Brother Thelonious | North Coast Brewing Co.

very good
1,050 Reviews
Read the review
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

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 1,050 | Ratings: 2,997
Photo of Beerbuddha
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Poured a dark amber color with a thin off white head.

Smell- Very sweet malty taste with hints of hops, figs and dark cherries.

Taste- Same as the smell but with nice warming taste of alcohol.

Mouthfeel- Full body and medium carbonation.

Drinkability- This was a great beer. I shared this one with a friend. It would have been a bit much to drink on my own.

 373 characters

Photo of crayphish
3.78/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The brew pours a murky reddish brown. A bubbly head quickly worked down to a small thin cap. Modest lacing as the brew is drank. Smell is sweet dry fruits; mostly raisins and cherry. Brown sugar. Bread. Some alcohol definitely noted. Taste brings the raisins and cherry notes on strong. Sweet malt bread and peppery alcohol. The alcohol dominates the mouth, helping the sweetness of the malt and fruit notes from over powering this brew. Still a full mouthfeel, fairly chewy. One bomber was enough, but I enjoyed it.

 516 characters

Photo of tavernjef
3.89/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours out a nice darkened reddish ruddy brown to settle nearly black as blood in the moonlight. Huge soft capping of dull yellow foam sits like an immoveable sponge. Large cutains of lace pull together with a few areas being torn apart into thick blobby strings.

Aroma is a low fade of dark fruits, kinda cherry and raisin with a bit of dry yeasty spice floating about. Unique little spices of pumpkin, apple, plum skins, and cinnamon make some nice noting. Actually became better in character as it warmed up a bit, however; not in its strength.

Flavors are an easy going meld of loosened dark fruity stuff and malt. Fuzzy and textured with skins and bubbles of carbonation tickling the tongue and mellows out well to create a great finishing quality of subtle layers and complexity. The fornt and middle is a bunch of set up yeast and buzz with a bit of plummyness. Then, as the carbonation settles it lets loose with a nice creamy display of chewy breads, cherry, raisin, and thick cake richness. Uniquely active and candied with some solid tastes.

Pretty firm carbonation here that tends to get in the way for the most part of its stay. Its only until the finish where it flattens out and all the character takes place. So with that I found it to be a bit off-putting. Stays pretty full and active, ahhh the finish is what kept me sipping it though. It slightly got better as it warmed and what I recommend serving it at. Warm as it you can take it. 52+ degrees is where I tended to like it much more.

A true sipper of delicate nature. Again, the warmer the better.

 1,573 characters

Photo of Mark
3.84/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

As most long time BA's are aware, I do not get the Belgian thing. Never have caught on to them like most of you. I don't like North Coast's Pranqster at all but a co-worker and fellow lover of No. Coast beers urged me to try this. Seeing as I like some jazz and Brother T, I agreed to try it. Not bad! Deep amber or even copper color. familiar Belgian yeast aroma is there but is not overpowering in the taste department. No cloves, no banana, no bubblegum notes either. I can live with this. A bit fruity and a distinct Belgian taste that I could live with. Is sit a staple for me now? No, but I did buy a Brother Thelonious T-Shirt. Will save my remaining bottles for when it gets towards winter.

 698 characters

Photo of dnichols
4.27/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I first enjoyed a Brother at Jazz Alley in Seattle while having a prime rib dinner and listening to Taj Mahal. While my dinner companions shared a bottle of not so outstanding wine I was blown away by how well the Brother went with dinner. For this review, I poured a corked and caged 750 ml bottle into a chilled challis.

A: The Monk pours a deep garnet murky brown. There was a slight caramel head that dissipated quickly living a modest cover of small bubbles on the surface of the beer and a meek lacing.

S: Enticing spiciness of nutmeg and malty sweetness. Some ripe bing cherries, figs, and a hint of alcohol that warms on the back side of each swig.

T: The taste is dominated on the front side by caramel, figs and a bit of black pepper. This finish is spicy alcohol with a modest bitterness that mingles with residual sweetness.

M: Full-bodied and creamy with a zip resulting from its moderate carbonation and a warm alcohol glow at the finish.

D: A superb American dubbel. I have pleasant residual memories from my experience at Jazz Alley, however, this beer stands the test of time. The taste is solid making it a sure bet for a domestic dubbel.

Comment: I keep The Monk in my stash. It complements a New York Strip dinner, jazz and the company of good friends.

 1,281 characters

Photo of Floydster
3.08/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Pint at Naja's place in Redondo Beach

Pour was pretty light brown with a silky white head of about one half inch in height

Taste was odd for a double because it was way more sour than sweet

Smell had a little vinegar too, which is more common of wild and sour ales

Drinkability was pretty good even though there was a high alcohol content

One of North Coast's best

 369 characters

Photo of KevPet84
4.27/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer is one I love personally, but like many other reviewers don't find it a good exapmle of a dubble. I love the taste and the sweetness with the mounthfeel much like a cream stout. The appearance is where the beer falls a little short of a good. The head doesn't hold up well and is small with decent lacing.
The smell is sweet fruits and some mild spice in the back.
The taste is what I love about the beer. It is sweet fruits upfront with a slight sour notes that are quickly masked by toast and then finishes with that caramel flavors that coat the mouth.
The mouthfeel I love, but it is a little to heavy for the dubble style, more of just a belgium dark strong ale.Still a great beer, and it is wonderful with a medium bodied cigar.

 746 characters

Photo of atigerlife
3.45/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown with lighter highlights. Think light brown head that dissipates rather quickly. Decent lacing.

Aroma is quite strong alcohol presence, dark fruits and sweet dark coffee in the background [seemed strange for the style].

Taste was quite sweet, dark fruits and some dark chocolate undertones.

Mouthfeel was medium bodied and rather lifeless. Flat.

Overall, I give North Coast kudos for making a decent dubble. Seemed too sweet and lacking in complexity of a great dubbel, but a decent effort.

 512 characters

Photo of xymyl
4.42/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vibrant deep mahogany red with a thin tan head that stays at about a quarter inch,and good lacing. Highly carbonated and easy to stir the head back up again.

Nose is sweet and spicy with brown sugar, plumb, banana, licorice, smoke and slight latex notes. A lot of other stuff going on, but I'll move on...

Taste is sweet up front with strong cherry and plumbs and a spiciness carried along by the alcohol. Caramel and bready bicsuit notes eventually release some huge pepper at the finish. There is a lot more going on here but I'm going to kick back and listen to some Miles Davis, that's right, Miles. When I find a Miles beer I'll listen to Sonny and when I find a Sonny beer, then, THEN I'll listen to Thelonious.

Medium full in body. I heard bad things, but this is very much my speed. Need to try and get more. Nice!

 825 characters

Photo of udubdawg
3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 ml bottle

Pours a nice clear mohagany color, with a quickly receding yellowish tan head. Lacing is very intricate at first but within the first third of a glass is done. Looks pretty inticing.

The spice and fruit made me think of sweet and sour sauce at first sniff, but as I delve further I detect a lot of carmelized sugar, some plum and other dark fruit, and a lot of alcohol. Overall quite vinous.

Pretty tasty, but it takes a bit to get over the alcohol - it is quite strong. However instead of increasingly warming the mouth I find I get used to it. Maybe this is a good local anaesthetic! Otherwise it is sweet and fruity, with a bready malt background. I find that by the time I pour a second glass that I'm thankful for the alcohol which has beaten back what I expect would otherwise be a cloyingly sweet brew.

Overall carbonation is a bit high especially at first, which I suppose made the initial alcohol sting seem a bit worse. A little thin, and a little harsh, but nothing to really complain about. A little more body would go well with all this warmth and general sipping nature.

recorked and finished a few hours later - while a glass was enjoyable, the overall drinkability isn't terribly high.

 1,220 characters

Photo of phishgator
3.6/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750 ML bottle into a chalice glass. The deep ruby is thick looking and the head is a tight carbonation of white and a tint of red. The aroma is a slight raisin, plum, sour fruit. The flavor is close to a dubbel; the sourness and malty sweetness mix well. Body is medium to heavy; very slick coating of the palate. One bottle is all I would want and probably out of a 12 OZ. Worth a try and someone may find this exceptional.

 438 characters

Photo of jwc215
3.37/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours medium brown with a thin head that soon becomes pond-scummy. Some, but not much, trailing lace slides down the glass.

The smell is of sweet dark malt and prunes with a light peppery spice.

The taste is of sweet malt - caramelish with biscuity/bready yeast as it warms. Sugar candy dominates the dark prune-like fruitiness. Peppery spiciness is in a warming finish.

The body is light-to-medium. Pretty smooth for an aggressive abv.

Too sweet without much else, for me. Worth splitting with a friend, and for a good cause. A decent stab at the style, but put it next to an authentic Belgian dubbel...and, well...

 620 characters

Photo of MrBen
4.55/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

If you're looking for a straightforward Belgian, this is a fine choice. Nothing too complex here, but you get loads of the sweet and estery goodness that make for an enjoyable dubbel.

Pours a rusty tan color with moderate head and lacing. Fruity, sweet nose, silky mouthfeel, and very drinkable. The beer's 9% ABV is hidden pretty well under a cloak of traditional Belgian flavors. A very nice beer, indeed.

 410 characters

Photo of acrawf6
3.97/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours out a dark brown amber with a tan head.

Smell. Very sweet, scents of molassis, little bit of chocolate and raisons. Sweet and fruity, with the fruit aromas being more of a preservative smell, currents and figs are what i get the most.

Taste. It has a very strong earthy taste to it with the yeasty flavors. Not as sweet as the aroma, but still sweet. After a few sips, the fruit flavors come out for me that are a fresher taste of fruits than other dubbels have. Raisons and prunes are the biggest flavors i get. I taste no real presence of alcohol, but it is warming as i swallow. Aftertaste is creamy and i get a more roasted maltiness that is a little smokey. There is a little bit of a pepperiness after the swallow.

Mouthfeel. Body is at a nice and medium/slightly full. Lots of carbonation, and a good balance.

Overall, I like this one. It has nice flavors and a good level of drinkability to make this one to really enjoy. I certainly like it, and plan to get more, but not before others in the style...i think there is better for the same price.

 1,063 characters

Photo of roblowther
3.89/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml corked & caged, a good start. Can Northcoast beat the rap that all CA breweries add enough hops that their styles should have the extension "/IPA". We'll see...
Pours a clear brownish red with a thin tan head that dissipates quickly leaving no appreciable lacing. The smell is rum-soaked fruits, oranges & raisins. Phenols add highlights. Good...
The taste is creamy and malty. None of the fruits come through really. Nice smoky aftertaste with a dry finish that smacks of cloves. Nice sweetness to the brew, it does indeed taste like a dubbel! Not the complexity I'd like to see but not the hop assault I feared, either! The mouthfeel is crisp & smooth, but a bit watery, at least for something so malty. The drinkability is good. Alcohol warmth lets you know its there without beating you about the head & shoulders. The finish isn't too dry & the start isn't too sweet. Nice. Overall, a fine beer & one I'd buy again on occasion.

 940 characters

Photo of Metalmonk
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Was anxious to try this, and I finally found one at the Raleigh, NC Whole Foods. It's good, but not as great as some of the hype led me to believe...

Pours a caramel-ruby color, with a foamy tan head on top. Small bits of lace are revealed as the glass empties.

Smells of toffee, raisin, plum, other dark fruits, toasted grain, yeast.

Flavor of pumpernickel, coarse grain, rough bitter hops, balanced by big dark fruits, toasted rye cracker, caramel, and alcohol warmth. Earthy yeast in the background. As it warms, bigger fruit elements emerge (cherry and prune). As nice as all that sounds, it seemed that something was missing...wasn't as satisfying or together as many authentic Belgian dubbels, although I did enjoy it for what it does have to offer.

A big hearty flavor, not smooth or soft, a bit wild, reminds me of homebrew in some ways. A nice experience, but tough to get a feel for it...I'd like the opportunity to try another against this first one. Maybe on-tap is the way to go next time.

 1,015 characters

Photo of joeskirkie
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big ol 750 mL bottle. I can't find any kind of bottled date but I'm not too concerned.

In the chalice it's a mostly opaque brown with ruby and caramel highlights when held to the light. Nice head, about as thick as my thumb, and laced pretty well.

The nose has some cherry, bread (banana bread, actually) chocolate, and a bit of a spice to it, like nutmeg. I absolutely love it.

Chocolate first on the tongue, then banana bread, then some more chocolate with cherry hints. It's like a dessert but its not too heavy.

It's a good medium body, not too heavy; I'm actually quite refreshed by it.

This one may have helped sway my choice of favorite style. I'll have to move one into my beginner cellar.

 713 characters

Photo of wagenvolks
4.32/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bomber into a chalice.

The Monk pours a gorgeous deep amber hue with a thick beige head that recedes quickly leaving light lacing. Creeping in around the edges is some ruby red, giving depth to the dark tea-colored dubbel. The aroma is both complex and enticing: big fruit presence up front with notes of raisin, plum, and prune. Alcohol esters show up sharply with a deeper inhale. Even further still are smoky bacon hints, some biscuity malt notes, and sassafrass.

Fruit dominates the palate upon the first swig, as pear, prune, and cranberry are complemented with a big alcohol presence. The alcohol gives the tongue a nice workout, but it doesn't overpower the flavor. As it warms, a huge malty backbone balances well with a touch of spicy hops. The mouthfeel is dry, smooth, crisp, and mellow as Thelonious himself. A great fruity finish caps this one off, as well as a bit of bitterness. Overall, this is a tasty, aromatic, and very smooth-drinking dubbel. Another amazing offer from the rarely-disappointing North Cost.

 1,033 characters

Photo of SkeeterHawk
3.77/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Initially pours a pretty cloudy dark garnet color with a small 1/8" head of tan bubbles after a careful pour. The head settles pretty quickly and ends up as a small ring within a minute. There are some bubbles rising slowly to the top, but they don't maintain the head. There is very little lacing left on the glass after drinking the beer.

Aroma: When I first poured it, I got a bit of roast and a whole bunch of fruit characteristic of the Belgian yeast running warm during the primary fermentation. As the beer sits for a little bit, these aromatics change and the malty sweetness is coming out a lot more. Getting deeper into the aroma gives way to some dark caramel, a dry toasty aromatic malt character, as well as some evident peppery spice from the alcohol.

Taste: The flavor is really fruity like the aroma first suggested. The yeast esters are the first and primary thing you notice, but the malt is definitely a big part of the flavor as well. It doesn't take long for the alcohol to show up and spice things up quite a bit. There is some balance to the sweetness that comes from hops, but they are not a dominant part of the flavor. The alcohol warms up the throat all the way to the belly after the sip and it stays with you for quite some time. The low carbonation makes it come across your palate a bit heavy and it would benefit from some more.

Opinion: This beer is pretty decent. It is quite fruity for my taste, as I like my Dubbels a bit closer to the malt profile of a Bock. This one reminds me more of how homebrewed examples taste. The malt is a bit raw here, and this beer would probably benefit from a bit more ageing. There is nothing wrong with this beer, but it isn't one of my absolute favorites. I would drink it again if someone else was passing it around, but I doubt I will buy another bottle.

 1,847 characters

Photo of khiasmus
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Kkipple for this bottle.

A- Hazy burnt sienna with a finger of tan head that settles to a mild lacing on top and a ring in a few moments. Head retention, and the fairly dense haziness, are the only problems with the appearance.

S- Mmmm. Wow. What a killer nose. Dark cherries, raisins, maybe a hint of banana, a bit of pepper, some clove, nutmeg, molasses, brown sugar, coriander, Charleston sweetgrass, some alcohol.

T- Malty and tons of spice, including pepper and clove. Overall very sweet, with notes of dates, banana, raisin, cane sugar, faint light yeast, and with a lot of phenolic and estery spice. The finish is smooth and spicy, but remains sweet all the way down.

M- Medium-high carbonation, with a full, chewy body and some lingering dryness and warmth from the alcohol.

D- It's so good. Do yourself a favor and try this beer. North Coast has succeeded in making a dubbel many Belgians would be jealous of.

 934 characters

Photo of saintwarrick
3.97/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours a dark amber with a decent head that laces the glass with solid carbonation. Aroma is dark fruits, cherries, prunes, plums and raisins while the taste reflects that with dark chocolate covered cherries and raisins; eventually shows a little fruitcake taste as it warms. It's a sipper with a dark, heavy flavor like and old red wine. I like some of the lighter Belgian ales more, but this is a solid dark Belgian though I have Rochefort ranked ahead of this brew.

 478 characters

Photo of kkipple
3.52/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured this into my trusty Tripel Karmeliet goblet, and the verdict is that this is a pretty stylistically correct dubbel -- it's a lusty ruby-red that appears dark brown till you hold it to the light, with a dense, foamy tan head that takes a while to settle down to a nice frothy cap. Little lacing.

Ya remember what your grandma's fruitcake smells like? That molasses-y, salty, pumpernickel smell full of raisins and dates? I feel like there's a lump of fruitcake at the bottom of this beer, making it dense and difficult. This has more malt and roast character than any dubbel I've had previously, and the (expected) fruit is darker as well -- think black currants or rum raisins and prunes. The alcohol comes out the more this beer warms, eventually knocking your nose about a bit. I like the smell, but it's a bit darker than anticipated. If I didn't know better, I'd think they scorched the bottom of the tun while brewing this...

After such a deep, lush smell, Brother T disappoints in the final stretch. The flavor is recongizeable as a dubbel, but is too burnt and roasty. Sweet prunes, noticeable alcohol, dense malt and a hint of sour fruit (cherry?) are at the forefront. A roasted, damp and slightly sour finish rounds it off.

Brother Thelonious isn't a bad beer, but is far from being one of my favorites. Points to North Coast for thinking outside the box and doing something interesting with the style. Try if you like Dubbels, or jazz music.

 1,468 characters

Photo of Goldorak
3.35/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Sampled on-tap at Blue Tusk, Syracuse, NY.

Apprearance: Reddish copper colored brew, could have been a bit darker for the style but still fine. The head retention wasn't that great, it died away to form a thin ring. It was served a bit cold.

Smell: Strange mix of smokey, spicy and acidic aromas that reminded me of those all dressed chips they sell here in Quebec, which made my friends chortle. Definately original. Did they use a Belgian yeast for this? Was it barrel aged? As it warmed, it developped more of a corky smell that I liked.

Taste: Carbonation in the low-to-mid range, the smokey flavors come more than anything else. No real sign of spicy yeast flavors, just a bit of acidity that didn't quite make my mouth pucker. Woody, corky flavors are the only characteristics that make it seem like a Belgian ale to me. Not my favorite from this brewery, but interesting.

 887 characters

Photo of ccrida
3.94/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle into my St. Feuillien goblet, Brother Thelonious is a dark, muddy brown, with a 2 finger egg shell head that quickly subsided to a thick skim, leaving light lace.

The aroma is very strong, brown sugar and dates, almost a bit like a barelywine on first blush, although you can sense it has that lightness that you look for from a belgian. As it warms, it gets more of that candi sugar and dark fruitiness that I really love from the dark belgians.

The taste is also rather heavy handed, more brown sugar and cured fruits, lots pheonols and dry booze, as well as some astringency before a clean fade to a bitter finish that's very spicy, with black pepper, anise and clove. I emphasize that the fruitiness is more like raisins and a bit sour rather then tart grape or cherry that makes me prefer in beglian darks over dubbels. But this one is better then most IMHO...maybe worthy of a 4.5, but as much I try to score by style, I just don't love it that much...and haven't had nearly as many dubbels as BSDAs to fairly first and benchmark example of the style is the bornem dubbel, which I find to be a bit bland...while I prefer a robust brew, the flavor profile here isn't my favorite, but still enjoyable. Of course, this one gets better as it warms from fridge temp.

The mouthfeel is chewy but with a med-light body.

Overall this is not a bad dubbel, and one of the more true to style examples of the american versions. It's not a style that I tend to overindulge in (perhaps my least favorite of the belgians, which are my favorites overall), so I sip and slow and let it linger.

 1,635 characters

Photo of plaid75
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Poured a rich mahogany hue with a one finger creamy white head. There was good retention and lacing.

The smell featured an upfront sweetness with good yeast esters and dark fruits.

The taste consisted of an even sweetness and a dominant golden raisin flavor. Nice yeast esters and earthy hops as well.

The mouthfeel was full and moderately chewy.

Overall an enjoyable dubbel.

 387 characters

Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing Co.
3.79 out of 5 based on 2,997 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.