Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

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Brown Ale - Belgian Dark
Ranked #24
Ranked #26,669
3.8 | pDev: 12.89%
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Very Good
Notes: From Pierre Celis, brewed at Brouwerij St. Bernardus.

No longer available in the US.
Reviews: 205 | Ratings: 279 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of JonnoWillsteed
JonnoWillsteed from England

4.6/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L- Pours with a very generous pale beige head, very slowly receding. Deep caramel brown with some residual bubbles. Slowly recedes leaving coating.
S- Orange peel, hot winter pudding-like malts.
T- Malts, rich and toasty. Slight fruity bitterness. Rich but lifted by fruity nose.
F- Lovely, rounded. No over-gaseousness.
O- A really lovely beer. Pretty full-on flavour-wise

Jan 19, 2019
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jmdrpi from Pennsylvania

4.02/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle, into St. Bernardus goblet.

dark brown in color, thick cream colored head. aroma is malty, a touch of spice, earthy, woody. similar flavor, not too sweet, drier finish. medium bodied, smooth feel

Dec 14, 2018
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Bruno74200 from France

3.6/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

I don't know why some of the review around here mentioned sourness. I get none. It's a classic belgian dark ale. I get some dark fruits and some red berries but definitely not an oud bruin

Nov 05, 2017
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sfprint from Germany

3.12/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Sappy crimson in color, a big foamy head with lots of rising carbonation within the veil of the deep red. beautifully smooth lacing
S: In the Flemish red family, cherry, sweet and sour, cut with fertilizer
T: The scent is only 25% reflected in the flavor, the sour elements moving far into the background and just a bit of fertilizer. It does taste more like a Belgian Brune. The flavors pull in several directions but don't seem to go anywhere, like a kitchen sink sort of recipe. An odd, planty flavor.
M; very low carbonation
O: In certain ways appealing, and another repulsive. An odd one.

Dec 31, 2013
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falloutsnow from Illinois

3.66/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5


An interesting blend between what seems to be a Belgian dark amber and a Brettanomyces-flecked, young Flemish red, St. Bernardus' resurrection of Pierre Celis' Grottenbier recipe is an interesting mix of typical Belgian phenols and Special B malt flavors with hints of cellar-like complexity and sourness. This was pleasant fresh, and could be more interesting when aged, which might allow the obviously young "wild" character to develop further.

Pours a 2.5cm tall head of beige to light tan-colored bubbles, small to medium in size, giving a . Retention is excellent, the head never really fading, forcing the drinker to take a sip, the lipids and chemicals in which reduce the head to a 0.2cm cap resting atop the body of the beer for the duration of the session. Lacing is also excellent, with thick webs and arrays of dots clinging to the sides of the glass. Beer is a very dark amber color, with light bringing out slightly brighter amber hues. Carbonation visible streaming along the sides of the glass, substantial in number and fairly active.

Aroma is slightly mild, light Brettanomyces "funk" and cellar mustiness, caramel malt sweetness, slight raspberry and cherry. Subtle, but pleasant, and complex enough to be interesting over the course of a 750ml bottle.

Overall flavor palette is richly malty, with dark caramel and light roast characters with a hint of Brettanomyces complexity, cellar-like mustiness, and vague fruity tartness. Opens on front of palate with lightly roasted and dark caramel malt characters and some sweetness, bread, anise, and slightly spicy phenols. Mid-palate of caramel malt characters, hints of lightly roasted malt, anise, ripe plums, slightly spicy phenols, faint tart raspberries and cherries, light Brettanomyces, extra mild tartness. Back of palate finds slightly stronger tartness, anise, spicy phenols, cellar mustiness, and a bit of mushroom. Aftertaste of lightly roasted malt and dark caramel malt characters, bread, with hints of residual light tartness and anise.

Beer is medium in body, with high levels of carbonation, leading to a fizzy, then softly foamy mouthfeel. Closes dry, with little stickiness remaining on the palate and lips.

Oct 25, 2013
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FLima from Brazil

4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

After being reserved for a while it was opened with 10 month left to maturity.
Amber copper color with a thick three fingers off-white head with good retention and leaving laces. Got murky brown after pouring residual yeast.
Aroma with a nice funkiness going on, notes of Belgian yeast, nutty malt and lemon.
An incredible fast mutating flavor with a nice tartness, condimented yeast, ginger, figs, roasted malt, umami from Shitake mushrooms, licorice, vanilla, green apples and plums. Dry aftertaste and mildly bitter.
Medium body with a somewhat effervescent carbonation and acidity sensation.
Truly fantastic beer and very enigmatic. You have to swiftly chase its multiple taste facets. Though, ain’t for all beer drinkers. While drinking I did some research given my rates were off (much higher), but rest in peace after knowing, no wonder, to be one of favorites by the beer hunter.

Oct 20, 2013
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mick303 from Canada

3.89/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

330 mL bottle with freshness date, poured into a tulip glass produced a large creamy tannish head, retention is decent, but it leaves a nice frothy film and good lacing. The beer is a dark ruby brown, slightly muted, some visible carbonation. 4

S- strong notes of caramel malt, spicy with slight booze kick, a strong yeast note. Subtle clove, plum, woodshop smell, some malty sweetness, notes of cinnamon, christmas cake. After it mellows it becomes really nice and soft, not a lot of bitterness but some pepper and aged chili spice. Quite complex and balanced. 4.25

T- a pretty big malty body with spice and chili notes initially, lemon zest, hazelnut, then more astringent yeast. Aged caramel, wool blankets. It has an initially lightness then more of a tartness, lemon meringue, transitions quite smoothly. Ends very dry, with a bittersweet caramel, and a bit of alcohol. Warming all the way down, lingering smooth spice. Pretty good, balance is alright but falls short in complexity. 3.75

M- Moderate maltiness with a smooth consistency, moderate carbonation, a coating prickle of yeast lingers with a dry malty finish. Some slight alcohol presence but this mostly enhances the malty and dry yeasty aspects of this beer. 3.75

Pretty enjoyable beer, there are a few aspects it could improve. A bit much carbonation, it is quite well balanced, though a bit tart/spicy on finish. Together it isn't the most memorable beer, nice Dark Ale with a fair bit of yeasty presence that has some issues incorporating into the beer, sometimes feel thin. I wouldn't rush to get this again, but its nice nonetheless.

Apr 24, 2013
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Filosoof from Netherlands

4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Grottenbier is a special one. But in a very delicate way.

A: If someone says the top disappears quickly, he has to take a clean glass. The top is great. Brandy colour, with a touch of red in it. The top is vanilla coloured.

S: there's something special in the smell (oak or wine) , tiny liquorice , old wood, vanilla, cherry, tart apple, light malts;

T: the taste has it's own style; reminds me a bit of Gulden Draak Quadruple 4000. (The colour also); the beer uses your mouth completely, starting a bit thin, but than coming through with a round creamy bite, ending with a very nice balancede bitterishness, cleaning the mouth;

M: alcohol is perfect, wel carbonated, good drinkability;

O: amber beers won't be my number one, but in it's style it's maybe one of the best.

Sep 29, 2012
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rarbring from Sweden

3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A clouded reddish brown beer, an off-white head with little lacing and small curtains.

Smelling of yeast, vinegar and spices. Clove.

Starts with sweet bread, raisins, bitter oranges and some yeast.

Medium low carbonation, soft texture, medium body.

A nice sourish brew. Should be good with cave matured cheese.

Aug 26, 2012
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IronDjinn from Canada

2.29/5  rDev -39.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Thanks to Jim at Sherbrooke for the sample. From a 330 ml brown bottle. Pours out a dark hazed amber hue, bright cherry wood highlights when held to light. Tight creamy light beige head that settles to a thin cap.

Dry mild toasty grains on the nose, punctuated with a curious sourness. Mild sweet caramel pokes through from time to time, along with some yeasty spice.

Dry husky grains up front in the flavour, cereal-like character to it, followed by very mild esters, and finishing with a dry vegetal astringency and some rounded grainy tartness. Some dry wafery caramel is drawn out the more it warms, however does not really add anything to the overall profile. Flavour is disjointed for the most part, no cohesion.

Mouthfeel is medium-bodied, texture is dry and somewhat astringent, papery even, with moderate carbonation.

This is an odd one indeed, the best before states it's good until Jan. of 2013, however there are already oxidization issues creeping into it, amongst other issues. Seems to me this is not aging well, especially given the ingredients list on the back label--not living up to its potential. Happy at the chance to try such a rare beer, however based on my sample I wouldn't recommend bending over backwards to procure one. Disappointing indeed from St. Bernardus, who tend to be exemplar with whatever they produce.

Jun 28, 2012
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LittleCreature from Australia

3.77/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - 3.5
Pours a finger of loose beige head that quickly recedes to a thin layer and leaves no lacing. Body is a deep, clear reddish brown.

Smell - 4.0
Attractive aroma of caramel, ginger, cherry syrup and mixed spices.

Taste - 3.5
Obviously spiced, but done so with a degree of restraint that keeps it drinkable. Starts sweetish, little malt or hop character (or bitterness), it is the yeast and spices that lead the way. Cherry syrup, clove, ginger, allspice, burnt sugar and warming alcohol in the dry finish.

Mouthfeel - 4.0
Highly carbonated, as is the Belgian norm. Light bodied, somewhat asprin-like, yet almost creamy at the same time.

Overall - 4.0
I'd suggest serving this beer in a tulip glass, rather than the wide goblet I chose, where it seemed to get a little lost. One of the late, great Michael Jackson's favourite beers before he died. I have to wonder whether the recipe has changed, as while this certainly qualifies as a good beer, to me, it falls well short of greatness.

Nov 17, 2011
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dansmcd from Australia

3.67/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Ruby/burgundy hue beneath one finger of fizzy head.

S - Bread, yeasty, Granny Smith apples.

T - Fresh brown bread, white wine and spices. Tart green apples.

M - Smooth moderate body, moderate carbonation.

O - A good belgian style dark ale. Not a life-changer but I could certainly go for another.

Nov 06, 2011
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Squelch from Texas

3.38/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark brown. Off white head. Nice lacing.

Smell: Sweetness dominates the aroma.

Taste: Slightly sour. Sweetness still dominates. Bitterness non existent. Slight roasty flavors.

Mouthfeel: Finishes dry. Light bodied.

Overall: A drinkable beer. Needs more hops to balance it out.

Oct 25, 2011
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Evil_Pidde from Sweden

4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: This beer is hazy brown with lots of red hues. A pale brown head slowly sets into nice lacings.

S: Sweet malt, some caramell. Yeast, very Belgian, a bit sour. Flowers and spices. Some fresh fruits, manily green apples.

T: Sweet at first, then dry. There's spices and yeast. Some dark dried fruits, but also fresh green apples. Sour.

M: Dry and bitter long aftertaste. Body is medium to full while the carbonation is light to medium.

O: Nice and well balanced.

Oct 17, 2011
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Crittervision from North Carolina

3.11/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Split a 750ml from 1992 a few ways on 12 August 2011 at Kulminator. 

Watery brown body with a thin, quickly disappearing head that matche...d the natural paper color on the label. 

Smell is quite nice. Heavy on the cocoa, some peppercorn, and a lot of tobacco sweetness. 

Taste is syrupy sweet, but also green vegetables. Caramel. Mild alcohol. 

Mouthfeel is light and thin. 

Aug 29, 2011
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rvdoorn from Netherlands

4.32/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: The beer pours reddish amber color, with a light brown head, which leaves a nice lacing.
Smell: Malts, flowers, caramel, spicy clove, cinnamon, pepper, nuts and fresh apple
Taste: Malts, clove and yeast. Some light caramel and pepper. Sour apples and nutty. This beer overall is very dry, with a bitter crispy pepper alcohol in the aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: medium body,high carbonation
Overall: Quite complex brew, very sharp and spicy. I like it, but not too often

Jul 16, 2011
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czfreeman from California

4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bought at De Honte, Cadznd.
Pours a highly carbonated murky dark brown color. Foamy tanhead settles slowly. Great for BDA apperance.
Smells of cherry, musty yeast,oak, wet leaves, cloves, nutmeg, dried fig, apple, yeast, and a nice finish of sour fruit make the nose much more complex and interesting than anticipated
Flavors of sour apple,cherry, yeast, lambic-like bacteria sour notes, pepper, nutmeg, sour wood, oak, spicy overall, nice touch of yeast marries perfect with the light creaminess form the yest.
The body is highly carbonated, well balanced and very drinkable. Beautifully balanced, one of the best BDA's I've ever enjoyed

May 16, 2011
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bylerteck from Canada

3.31/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On tap at Cafe Belgique in Amsterdam. From notes.

A - Poured a cloudy/hazy dark brown. Beautiful two finger head that leaves thick rings of lacing caked on the glass. Head retention in the form of a thin film.

S - A little sour cherry. Fairly mild. Woodiness obvious. Started weak but improved and became stronger.

T - Yeasty. Plum with some sour notes and oakiness. Obvious candi sugar sweetness. Quaite oaky or woody.

M - Medium body with nice light carbonation. Slightly sour finish.

O/D - Probably a good intro to more sour beers. Not the best example of something venturing in these waters but a decent beer and worth a try if you want something with a slight sour note that is quite refreshing.

May 09, 2011
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StJamesGate from New York

3.63/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours amber brown with piles of rocky off white foam that rings nicely. Bright mint-kola nose with some soil and wax - but pretty shallow. Big over ripe banana in the lead then clove, a phenol hit and spicy hops. Med-thin, fizzy, no heat.

Entry-level Belg brown. Too lively to quaff, and no complexity, but easy enough otherwise.

Apr 01, 2011
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atis from Finland

4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle

Pours dark brown with off-white large rocky head that slowly dissipates, leaving some foamy patches on the surface. Aroma is spicy yeast, some sweet malt.

Taste is an exciting combination of spicy Belgian yeast, bready malt with hints of dark fruit, herbal bitterness with citrus in the finish and slowly increasing sweet aftertaste. Mouthfeel is light medium.

Certainly an interesting beer. Very unusual and memorable taste, but I am not sure if I would like to drink it very often.

Mar 13, 2011
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eric5bellies from Australia

4.33/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drank from my Duvel Tulip

A - This beer pour a very dark ruby colour with an off white head that reduces to a film.

S - Slghtly sour aromas from the pour, a little stewed dark fruit as well.

T - Quite a bit of sweetnes up fron with some boiled sweets flavours in the middle that are mostly dark fruit. Finishes with a sour bitterness that is balanced.

M - Medium to light body with fullish carbonation.

D - This is a beer that has a bit of everything and yet retains balance.

Nov 20, 2010
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ThaCreep from Belgium

3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A smell of spring in the cellar first nosing. The yeast is very aromatic and through the scents of musty old and very valuable, one can sense a nose finely alcohol. The mouth does not really follow the same logic as it has an ease to drink very impressive. With hints of sherry Oloroso. Obviously, like any beer Pierre Celis, we find a whole bunch of spices, exotic enough, a mixture which is a little like the Fruit Défendu. Fairly long finish, slightly medicinal. A little lack of surprise over a method that is meant extremely original.

Nov 14, 2010
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Brabander from Netherlands

3.15/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I bought this beer at the brewery when i was there in july this year. Drank it yesterday together with Mrs. Brabander.

We both find this beer not spectacular. Poured in our Chalices the beer has a dark red/brown fluid and a normal head.

This dark ale has a very dry taste. Good if you like dry beers but not for us.

Caramel and herbs are hidden in the beer. There are better dark ales and there are better Bernardus beers than this one (but you all know that!)

Oct 08, 2010
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beerpirates from Belgium

3.3/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

33 cl bottel poured into my cantillon glass

A- This beer has a dark brown body with a huge thick creamy light tan head. The head last and last and pulls away from the glass changing into a cloud floating on the beer.

S- The smell of dark candy sugar with notes of toasted sweet malt has a perfume note to it but it doesn't smell overly sweet.

T- The toasted malt has a smooth candy flavor to it with faint hints of prunes and the finish is a nice soft bitter hops. This beer had some good depth to the malt and it wasn't overly sweet but very smooth to drink.

M- This beer is very dry , mouthfeel with no alcohol warmth. There was a light fizz in the finish that made it feel lighter in the mouthfeel.

D- abv is very wel hidden , but i'm not à big fan

Oct 03, 2010
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Thehuntmaster from South Africa

4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle 6,5% ABV

Appearance: The beer pours a murky, chestnut brown and is capped by a massive (typically Belgian), cream coloured head. The head dissipates reasonably fast, leaving good lace and a 1/2 inch cap that lasts most of the way down.

Smell: Even as I pour I can smell the spiciness of the nose. On closer inspection cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon are all present. Toasted bread, golden raisins and figs round off the nose, giving Grottenbier a wonderfully powerful and complex nose.

Taste: After such a powerful nose, the flavour seems a little light on the first sip; however it does improve with subsequent sips and warming. Toasted whole-wheat bread and spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper) dominate the flavour. Some earthy hops make a welcome appearance in the slightly bitter finish. This flavour could potentially be world class, if only it was a little deeper and complex.

Mouthfeel: Medium/light bodied with a high level of carbonation.

Drinkability: I am really regretting not buying a 750ml. I will most certainly have this one again.

Jul 26, 2010
Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Beer rating: 85 out of 100 with 279 ratings