Grottenbier | Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

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Very Good
277 Ratings

Brewed by:
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

Style: Belgian Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
From Pierre Celis, brewed at Brouwerij St. Bernardus.

No longer available in the US.

Added by stcules on 01-29-2003

Bros Score:
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 277 |  Reviews: 203
Reviews by sfprint:
Photo of sfprint
3.12/5  rDev -17.2%
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.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
3.7/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured a deep tawny brown with some ruby tint a thinner light brown head sat atop,big spice in the nose that of cinnamon and clove with some prune/raisin underlying as well.Again the flavors are quite spicey maybe even a little over the top in that department,clovey with notes of cinnamon and even a touch of ginger there is a dark fruit element but it seems to take a backseat to the spiced flavors.Eh its decent but not alot of character and a little one dimensional flavor wise in my mind.

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Photo of RoyalT
4.5/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance – The luscious, thick brown body was topped with a beautiful head that went down slowly and pooled in the center of the ale.

Smell – The dark, malty yeast came out big here, even while it was still cold. As it warmed, the flavors erupted. Besides the wonderful yeast I could pick up a dash of cinnamon and some beautiful brown sugars.

Taste – The taste came straight from the nose. The yeast in particular was big and inviting, while the sweetness brought up the finish. In between there was some wonderful flavors of tobacco, figs, cherries, and a hint of anise.

Mouthfeel – The carbonation was moderate and very tight, tickling the tongue and cheeks nicely. The body was a tad over medium.

Drinkability – A fine BDA fit for a king. I’ll close the night with this one.

Update – I first reviewed this with a 2003 vintage so thought I’d give it a formal review again using an ’04. Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

The aroma of this beer is amazing. The yeast and malts are just huge, even when cold, which is what struck me in my initial review. The flavors are complex and explosive, and the carbonation was much bigger in this latest example. I’m upping all my ratings to 4.5s and considering that “reserved”.

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Photo of orbitalr0x
4.42/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to my parents for giving this bottle to me as a gift! Nice pop of the cork and the beer pours from the 750ml bottle into my tulip glass a nice deep brown with a reddish tinge to it. A half inch of bubbly off white foam sits atop the brew. Aromas of lightly roasted malts, brown sugar and a forward spiciness that has a hint of clove. Dark fruits lurk underneath along with an earthy, musty yeastiness. Quite lovely, maybe even a hint of cinammon.

First sip brings a nice smooth, slightly nutty, lightly roasted maltiness upfront that moves into a wall of spiciness midway through. Earthy yeast tones, brown sugar and a touch of cinammon and clove. Slightly fruity on the way down and even a bit woody. Finsihes dry with a lingering spiciness. This is one tasty brew!

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a vibrant, champagne-esque carbonation that rushes across the palate and makes it a bit creamy. This is a tasty brew that doesn't fail to impress me. I can definetly see myself picking this one up again in the future. A tasty, spicy Belgian brown ale. Thanks again to my parents for this one!

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Photo of Todd
2.7/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

An offering from the Pierre Celis (creator of the modern day Belgian Wit, like Hoegaarden and Celis White) Signature Series. Matured in Kanne Caverns (near the Dutch border) and touted by Michael Jackson as the "beer of the year."

My expectations were very high ... and I'll state that I understand completely what happens to a beer when it's aged, these are simply my notes on what I tasted.

750ml corked and caged bottle with probably the most beautiful screened label I have ever seen on a beer bottle. It poured wonderfully, showcasing its dark, rich copper color. The head was wonderfully laced and slightly off-white.

A submissive cinnamon in the aroma, backed by a mix of floral and granola. This is a bone-dry beer. Probably the driest beer I've ever tasted. Bold flavors of cinnamon and husky grain tannins last but a brief second on the palate before they are gone. Flash of tartness and perhaps some clove. You really have to concentrate and find the flavor, and unfortunately the novelty of aging this beer removed most of the flavor. No real sweetness, only hints of florally saccharin remain, giving way to the dryness. The dryness works long and hard after the flavors dissipate to continue to dry your palate to the bone. Notes of oxidation become more and more noticeable as the beer warms. Left my palate feeling unpleasant.

Not impressed, overall. A very one-dimensional offering, that's too expensive and extremly over-hyped, in my opinion. This is a great example of why some beers should not be aged ... some beers simply do not hold up and lose their zest.

The bottle and concept was more impressive than the beer.

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Photo of petewheeler
4/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of tjthresh
2.6/5  rDev -31%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

This beer has way too much carbonation. It almost hurt to drink. The beer poured a murky reddish brown with an impressive long lasting head. As the beer warmed a bit you did catch some notes of candy sugar and spicy Belgian yeast character. I really couldn’t taste much past the carbonation.

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Photo of Billolick
3.92/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

large bottle, with cork and cage. Pours dark and cloudy/muddy. Burnt figs and yeast in nose. Tastes of yeast, sludgy malt,burnt fruit, chocolate, coffee. Lighter then expected body, nice smooth, and slightly oily mouthfeel. A lighter duty strong dark ale. Decent enough, but did not amaze with body or complexity.

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Photo of badbeer
3.26/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Ruby red when held to light, with a soft head that leaves a ring around glass and a spotty lacing. Immediate smell of iron with smells of bread and a slight hint of plum is hidden in there as well. Yeasty, a bit of iron, nuts, clove, dark fruit, and toffee in the taste. Light on the tongue, medium body and medium carbonation. It was an alright beer, but I don't think I'll be buying this again.

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Photo of GreenMountainBoy
4/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of Byeast
3.51/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearance: poured a dark , opaque brown , with some reddish hues throughout. The head is a lively half inch of offwhite foam.

Smell: A fairly fresh aroma to the beer. Yeasty , a bit fruity in a fruit roll up kind of way , hints of sweeter , darker malts.

Taste: A mild blend of fruityness , yeast , and slight hop bitterness. Fruit flavors hint at the more red varieties - strawberry , rasberry , cherry etc. There is also just a hint of spice that is similar to cinnamon. The maltiness is a tad thin and on the darker/ brown side. Just a bit of balancing , floral hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: good creaminess from the active carbonation , with a very dry finish.

Drinkability: This beer was very drinkable , i was definatly expecting a little more though. The flavors were pleasant but they came in quick flashes. Overall the beer had a more refreshing , quaffable quality than anything. Way to hyped.

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Photo of Marius
3/5  rDev -20.4%

Photo of innominat
2.5/5  rDev -33.7%

Photo of magictrokini
3.62/5  rDev -4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Enjoyable brew. Pour is murky copper with a lot of head and carbonation. Aroma is dried fruits, yeast, and malts. Taste is very pleasant and not overwhelming. Heavily malted, with candied fruits and some spice. Finish is a bit sticky with some alcohol warmth. A good seasonal beer.

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Photo of ADR
3.56/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Opaque dark brown appearance, big rising pale head of a good inch. Laces in intricate and thick bands. Slight yeasty aroma, some orange. Lighter-bodied some sense of wed wood, almost cedar, pronounced nutmeg, floral crocus-like stuff. Finishes with full carbonation and a solid but not pronounced astringency. Initial impact is a little light, the finish is slightly fizzy and unsettling to me. Not a bad beer, doesn't really rock in my book.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.58/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On draft at Fathead's along with St. Bernie Abt 12. Appearance: Pours a mahogany brown hue thin tan hed leaves thin lacing down my chalice not a bad look to it at all. Aroma: Finding it hard to get anything out very light somewaht airy herbal hop mix with spice and fruit accents in the background of mild chocolate notes and darker toasted soft roasts.
Taste: Herbal hops flood the palste with a woody oak barrel aged rawness to it, very mild sweetness dry quality in the finish. Spicy edge to it with a slight citrusy note picked up seems that the sample is aged a bit not gone south just not fresh. Mouthfeel: Medium body steady carbonation, nothing that thrilling here. Drinkability: A decent unique Belgian bier but I can't give it the highest marks it just seems pretty good to me.

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Photo of stereosforgeeks
3.75/5  rDev -0.5%

Photo of rastaman
3.58/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served way too cold, had to wait about 20 minutes until it was warm enough to taste anything. The flavour is quite subtle and soft, something about it was quite soft-drinky, had some nice bitter slightly acidic characters towards the end, quite soft and smooth aswell, with some light spicyness.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4.03/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in a chalice)

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 had a medium-light mouthfeel with no alcohol warmth. There was a light fizz in the finish that made it feel lighter in the mouthfeel.

D- This taste like the little brother of some of the bigger Abbey beers. It had good balance and nice flavor but it wasn't trying to be a big huge beer. This would be a nice winter session beer.

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Photo of azorie
4/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of NJpadreFan
3.61/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5


Appearance- murky reddish brown with a huge biscuit head.
Smell- cherry and vanilla with hints of grape and plum.
Taste- fruity with hints of a woodsy hop flavor. No alcohol showing up. Finishes with a candy/ bubblegum taste.
Mouthfeel- bubbly at first but finishing sugary sweet.

Overall- a nice Belgium to sip at. It didn't wow me but I easily drank the bottle and wouldn't decline it in he future. A little pricey at $8.60, might not be worth that price but if you can find it for around $5-6 scoop it up!

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Photo of mattfancett
3.75/5  rDev -0.5%

Photo of Daniell
3.35/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: decent head, average retention. Dubbel colour, figs. Quite attractive but all things considered a 3.5.

S: smells like how I imagine Chimay Red could if I could remember it. Smells a lot like the Chimay yeast but lighter and mixed in with tropical fruit flavours. Think banana, mango, pineapple, almost like tropical fruit juice. A bit more plumy as it warms. Definitely Chimay-ish. 3.5

T: sweet but not too sweet, tropical fruit juice. Bit of bitterness on the back of the palate. Satisfying, actually. I realised afterwards that it comes from St Bernardus, because I also noticed the same grape bubblegum I get in the ABT 12. Must be their yeast. 3.5

M: This is one distinction between this and Chimay, this is well carbonated. 3

D: Around about 3.5. I wanted to offload some on my brother to help me finish the 750mL so it's not eminently drinkable, but then again I'm a harsh reviewer. In spite of the relatively low ABV, to get me to drink the whole 750mL willingly this needs more complexity. 3

A decent beer, not amazing. I probably wouldn't buy this again, especially for the price (just under $17).

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Photo of cokes
3.48/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Particle-strewn ruby-brown under several inches of wet cement.
Molasses lathered tangerines and prunes on the nose, with a pepperized yeast backup.
Begins dusty and vacantly fruity. Figs and raisins, with more tropical suggestions deeper down in. Molasses cookies (or at least gingerbread) stripped clean of their sweetness. Spicy, with cinnamon and ginger. Black pepper mingles with a forceful astringent dryness. The minor sweetness that appears suggests saccharine-constructed grapes. Closes musty, like a basement long unattended, full of damp cardboard boxes.
The mouth is medium, spritzy, and especially dry.
Not a bad beer; It's just a bit dull.

This was not done any favors by the cave.

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Photo of Sammy
4.17/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Foamy tan head, fragrant natural fruity yeast, lace bubbles. Chocolate malts, vanilla (aaah yum). A bit bitterness and sourness on the finish balanced with malts. Light mouthfeel and smooth and drinkable.

Had on-tap nine months later and noticed nice brown colour, yeasty aroma, licorice. Smooth.

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Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Beer rating: 3.77 out of 5 with 277 ratings