Grottenbier | Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

very good
202 Reviews
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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

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Reviews: 202 | Ratings: 276
Photo of nlmartin
1.78/5  rDev -52.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Poured from the bottle into a wide mouth goblet.

Appearance: The beer poure a very pleasing clear brown with a nice off white head. Leaves behind seemingly nice rings of lacing.

Smell: This beer smelled very nice. The smell consisted of sweet maltyness coupled with cinnomin and clove combination.

Taste: The lead in taste was malty sweetness that broke into straight up acid. This beer taste worse than ass! Man I feel let down. Fuck Michael Jackson with his beer of the year!

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: The beer just simply feels like acid to the mouth. This is totally undrinkable. I sat through about a half hour of beer torture hoping it would get better as it warmed. Do not buy this nasty acidic beer. Your money will better be spent on almost anything else. Man this beer is crap. In short half of a bomber is all I can gag down.

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Photo of IronDjinn
2.29/5  rDev -39.4%
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.

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Photo of benmiliron
2.3/5  rDev -39.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Paid $6.99 for a bottle.

Beer of the Year my ass. The cork popped off as soon as I removed the wire restraint. Must have had an infection. No hop character, just musty, brown funk. Was tolerable though, as most infected beers appear to be. Further inspection revealed a lot of residue near the miniscus of the the beer, validating the infection hypothesis.


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Photo of roblowther
2.52/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

An extremely impressive-looking 750ml bottle, and with Pierre Celis' signature on it, I'm eager to give it a whirl. Very carbonated, with a fairly dense, rocky head forming over the ruddy brown beer. Tiny bubbles form & cling to the sides of the goblet. Smells of cinnamon. Not much else in the smell, but I probably have the bottle a bit too cold at the moment. The taste starts off promising, that cinnamon leading off, promising more to follow. Then....nothing. Immediately turns very dry and almost seems to evaporate off the tongue without leaving any flavor except a vague cinnamon aftertaste that comes on later. Mouthfeel is similar, starting full but that dryness just takes it all away and it finishes thin. Really surprising for a beer of this color & pedigree. Not terribly drinkable as it just leaves me wanting to have a beer. Very one dimensional beer overall. Not terrible but just not impressive.

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Photo of tjthresh
2.6/5  rDev -31.2%
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 Stubbie1
2.65/5  rDev -29.9%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

L20011021 on the cork cover, I’m thinking 21 Oct 2001 (?)

This brew pours a wonderful brown color. A thick off white head is on top and stays on top for quite a spell. It slowly fades to a thick lace. Aroma is kind of week. Hints and only hints of dark fruit and candy are present. There is a more dominating musty, horse blanket aroma to this beer. Taste is kind of thin up front. I have a hard time pulling anything out. Yeasty flavors are out front followed by a hint of malt and a bitter dry finish. A bit watery in the mouth and not a bunch going for this beer except for the “hype” on the label.

Other than looking great in a glass, that is about this entire brew has going for itself. Try if you must.

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Photo of Todd
2.7/5  rDev -28.6%
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 stcules
2.78/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Foam wide and abundant, not completely compact, with some big bubbles, maybe due to the glass?. Color brown, with mahogany reflexes. Smell of flowers (forget-me-not, periwinkle, etc.). The taste is round, not too dry, with honey, well balanced. It needs a second and third taste... A solvent like note, perceptible specially in the flavour, when the beer got warm.

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Photo of RenoZymurgist
3.01/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

As I removed the cage from this one, the cork shot right out with a loud pop and I expected it to gush which it did not. Poured a rich clear crimsion red with a thick off white head that sustained itself through the entire beer, leaving thick belgian lace on my glass. The aroma was very dry and mild for a Belgian Dark ale lacking all of the plumb and dark fruitiness I expected. The taste is also very dry and I think that it was aged too long or that the final gravity was too low to sustain itself through the maturation process. There is a sharp bite of hops in the beginning which carries itself through the entire beer making it onesided yet it finishes smooth. The mouthfeel is full yet it has a sharp carbonic bite that lends a bit more to the dryness rather than giving relief and structure to the malt sweetness. The drinkability is low on this one as the price is prohibitively expensive and the beer dosen't make up for the cost making this a one time buy for me. It does have a pretty bottle though I don't drink beer for the label art.

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Photo of HochFliegen
3.05/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This beer pours a deep red with a very thick and rocky white head that has great retention. The smell was of spice and was sweet. Also a bit yeasty and slightly alcohol like in the nose. The smell is quite inviting.
Taste is slightly bitter. Not sure I care for the bitterness in this beer. Or is it more of a fruity tartness? I cant tell but it seems to be lacking in the taste what I found in the aroma. No spice as far as I could tell in the taste nor the yeasty character. No sweetness at all which kinda made the tart/bitter a little to rought for my liking. It does finish very dry and leave a plum like taste in my mouth when I exhale for quite some time. Again its a bit to dry in the end for my taste.

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Photo of Citadel82
3.06/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750 ml bottle with cork and cage. Wide mouthed Grottenbier goblet.

Pours a hazy brown with a short lived one finger head that becomes a thin creamy layer atop the beer.

Smells of yeast and fresh fruit. Melon???

Taste is slightly sweet though not malty - drying to a grapefruit-like sharpness with some detectable alcohol.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with some carbonation.

Drinkable yes, but not so spectacular that I will seek this one out any time soon.

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Photo of ngandhi
3.09/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dominating phenolic Belgian yeast. Highly carbonated, causing the cork to shoot out once the cage was loosened. Constantly fizzy with no head. Served at cellar temperature, this comes off as more of a tripel than anything else with minimal dark fruit -- a little raisin maybe -- on the dry finish which also helps accentuate some chocolately malt. Cola. The midpalate is balanced, but that dry finish brings too much into the forefront with an ultimately astringent yeasty spice that lingers, troubles me.

Relax, relax.

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Photo of Crittervision
3.11/5  rDev -17.7%
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. 

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Photo of sfprint
3.12/5  rDev -17.5%
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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Photo of dgallina
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a slightly-cloudy copper with a significant creamy white head and good lacing. Smells spicy and fruity (cinnamon, floral notes, perhaps nutmeg), quite effervescent. Flavor is surprisingly weak and thin, however. A *very* brief burst of spice and fruit followed by a big dry finish that doesn't stop. Unnaturally thin and highly-carbonated body for the style.

Easy to drink, sure, but an overly light and flavor-thin beer.

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Photo of goochpunch
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750 ml bottle at 6.7% abv.

Pours a hazy, leathery rust color with an rocky head that piddles out. No real lacing to speak of. I get some dark malts in the nose along with a sharp clove scent with some hints of cinnamon in the background. Alcohol shows up rather prominently. This tastes so simple. Some toasty malts, clove spice, and other yeast phenols is all I get. I paid $9 for this? The flavors wash out rather quickly, giving the flavor profile a watery feel to them. Finishes dry. Mouthfeel is kind of bubbly and leans toward a thinner/watery body. This isn't all that interesting, but the lightness of the flavor and mouthfeel make this pretty downable.

This certainly isn't a bad beer, but for the price, I could've bought something stellar. I'd stay away from this one.

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Photo of Brabander
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
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!)

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Photo of DogFood11
3.16/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Ivory white head that is fluffy and lasting. Carbonation is evident and bold. Clear dark amber.

Couldn't pick up much of a gameplan in the smell. Some bitterness and spices come through in the taste. This is laid back in every way. Nothing steps forward and its very mellow. I could see how folks would like this brew as it is an easy drinker and paired nicely with some mild sausage. It also had the interest of some BMC drinkers so maybe this mild brew can be used for a transition type into the belgian ranks.

A couple 750 ml bottles poured as a nightcapper with some friends. It went across well with the group although I was a bit less impressed. I have to say the smell was weak and the taste followed suit. Nice overall appearance and the mouthfeel was ok but in the end its not something I'll pursue.

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Photo of bradleyseven
3.18/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured in a "Grotten Brown" Glass, medium-stemmed Goblet

beer is deep dark brown, completely impervious to light; with a light tan head that was quick to dissapate and left moderate lacing on the glass

Rasins and Caramel and Chocolate Brownies

Slightly sweet, roasted malt; with tastes of cocoa, rasins/dates, pumpernickel, and the slightest bit of nutmeg. light hopping, leaving all the roasted darkness on the tongue

Medium-to-full; light hopping leaves the malt lingers on the tongue

even though there is some good complexity going on, this beer does not seem to me to be as interesting as it should be; it is relatively uneventful, or as my friend Tom would say, "it doesn't offend me in any way" - kind of boring.

~E. Brad

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Photo of yelterdow
3.18/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

From a 750ml bottle poured at cellar temperature into a Duvel tulip.

Appearance- Deep cognac, supporting a rich, supple bone white head. Moderate lacing.

Smell- Belgian yeast, candi sugar, light phenols and a subtle wild character. Almost medicinal.

Taste- Very unique flavors here... the yeast strain adds complexity to this tart, spicy beer. Difficult to describe.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Enormously billowy and overly gassy... when the yeast is added, the mouthfeel becomes creamier. Average for the style IMO.

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Photo of sacfly
3.2/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

750ml “Cave Aged”?

Pours a hazy brown with a moderate head of medium to large tan bubbles. Lightly sweet smelling… rustic… Musty basement flavor. I split the bottle with gdogalicious and we were in agreement. Slight molasses, maybe dark candy sugar is there but overwhelmed by the yeast character. Fades into dryness in the aftertaste. Not real impressed with this one. More odd than good.

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Photo of brendan13
3.23/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Poured into a tulip glass with a hazy brown body. A centimetre of off white head sits atop for a fair while.
S - Smell is dominated by cinnamon & clove spice notes.
T - Spicey in the taste as well as some dark fruit and breadiness.
M - Medium bodied, quite dry, minimal carbonation.
D - Not too bad but not really my thing. Worth a try but not something I'd bother with again.

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Photo of badbeer
3.26/5  rDev -13.8%
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 beerceller99
3.26/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

75 cl. bottle pours a massive head if yer not careful. Dark, ruby- brown color. Has a subtle bread and butter smell. Very nice smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Pretty mild flavor of nine grain bread with a mild, citrusy hop bite to finish. A well balanced brew, but too mild in the flavor department.

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Photo of Dukeofearl
3.27/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I have real mixed feelings about this beer. I have tried it in the US and in Belgium, I have tried it and enjoyed it, and tried it and shrugged in complete lack of excitement. Not sure why, to be honest. It's a decent brew, just doesn't grab me.

Pours a medium murky brown with a medium off-white head that quickly dies off. Aroma is the best part of this beer. Semi sweet, with an interesting spiciness (clove?) that isn't your average Belgian Brown Ale.

But it's the taste where I lose interest. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, but it's just not interesting, and not nearly as exciting as the anticipation brought about by the aroma.

Oh, well.

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Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
3.78 out of 5 based on 276 ratings.
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