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Kasteel Donker | Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck N.V.

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386 Reviews
Kasteel DonkerKasteel Donker

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck N.V.

Style: Quadrupel (Quad)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-14-2001

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Reviews: 386 | Ratings: 857
Photo of puboflyons
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

From the corked, caged 2011 750 ml bottle. Sampled on September 28, 2016.

The pour is a gorgeous looking mahogany brown with little to no head but decent clarity despite being as dark as it is.

Oh my. Sweet malt notes on the nose along with a wooden and musty cellar character. No booze on the nose at all for 11%. Very mellow on the alcohol front.

The body is smooth as silk with a medium to full texture.

The sweet caramel malts define the flavor. Not the Belgian yeast, Belgian spice, or booze. Yet it is mellow and easy to enjoy despite its ABV size. Aging has done this one wonders.

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Photo of CoreyC
4.64/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle dated 2013-05-06, so a bit over 3 years
A - Dark brown light head
S - Nice sweet carmel malts
T - Deliciously sweet - not too sugary, but excellent carmel and dark fruit flavor
M - Nicely smooth/thick
O - Just an excellent tasting BSDA, well worth aging

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Photo of tuesunsommiel
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

L: Dark brow, ruby red when held up to the light
S: Malt, dried/candied fruit, alcohol, yeast
T: Complex, candied fruit, plum, slight raisin, alcohol (not overpowering)
F: Oily, great complexity and pleasant aftertaste
O: Complex beer and definitely worth the price in Europe

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Photo of tlema1
4.01/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

From 2011
L: murky brown, with a thin but long lasting head
S: I get a plum wine almost sake quality
T: absolutely delicious, so easy drinking, muted dark fruit and a definite sweetness
F: silky, not boozy at all, goes down really easy
O: I'll probably never have an almost 5 year old beer again, this is excellent

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Photo of infinitebruner
3.46/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

May 24, 2016

11.2 oz. bottle, snifter

A – Extremely dark brown, not quite black, and on the cloudy side. A centimeter, maybe, of light tan head, gone as quickly as it appears.

S – Black cherry, a ton of cola, stone fruit, and big alcohol esters. Warm on the nose. Smells a bit thin, like a cordial or a port or dessert wine. A bit of chocolate and toffee in the background. No hop character.

T – Stone fruit, pear, fruity esters from the alcohol. Light chocolate, almond, and sweet cola. May be some licorice in there as well. Zero hop flavor.

M – A bit on the thin side, the presence of a lot of alcohol very obvious. Drinks almost like a lightly carbonated port or dessert wine. Sweet, on the verge of cloying. Some alcohol warmth on the finish.

O – A strange beer, almost more like a cordial or wine, as noted a couple times. If I tried this blind, I’d be convinced there was a ton more alcohol in it, or that it wasn’t beer at all.

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Photo of Trosevear
4.83/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

L: Dark brown with a slight white head leaving nothing and no lacing at all.

S: Sickly sweet but what I expected from a quad slight hop and malt smell as well.

T: Dark maple and a syrup taste as well and kinda brown sugar, all super sweet tastes to it.

F: Full bodied flavour and carbonation to it.

O: A really amazing beer would buy this again and sip on it again slowly!!

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Photo of Beginner2
4.34/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This may well have been my first "Eureka" revelations in the world of beer.
It came on November 18, 2009 at a cafe in Ghent. We were sitting at an outside table on a quiet plaza containing a church. The sun -- however low it was -- provided enough heat to sit outside. As the setting sun's shadow covered me, the minimal heat was replaced by this quad; called a Bruin in the Flanders part of Belgium. Since I am not writing a novel and you are not reading one, I'll cut that experience short.

When I got home, I did something I have done for no other beer during the course of my 62 years: I bought a case... and I am a better man for it.

So consistent was this case over five years that I cannot change my previous rating based on this current one, the final beer in that case. (I hoped the case would last ten years.) The disappointing part is that this beer is still improving; still melding its flavors, still complexing its dark fruit flavors, still getting sweeter without getting syrupy. In brief, this is still a great quad.

For a more temperate opinion. listen to someone who knows.
MJ's 1999 "Guide" gave the quad we now call "Donker" 3 of 4 stars... (I roughly adjust his rating as about 12% less than my effusiveness.)

Donker and its tripel brethren are not so much as reviewed in his "Great Beers of Belgium", as he tells the story of his repartee' with the owner of Van Honsebrouck. Very hilarious material. If you can get the book, I recommend it... but particularly this passage.

Bottom-line: if you haven't tried this quad, buy it.... and you won't go wrong... particularly if you end up buying a case.

A fresher 4 pack was bought in August 2016 and I just Had one (in lieu of dessert.) I concur with buying a case: it is best to let this Donker age. It becomes graceful, which is better than I can say for us in what is supposed to be an important election year.

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Photo of bnes09
2.49/5  rDev -38.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Dense, super hazy and syrupy appearance with no head at all. Ultra sweet flavor. Tastes like apple cider with added syrup. No head character or hop balance. Feels like syrup. Minimal carbonation.

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Photo of Dzu
4.29/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into chalice.
L: Dark red/brown with a weak white foam head.
S: Caramel, dark fruits, raisin.
T: Sweets, plums, complex taste, that i liked.
F: Low cabonation medium body.
O: Veryimpressive quad.

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Photo of MonkeyBread
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Single 12oz bottle with a bottle on date of June 12, 2012 so this baby got some age on it.

Looks like a standard strong dark Belgian. Dark brown hue.
Smell is booze soaked Carmelized bananas. Brown sugar, big Belgian yeast esthers.
Taste is similar to nose, like Banana's Fosters. This is super sweet. Caramel, dark candi sugar, bananas, booze soaked apples and pears. Low amount of alcohol heat

Overall this has held up well with almost 4 years of age. An after dinner dessert sipper, this is an excellent Belgian Strong Dark Ale as long as you like sweet.

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Photo of Quonmisc
4.21/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Reminded me of pouring a Coke - black with minimal head but when held to the light, garnet. Clear. Nice lacing with continuous bubbles. Not as sweet as Coke but it is sweet. I like sweet, this one is fine for me. I won't drink these in succession but it is a nice diversion. Phenol, molasses, dates, figs. Prune finish. The alcohol is evident at 11%. Mouthfeel is silky with a lingering effervescence. Luxurious with mild but evident carbonation. I like this quad a lot.

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Photo of kabirmarwah
3.3/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

It's your typical Belgian quad, except for it's approximately 100x sweeter. Pours nice and dark (hence the name), but upon my first sip...holy sweetness! Cloyingly sweet, almost to the point that it's hard to drink. It's almost syrupy. Nice raisin, caramel and brown sugar flavors, but not enough to cover up all the alcohol (11%!!). Not my favorite Belgian quad by a long shot, probably won't try it again. I'd rather go with a trappist-brewed quad which can be equally strong but the flavors are more balanced to mask the alcohol, and it doesn't feel like having dessert.

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Photo of Ant777uk
2.67/5  rDev -34.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.25

11%..? Nice

Look is kind of dark red, still see through though. Froth goes down very fast.

Aroma is fruity,kind of different and complex.

Taste? OMFG wow. Intense. This is almost like someone has mixed vodka with my Chimay Blue...

No way is it worth 100 as a score. It is not a complex, highly balanced, beautiful taste. But if you value a beer by how strong it is, there are not many more than this...

Chimay Blue is much better than this, give it a try. This reminds me of the extra strong canned beer that we have all tried on the occasion...

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Photo of biboergosum
4.04/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

750ml, caged, corked, and black foiled bottle. Y'know, 'donker' just plain sounds better than 'dark', doesn't it?

This beer pours a clear, dark (sigh) red-brick brown colour, with two fingers of puffy, finely foamy, and yet fizzy beige head, which leaves a bit of thick promontory lace in places around the glass as it lazily sinks away.

It smells of semi-sweet, grainy caramel malt, phenolic yeast, dark (Christ, there I go again!) middle-eastern fruit (figs, dates, raisins etc), an indistinct earthy mustiness, ethereal savoury spice, and a certainly perfumed floral and slightly herbal bitterness. The taste is rather sweet caramel and toffee malt, some separate Belgian candi sugar, middling yeast, a more robust black (hah!) orchard fruitiness (plum, prune, red grapes and dates), sedate musty measures, and a boozed-up floral, herbal, and weedy bitterness equal to that in the nose.

The bubbles are pretty low-key in their lilting and caressing frothiness, the body a solid medium-heavy weight for the style, and generally smooth and creamy, only the hovering, yet benevolent alcohol having any truck here, it would seem. It finishes still fairly sweet, but not overly cloying or tongue-scrapingly so.

Yep, it's 'donker', and sweet, but in a deftly moderated sense, which you tend to get from the better purveyors of these upper-end Belgian offerings. While not standing right beside the pinnacle of said hallmarks, Kasteel Donker is at least playing in the same ballpark, just waiting for its (maybe long overdue) call-up.

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Photo of alexanderplatz
2.01/5  rDev -50.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.25 | feel: 1.25 | overall: 1.5

Too cloyingly sweet. Combined with low carbonation the result is an unpleasantly syrupy beverage. Tasted worse and worse as the glass wore on. One dimensional and uninteresting. If it had been a blind taste test you could have convinced me it was a novice home brew. Made through half a glass before I decided to drain pour the rest.

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Photo of tillmac62
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

BOD 2/6/13. Pours a dark garnet that is almost black unless held to light. Outstanding head volume, lacing and retention...considering it's 11% ABV.

Outstanding rich nose of plum, raisin and fig over a solid caramel malt base. Light alcohol notes are present.

Light medium body with a smooth texture. Light carbonation with just a touch of effervescence in the middle and finish.

The flavor profile is almost world class. Reasonable intensity, quite complex and very well balanced. The only flaws are the body is a bit light and the alcohol is not quite covered. The fruits of the nose predominate with sweetness upfront that flows through plum, fig and raisin. The middle brings an alcohol note that intensifies into the finish and also provides a bit of heat. The flavor shifts from the sweet dark fruits noted earlier into a prune that is slightly astringent. Prune and alcohol linger.

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Photo of kevinlater
4.18/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle into goblet. over a year old i think. enjoyed on july 3, 2015. paired with a rib steak

a: transparent-ish deep crimson with under a finger of bone-hued head. really cool

s: sweet fig and raisin, some date-like notes, plums, sweet alcohol. very vinous

t: follows the nose. full of sweet raisin and plum. lesser notes of figs and dates. again, very vinous overall. slight alcohol presence

m: medium mouthfeel, plenty of subtly bubbly carbonation

o: as you can tell by this review, it's a very sweet beer. not for everyone, but a real treat for me. went well with the steak

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Photo of BeerAndGasMasks
4.24/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours from the 750 ml ( 25 oz) bottle a very dark amber with a smallish tan head. The taste is malty and complex on the tongue. Easy to drink. Beware!

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.11/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: Pours an opaque, though slightly hazy extremely dark reddish amber in color with light amounts of active visible carbonation along the edges of the glass and some faint cola brown highlights. The beer has a finger tall foamy tan head that reduces to a thick film covering the entire surface of the beer and a thick ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of dark malts and dark fruits (raisin and plum) with a light amount of dark Belgian candi sugar sweetness. Hints of spices.

T: Upfront there is a moderate flavor of dark malts with a light to moderate amount of dark Belgian candi sugar sweetness. That is followed by moderate to strong flavors of dark fruits (raisin and plum) and just a hint of spices. Hints of cherry sweetness in the background. Just a hint of bitterness in the finish but it fades pretty quickly leaving a moderate amount of lingering cloying sweetness.

M: Medium to heavy bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Slightly thick/sticky upfront but overall quite smooth.

O: Very enjoyable and quite easy to drink considering the strength. Alcohol is well hidden and I really enjoyed this one, sweet enough to almost be a a dessert.

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Photo of brureview
4.19/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured in a moa snifter. Served at 54°F 12°C as suggested on the bottle.

Perhaps 54° is a bit warm to start for quad. I should've started at about 50° 10°C. The beer poured a dark black-brown color with a one finger head.

The aroma was weaker than expected. Hints of fig, plum, and fruit.
The beer was bottled about 2 years ago. Perhaps this affected the taste profile.
I have cellared some quads only to find that the aroma/taste diminished.

MF malty and smooth.

Taste: deep plum, fig, chocolate:excellent and complex. However, I was thinking that if I had a fresher bottle perhaps the taste would be more pronounced. I am not sure if the beer is aged before it is distributed.

The alcohol is deceiving in this beer- I hardly taste it. It's one of the easiest drinking quads I have tasted.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.34/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz chubby bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled 2/6/13

A- pours a deep brown color with a ruby hue, small foamy off-white head reduces to leave a ring around the edge

S- dark fruity aromas of black cherry, raisin, date, plum & fig. Fresh brown bread with hints of caramel, candied sugar, brown sugar, licorice & alcohol

T- lots of sweet malt up front with flavors of candied Belgian sugar, brown sugar & molasses. Dark fruits kick in mid-palate with flavors of cherry juice, plum & fig. Bready brown malt adds fruit-cake-like flavor, more sweetness on the finish with more dark fruit on the linger

M- viscous body with low carbonation leads to a foamy mouthfeel and a slightly chewy warming finish

O- this is definitely a sipper that drinks more like a dessert port, this would be a fine choice for an after dinner drink

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Photo of drmeto
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

-hard on the edge between very sweet and too sweet
-brown sugar and toffee notes dominating
-slight dark fruit and Banana notes
-clear toasted malt character on the backend
-slightly boozy as it warms up
-slightly undercarbonated
-toasty and slightly alcoholic finish

good, but the sweetness almost kills it for me

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Photo of Dentist666
4.04/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured into tulip.
Very dark brown beer with thin tan head. Thick smell of dark fruits, molasses, licorice, toffee, caramel. Taste is sweet, surprisingly, not very alcoholic, candy sugar, plums, sticky. Light carbonation, still drinkable, despite high ABV.

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Photo of ajm5108
3.84/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A lot of sweet grape musk on the nose. It almost smells like fresh grape jam. The wine grape carries over to the flavor, mixing with some sweet malt, dark molasses and cola. Unexpected for a quad, but very solid and easy to drink for such abv.

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Photo of interzen
3.8/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

330ml bottle poured into a tulip glass

Look: Deep, dark brown - no haze, cloudiness or floaties and a tan head which settles down to a uniform foam cap. No lacing at all.

Smell: Sweet, very sweet. Loads of dark, roasted malt aromas with more than a hint of molasses and burnt sugar - faint hints of dark, stewed fruit: think prunes, raisins, that kind of thing. If there's anything else there, then it's pretty much hammered into submission.

Taste: Tastes like it smells - if it were any sweeter you'd probably have sugar crystallising out on your teeth. The 'plumminess' is a bit more forward in the taste but still manages to be overwhelmed by the taste of candi sugar and molasses.

Feel: It even feels sweet, whatever that means. Almost overbearingly cloying - a bit heavy for my tastes: any more than a 330 and I'd be struggling. That said, the ABV is pretty well hidden - even the alcohol can't get past the sweetness.

Overall: Kasteel Donker forms an integral part of one of my favourite beers, Kasteel Rouge, so it was interesting to get the opportunity to try it on its own. I think I'll stick to the cherrified version - Donker on its own is just too damned heavy and sweet for my personal tastes. As an 'every now and again' thing, this makes a nice change (and hell, you can't beat a good quadrupel) but it's hard going for 'regular' drinking.

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Kasteel Donker from Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck N.V.
4.06 out of 5 based on 857 ratings.
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