors the aroma, along with some brown sugar and spice cake flavors; following the swallow, a harsh, woody element takes over (perhaps this will subside with age)

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and somewhat effervescent

Drinkability: This beer has a fair amount going for it and is a good effort on the part of a US brewer to create a BSDA; it could use a bit more depth of flavor and a less harsh finish

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Photo of biboergosum
3.32/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, saved from a trip through the beervana of Seattle, Portland, and yes, Boise, earlier this year. While jazz totally isn't my thing, I'll still entertain any offering from this brewery.

This beer pours a cloudy, dank, brick-tinged brown hue, with an emaciated finger's worth of fizzy beige head, which doesn't stick around long enough to suffer questioning. It smells of sweet caramel malt, dotted and blotted with figs and dates, some prominent dusty vinous notes, and mildly acrid alcohol. The taste is dark, muddled earthy fruit, understated caramel/toffee malt, a soft leafy hoppiness, and some mild booze warming. The carbonation is on the down low, brutha, the body a solid medium weight, and agreeably smooth (not that I'm saying anything further). It finishes sweet, fruity, and warm - see the prior liner notes...

While I don't particularly care for the eponymous artist's musical style, I do quite like BSDAs. So, it somewhat irks me, that this offering is so, well, simple. Drinkable, I suppose, but lacking that usual dense, complex oomph that usually pulls me in, and convinces me to stay.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Bu11zeye: Poured a deep mahogany color ale with a medium size dirty brown head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of sweet malt with a small touch of dry fruits is quite interesting. Taste of sweet malt is offset by some light dry fruits. Body is quite full with some adequate carbonation and no alcohol was noticeable. I thought it lack some complexities for the style but still very enjoyable nonetheless.

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Photo of LXIXME
3.99/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Small light brown head settles into a nice lacing above a clear reddish amber colored beer.

Dark fruits like apricots, light spices, roasted molasses?, and hints of alcohol, dark malts, and black licorice are present in the aroma of this abbey ale.

Dark fruits and an alcohol taste outweigh any other tastes that might be hiding in this beer.

A slightly wet aftertaste with some of the alcohol taste hanging on. This medium bodied beer is fairly well carbonated.

An amazing nose on this beer, I wish the alcohol content was less so some of the wonderful things going on in the aroma could have been tasted as well.

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Photo of emerge077
3.63/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to Mary for this one!
Dark reddish brown, tan foam, long lasting billowing head.
Aromas of dried fruit, nutty malt, Belgian yeast.
Taste is largely the same, dominant yeast with dried fruit esters, nutty malty middle, yeasty aftertaste.
Medium to full bodied, sticky on the lips but not overly sweet.
Overall a good BSDA for the price, though there are better ones out there.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served on-draught into a generic goblet at the Yardhouse in downtown Los Angeles, California. Cost was $6.50. Expectations were above average given the brewery.

A: Pours a 2.-2.5 finger head of nice cream, good thickness, very light tan tinges, and great retention. Colour is a very dark red; nontransparent.

Sm: Dry cherries, yeast, light caramelized malt, dry (dead?) yeast, and perhaps nuts. A mild strength aroma.

T: Dry fruit - likely cherry and/or raspberry. Some caramelized malt. Maybe some plum? The malts are dryer than I'd expect - maybe biscuit malt or very light roast. The fruit character isn't rounded, but rather stagnant and one-dimensional. The finish is problematic, with a relative emptiness of flavour in comparison to the remainder of the beer. Balanced, but a bit timid with its flavours. I wouldn't call it subtle. Built pretty well.

Mf: Smooth and wet, but with obligatory dryness to let the flavours come through. This lends it character, but may be unmotivated. Not too thick nor too thin.

Dr: Drinkable - especially for the ABV. Good quality. I'd have it again at a better pirce. The problematic finish prevents it from earning a B rating.


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Photo of zeff80
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a semi-opaque, deep mahogany color with a small, tan head. It ledt a soapy lace/residue.

S - It smelled sweet and of fruits (pear and apple). Some spicy notes, too.

T - This is a very complex dubbel. Lots of fruit flavors, sweet caramel malt, spices, and a subtle hop bitterness.

M - It was soft and smooth. A medium to heavy-bodied beer.

D - This is an excellent North Coast beer. It belongs up there with Old Rasputin and Praqster.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Rustico in Alexandria, VA.

Pours a deep brown with a little bit of a head, which sticks for some nice lacing. Smell is mostly dark fruit--cherries and dates--with some caramel and malt sweetness. Taste is mostly dark fruit, residual sweetness, and some Belgian yeast. Very nice mouthfeel with good carbonation. Drinkability is very nice and smooth.

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Photo of jlindros
4.02/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Tap at Armsby Abbey, 2009 vintage.

Creamy 1 finger head fades slowly over dark mahogany brown beer.

Nose brings plenty of dark malts, light sweet syrupy, bit of dark fruit, aged malt aromas, light caramel and toffee.

Taste starts with a nice aged malt flavor, lots of med to dark malts, light caramel and molasses, bit fluffy, some dark fruits raisin and plum, bit of Belgian fruity yeast and malts, touch of booze. Finishes bit drier but little sticky with lingering dark fruits and touch off booze and but of aged malts.

Mouth is soft med bodied with decent carb.

Drink is decent, some booze, drier but little sticky finish.

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Photo of mothman
4.07/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into one of my goblets.
Pours ½ finger of creamy tan head. Decent head retention around the outside of the glass, but hardly any lace left. Color is a dark hazed murky brown.

Aroma: I didn't check the style on this, but I am pretty sure this is a quad, based on the smell. Big dark fruit aroma, raisins, cherries, bready malts, sugar, hints of vanilla. Wow, the aroma is very pleasing.

Taste: A very sweet and almost tart beer. Sour cherries, raisins and other dark dried fruits, vanilla, bready malts, apples, and a little alcohol. This has got to be a quad.

Mouthfeel: rich, smooth, and a little boozy. Full bodied with a medium level of carbonation. Ends with a dry fruit flavored aftertaste. A little too hot for me.

Overall, not a bad beer. I had no idea what I was getting into when I opened, but I did like it. This will be a one and one for me, as it very filling and has a decently high abv. I'd recommend the 12 oz bottle for a single person.

EDIT: Now I see the style is a dubbel, but I am really not seeing how this beer can be a double. I have had a few quads and dubbels and this tastes way more like a quad than a dubbel.

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

500 ml corked & caged bottle into a tulip glass.

Pours a beautiful looking DEEP clear ruby, with a finger of foamy light tan colored head. This retains with a frothy looking 1/3 of a finger, leaving back a robust cascade of lace that quickly slides down the sides of the glass yet still hang in some thick swathes. The aroma smells of a sweet mélange of dark fruit, chocolate, and toffee, which is in turn followed by notes of spice, heat, and some light roast that helps cut some of the sugars here a bit.

The taste is similar, being rich with dark cherries, brown sugar, a splash of caramel flavor, and then some light roasted cocoa notes across the back. A dry and spicy finish really hangs some sharpness on the tongue. I’m really enjoying the combo of cocoa and brown sugar in this. The mouthfeel is fuller bodied, with a lively creamy feel that fills the mouth. It’s not too sharp but does toe the line some. There is some light warmth in each sip but be careful with that 9%+ ABV here. It’s catches up to you quickly!

It had been a while since I’ve had this and I must say that I really enjoyed it much more this time around. There’s lots of rich sweetness and fruit flavor to this, yet it possesses just enough assertiveness from the yeast and malt as well to help keep things balanced on the platate. My only complaint here is the overall heft of this, as it just got to be a bit taxing to finish this bottle by myself. I could have easily split this 16.9 oz bottle with another. Anyway,this is a good one to help take the winter chill of with!

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

12 ounce bottle into tulip glass, bottled on 1/22/2015. Pours clear dark reddish brown color with 2 finger dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of big raisin, prune, fig, cherry, date, banana, pepper, clove, caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, toasted dark bread, light nuttiness, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great complexity and balance of fruity/spicy yeast and dark/bready malt notes; with great strength. Taste of big raisin, prune, fig, cherry, date, banana, pepper, clove, caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, toasted dark bread, light nuttiness, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Fair amount of yeast spiciness and light tartness on the finish; with lingering notes of raisin, prune, fig, cherry, date, banana, pepper, clove, caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, toasted dark bread, light nuttiness, and yeast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Damn nice complexity, robustness, and balance of fruity/spicy yeast and dark/bready malt flavors; with a great malt/yeast balance and zero cloying sweetness after the finish. Light-moderate dryness from yeast spice as well. Medium carbonation and medium-full body; with a very smooth, moderately creamy/bready, and lightly slick/sticky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warmth lingering after the finish. Overall this is a damn nice Belgian strong dark ale. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of fruity/spicy yeast and dark/bready malt flavors; and very smooth and easy to sip on for the big ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.62/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Hazy Burgundy accented dark mahogany. Antique white head dissipates shortly (bar glassware perhaps...). Glowing ruby highlights and a rim of gold.

The nose expresses deep caramel with fruit pulp (plum) and a vinous accent. Background spice.

Effervescent. Foams in the mouth.

Flavor: malty, bready, sweet, vinous, fruity, dark skinned fruit, sugary candy... the alcohol is obvious and lends some spice. Otherwise clean. Not particularly phenolic, but present (mild suggestion of bubblegum/banana).

Finishes dry and bitter with a wash of alcohol.

A bit hot, a bit sweet. ....out of round.

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Photo of mactrail
2.19/5  rDev -42.1%
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 chinchill
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle.

Pours a clear, dark and reddish, with a smallish but durable tan head. It has a very fruity and somewhat yeasty aroma that would let it pass as a true Belgian beer. There is plenty of fruit in the flavor as well, and this trait extends into the finish and aftertaste. Both dark fruits (dates, raisins) and a slight bit of banana make an appearance. The taste seems less than perfectly balanced, with too much sweetness up front despite a bit of sour and bitter in the finish. The alcohol is fairly well hidden if cold enough, but becomes more and more evident with warming, especially in the nose. The aroma and, more so, the flavor, reflects some spicing; although these have been added in pretty good moderation, the beer is still a tad spicier than I prefer.

M: medium+ body; some smooth feel, yet with a bit of a tongue bite ... partly from the high ABV, no doubt.

O: A respectable U.S. version of the style, but far short of the best Belgians. More similar to a barleywine than your typical Belgian strong dark ale.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.12/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

"If your middle name is Sphere, you're much more likely to become a jazz pianist than...say... an accountant or a dentist."


Darkest honey with a generous infusion of cranberry and orange. I love the color of the beer, and I don't mind the golden ecru color of the cap, but the texture of the foam leaves quite a lot to be desired. It's harsh and unsticky, nothing like the majestic, creamy, rocky caps on Belgian beer. As far as lace, two words come to mind: diddly squat. The score will be a combination of the good and the bad.

The brewery calls Brother Thelonious a Belgian 'Dark Strong Ale', which should correspond to a BSDA on this site. No matter, I've always had trouble telling Belgian dubbels and BSDAs apart. The nose is a wonderful melange of semi-dark fruit (figs and dates), along with dark caramel, spicy clove and an appealing phenolic character that doesn't go overboard. Looks like this one might have the chops to hang with some of the big boys.

This is good stuff that only lacks the dizzingly complexity of the world's best versions. The flavor profile follows the nose, more or less: pureed dates, a hint of raisin paste, a dram of Islay Scotch, sweetened tobacco, a twist of orange peel and a sprinkling of ground clove. The beer is broad rather than deep, but I'm not about to hold that against it because I'm enjoying it so much.

I like the amount of dark candi sugar that has been used because Bro Thel is sweet without being cloyingly sweet. The minor amount of mouthcoating is just right in one sense, but a little more clinginess might result in more flavor linger and a deeper appreciation of what this big brew has to offer. The alcohol has been masked to perfection.

The thing that keeps this offering from the big leagues is the mouthfeel. The body is fine and dandy. The feel of the carbonation is not. Like the head, the mouthfeel is too harsh. A large part of what makes Belgian beer so good is a perfect amount of creamy expansiveness. North Coast would do well to send someone across the pond to learn from the masters before they create their next batch of Belgian-style ale.

I like what Brother Thelonious has to offer. At the risk of beating a dead horse, it does most everything right... except carbonation. Otherwise, it's a jazzy little number that is making my taste buds dance with joy. I consider the $7.59 money well spent and will gladly buy a few more bottles the next time I have the opportunity.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

(On-tap at the Brick Store Pub).

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

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

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

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

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

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Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing Co.
3.78 out of 5 based on 2,950 ratings.
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