Brother Thelonious | North Coast Brewing Co.

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Brother TheloniousBrother Thelonious

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

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: 1,028 | Ratings: 2,941
Photo of B-J-B
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%

Had this again after several years - was not as impressed as I was the first time. It seemed somehow thin, with a trace of the yeasty goodness and malty sweetness of a great Belgian but lacking something. It became quite one-note after awhile.

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Photo of Lard_City
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%

Fruity nose and taste. Slight boozy aftertaste. Flavor profile moves through in a hurry but a lot of different tastes here (citrus, grapes, some roasted malt, maybe even a little mango?). Delightful.

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Photo of dacrza1
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

DATE TASTED: November 6, 2014... GLASSWARE: Duvel tulip... OCCASION: Browns get their one prime-timer tonight, so time to break out the bomber in celebration... APPEARANCE: effervescent off-white bubbles light up an otherwise dark-as-ebony-keys body; two-finger brown head is sudsy and substantial... AROMA: heavy plum and apple early; approximates a red wine with some astringent, brackish notes... PALATE: wow--full-bodied, raking the tongue with a dry finish that demands another sip; warming and hearty; thick and creamy....TASTE: plum indeed, and secondary fruits include apple, pear and lack currants--big and flavorful; stoutish at its finish... OVERALL: a BIG beer that warmly mellows--not as complex as Monk's music, but no argument that it pleases as "Straight No Chaser" might on an autumn night...

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Photo of HighDesertWalrus
4.5/5  rDev +19%

Pours dark brown developing a thin caramel colored head. The aroma is of malt and brown sugar. The flavor is malty, yeasty, a little sweet, but smooth. The alcohol is present but not forward. The finish is slightly dry.
Overall I found this to be a most enjoyable brew.

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Photo of gbarbee
4.75/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I first drank this beer in a steakhouse in Augusta, Georgia. I had a steak dinner that was called "Neptune's Cow" (a filet topped with sauteed shrimp and blue crab sauce). The pairing was perfect.

Appearance: Dark brown
Smell: Hoppy and full-bodied with a hint of honey
Taste: Dark bread like pumpernickel but smooth
Mouthfeel: Smooth
Drinkability: Great beer brewed in the Belgian style.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of HoposaurusRex
3/5  rDev -20.6%

12 oz bottle poured into a chalice...

Appearance: Deep brown with small but persistent tan head.

Aroma: Prune and faint chocolate. I'm also getting some roastiness that seems inappropriate for the style.

Taste: Follows the aroma. Raisins and a hint of chocolate. Roasty bitterness and alcohol were apparent on first sip but subside significantly as it warms. Perhaps a touch too roasty and boozy for the style. Slight acidity.

Mouthfeel: Ester derived perception of sweetness is immediately countered by a very dry finish. Highly effervescent as should be expected. Perhaps some of the acidity is derived from a carbonic acid bite.

Overall: A good attempt at the style, but lacks the well rounded character of the best examples. Booze and slight roastiness compete with (rather than compliment) the fruity esters.

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Photo of leffebrown84th
4.5/5  rDev +19%

Fruity. I tasted plums and fig and maybe other dark fruits. I thought I was drinking a quadrupel. Very good flavor. As for look and smell and color I couldnt care less. Its all about taste.

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Photo of soulpower75
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%

I am a BIG fan of Thelonious' music and the beer is just smooth. It has a warm brown color and a deep malty flavor. It leaves you with bit of a bitter aftertaste kind of like the last note of a Monk tune.

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Photo of Roxie_B
4/5  rDev +5.8%

Looks: Translucent dark maple with amber highlights. Light tan head that falls quickly to lace.
Smell: Sweet, malty, nutty and lightly floral
Taste: Figs, plums and caramel.
Mouthfeel: Creamy but with an unfortunately acidic bite that detracts.

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Photo of HattedClassic
3.46/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a tan fluffy and foamy head that dissipates quickly. The beer itself is an opaque ruby red with brown notes. The beer smell is a bit sweet and dark fruity. The notes include plum and raisin. The taste is very similar to the nose with the same dark fruit taste. However, the taste also has a slightly sour note as well. The malt notes also come out in a caramel form that gives it a bit of sweetness with a roasted finish at the end. The mouthfeel is a bit heavy bodied and fairly smooth but feels slightly watery. Overall, an okay bee but not one I'll pick again.

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Photo of avwrite
3.6/5  rDev -4.8%

Heavier than it seems, but still has that belgium sweetness to it. A bit bitter and very malty. It's thick going down. Has a nice smell and a dark color. I imagine it to be a good beer suited for colder weather.

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Photo of lilsmizzul1225
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%

Appearance: Dark caramel color with a tan head. Resembling a look similar to Coca-Cola (4)

Smell: Caramel and licorice notes come out strong with a bit of spiciness--cinnamon being the strongest like scent but other spices come though; if only mildly. (3.75)

Taste: Very sweet at first but a caramel / brown sugar / molasses sweetness at first and finishing with a yeasty-breadiness. However, the alcohol definitely comes through strongly. Although 9.4% is pretty high, that doesn't necessarily means that it needs to be boozy-tasting. Perhaps a cloudier or thicker beer could downplay the alcohol. (3.5)

Mouthfeel: Light and very carbonated (another Coca-Cola likeness) However, the lightness could be why the booziness is so strong. (3.75)

Overall: Not what I was expecting. The overall strong boozy taste is what brings the drink down. Had the consistency been thicker then the beer would have been a lot better and the complex flavors could really come through. (3.75)

Final Score: 3.75/5

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.48/5  rDev -7.9%

12 oz bottle into a wine glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark red color. The head is a finger high, and off-white in shade. The texture is creamier than most traditional Belgians, but also retains more poorly as well. Minimal lacing is left behind. (3)

Smell: Letting it warm up, I pick up notes of chocolate, brown sugar, and caramel. The spicy Belgian yeast also exists behind the former. It seems a bit boozy for 9.4%, otherwise it does a decent interpretation of a proper BSDA. (3.5)

Taste: At first, the focus (just like with the nose) is on the sweet malts: there are some nice chocolate notes in particular, with lesser brown sugar and caramel floating around. The back end, natch, reveals bready yeast nicely. The first few sips come off as too boozy, but it calms down once the palate gets used to it. The complexity is there, and so is the restrained sweetness; it just needs more balance to be up there in the stratosphere of the Belgians. Sure the alcohol presence gives it a nuanced depth, but it makes it too harsh at times. (3.5)

Mouthfeel: Very well carbonated, as expected. It's both dry and light for the style - this must be why it seems relatively alcoholic. The booze brings it back down to sipper territory, basically. (3.5)

Overall: This does a lot right. It manages to be both bone-dry and complex all at the same time, it just needs to conceal the booze better. A solid BSDA that's a step below the best Belgians. (3.5)

3.48/5: Really nice BSDA once you look past the booziness

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Photo of kingmaxwell
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

North Coast Brewery's Brother Thelonious is a pretty nice ale. The bottle is attractive with a cork and thick-walled bottle. The label says that some of the proceeds go to The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

Poured into a pint glass (I know . . .I know . . .). I did let the beer warm a little bit as suggested by the label. Poured a thick reddish brown with a nice buttery head of foam. As I've drank a little bit the head has faded away leaving almost no lacing.

The smell of the beer in the glass is mellow, an inviting mild boozy scent.

The beer is very friendly -- a sweet chocolate raisin flavor. Not much aftertaste when you drink Brother Thelonious. Just a rich front flavor and then strong alcohol in your belly.

Generally enjoyable, strong beer.

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Photo of nicoleann
4.04/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

This beer has a very nice color, it is pleasing to the eye. It has a Nice reddish color; it almost resembles red wine when put in the light. Brother Thelonious has an Intense nose, but a smoother flavor. Oddly enough it reminds me of Sam Adam's Boston Lager...? It definitely does not taste like a 9.4%

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Photo of arlo19
2.86/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Poured dark amber into DFH signature glass. Head is very fizzy, and quickly dissipates.

Aroma is OK, grapes, yeasty and some booze.

Mouthfeel is very good, light.

The taste is overpowered, sharp booze. It stays with you. I can pick up a little dark fruit.

Overall, this beer just isn't balanced. It gets a little better as it warms, but still not good.

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Photo of Lucular
3.67/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O - One and done for me. Lots of strong darks out there far better than this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(poured into a Steenbrugge goblet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

12oz stubby

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

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

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

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Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing Co.
85 out of 100 based on 1,028 ratings.
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