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 Sammy
4.17/5  rDev +10.3%
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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Photo of BEERchitect
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Surprised at the style classification--the beer tasted like a very good Oud Brune. A hazy brown brew with mild red highlights decants from the bottle with a overwhelming carbonation and loosely knit head retention. Solid malt bready / fruity aromas combine with a tart (almost sour) note that promises complexity. Flavors of sweet candy and malts are challenged by moderate, earthy hops, wine-like tartness, and a pixie stick-like sweet tart-ness. The sourning compliments the fig, date, plumb flavors nicely without dominating. Very creamy and bready to the texture with that 'crazy' Belgian yeast twang. Finishes with a vineous dryness and a resisual sweetness to allow lingering in the aftertaste. The oly hitch is an astringent bite in the back of the throat that doesn't seem to be hop deriven--maybe a bit too grainy. Nevertheless, the beer exemplifies why this is my favorite brewery--period. Thanks Clvand0

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Photo of brentk56
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a cloudy garnet body with a fluffy head that settles down and hangs around, lleaving some lacing behind

Smell: A range of medium fruits such as apples and cherries with a touch of nutmeg

Taste: Very subtle flavors of sweet apple and cherry along with a woody aspect; the wood takes over in the finish along with a peppery, nutmeg tone

Mouthfeel: Velvety smooth, medium bodied and highly carbonated

Drinkability: A very pleasant sipper; certainly not as challenging as many other Belgian styles

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Photo of emerge077
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Grotten Brown pours a reddish light chestnut, with a huge billowing head. Streams of carbonation are visible, and a sticky lace develops as the foam recedes. Aroma is pretty subdued. Initial taste is of mild fruity esters, a slight plum essence. Malty backbone dominates, and a measured hop presence closes it out. Suggestion of clove also in the finish. Very smooth and velvety, goes down easy.

Bottle was served cool, seems to be best at a constant cool temp.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a muddy brown color ale with a medium head with pretty good retention. Aroma of caramel malt and slightly funky Belgian yeast is quite evident. Caramel malt with some spices dominated the taste at first and then the yeast signature shows up with a slightly funky feel. Body is quite full but could have been fuller and carbonation is perfect. IMHO, a bit more alcohol and body would do wonder for this beer.

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Photo of oberon
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
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 BuckeyeNation
4.13/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Glazed terra cotta with wealth of fine bubbles that initially only need to travel an inch or two in order to bury themselves in the underside of the glass-filling head. Within minutes, the khaki-colored cap has shrunk to a mere three fingers and is a marvel of melted rockiness. More lace would be great, but this is a splendid looking Belgian.

Although it's tough to appreciate much through the still thick crown, what reaches my nose is very nice. Heavily toasted brown malt, medium-dark fruit (figs especially) and clove spice combine beautifully, leading me to look forward to the first mouthful. That's a nose's job, is it not?

Grotten Brown doesn't have quite as much palate-saturating flavor as I'd hoped it would, although I still like it just fine. Perhaps once it loses the chill that it started out with, it'll be more generous. It's obvious from the lightness that the beer has been correctly categorized, since it really doesn't seem very dubbel-like to me. As an aside, I've always thought that Belgian Brown Ale would be an even better name for this style.

Thanks to the crisp dryness of the flavor and mouthfeel, the malt is more toasted crackery than it is toasted bready. As hoped for, as it warms, I'm able to appreciate much more flavor, especially with regard to an almost rye-like spiciness. Warm cinnamon is in the mix as well. This really is good beer that isn't as subtle and as delicate as it appeared at first blush.

Subsequent pours result in huge, fluffy heads that take a while to surrender. Patience is definitely rewarded though. Bitter is far and away more prevalent than either sour or sweet, so hops must be contributing more than their flavor transfer (or lack thereof) would suggest. I'm attributing the peppery spiciness to the yeast, not to noble hops. If I had to pick one fault, I'd say that there isn't quite as much complexity as there could be.

The mouthfeel is amazingly light and airy, while being energetically, almost hyperactively, carbonated. The bubbles never cross the line into annoying buzziness, however, and there really isn't anything that I'd change about the mouthfeel if given the chance. It works perfectly well given the rest of the beer's attributes.

Grotten Brown is a wonderful BDA from one of the best breweries in the world. A quick look at my reviews tells me that it's the best that I've ever had by a fairly wide margin (I could just as easily have chosen the higher taste score, it was that close). The bottom line is that I'm not sure there's another beer of this style that is capable of giving it any serious competition.

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Photo of russpowell
3.82/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The bottle says 6.7 abv

Pours chestnut with 3 fingers of fluffy offwhite head. Good lacing & great head retention

S: Fruitty notes & caramel

T: Fruitty, with choclolate and a slight woody dryness up front. Biscuitty malt & hints of raisins & dates follow. Caramel follows. Slight hints of apricot follow as it warms. Fruitty with hints of brown sugar, pepper spice & chocolate on the finish

MF: Medium bodied with low carbonation with slickness/creamyness at the bottom from the head that went to the bottom, like a good captain should!

Drinks pretty easy not a bad belgian dark, just nothing special

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
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 RblWthACoz
4.5/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark, clear ruby with a nice tan head. Nose is sugary sweet and yeasty with a pungent tone to it overall. Flavor is smooth, woody and sweet. Low yeast flavor, but an underlying sweet tone that hits the tip of your tongue and never comes on strong at all. Wood-like aftertaste. Feel is a perfect balance of carbonation and use of ingredients. Overall a damn good brew. Even and well balanced and one I would constantly go back to time and time again.

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Photo of Billolick
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
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 feloniousmonk
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: a deep, ruddy brown, no closer to violet, so let's settle on eggplant, and possessed of a thick, fluffy, cream-soda-toned head of foam.
Aroma: Ah! Beautiful! Grapes, plums, raisins, more, with plenty of spice, tingling and tantalizing, stimulating, arousing, feeling both ancient and exotic and altogether inviting.
Taste: the fun continues on the tongue, with a luscious wave of hops, a brilliant blitz of spices. Very fun in the mouth, at first, hops and spice keep the palate occupied. But later on, disappointment arrives, as the mouthfeel dips in enthusiasm some, falters, mellows too much, the finish is not quite as we'd desire, a bit short, flat, light.
A pity that the initial promise did not deliver any greater complexities, but it's a nice enough beverage as it is, just nothing too terrific.

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Photo of GClarkage
3.43/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

March 2005- On tap at the Toronado in San Francisco, CA

Presentation- Poured from the tap into a tulip style glass.

Appearance- Dark red, maybe scarlet coloring with a nice tight dirty white head and very nice lacing.

Smell- A very sweet and fruity scent along with a few spices and maybe some cloves in the mix.

Taste- Adequate amount of fruit flavors, sweet malt mixture, but far to dry and a bit unbalanced for me. My buddy loved it though.

Mouthfeel- Moderate carbonation and lip smacking dryness.

Drinkability- Interesting at that, but the dryness and it's unbalanced nature doesn't do it for me.

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Photo of Gavage
4.16/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Arrived bronze in color with thick 2 inch head. The aroma was light as only some maltiness was detected. There were many flavors that make this up, as roasted malt, light spice (nutmeg, allspice ?), decent bitterness, and prunes were nicely married.

The mouthfeel was smooth as the malt seemed to ride the tongue well into the aftertaste. Carbonation levels were light. Nicely drinkable.

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Photo of tempest
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap at the BeNeLuxx Tasting Room and paired with Mi-Amere dark chocolate.

Looks a brown-red with a creamy off-white head. Smells of sweet bready Belgian spice with dry raisins with a similar taste. I'm not finding this to be the most complex Belgian brown, but it's very drinkable and pairs very nicely with a dark chocolate.

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Photo of WesWes
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a translucent brown color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. It has a dry roasted malt scent along with a mild yeast fruitiness . The esters meld well with a crystal and roasted malts. The taste is good. It has a smooth mix of malts and fruits. It's easy going down with an almost refreshing finish. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a medium bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a highly drinkable beer. It has a nice roasted element that really seems to thrive with the Belgian yeast.

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Photo of biegaman
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This bruin had rekindled my affection for the style! After being put off for quite some time (we all have over done it once or twice) I was once again impounded by a quality Beligan brune. Excellent aroma, great retention, and both mouthfeel and flavour full of complexity. Notes of dark fruits, nuts, and musty yeast. A sensible yet bewildering bruin...

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4.36/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer appears brown with reddish notes when held up to the light, quite cloudy. Pours with a lively carbonation that creates a beige head. A slightly sweet aroma, along with a mustiness and a bit of a sour aroma. A definite sour taste in this one but only lightly so. Definite Belgian character in this beer; musty, fruity, and slightly funky. A tart cherry flavor is here as well. Fairly dry, a slight pepperiness and a general spiciness to this brew. Fairly complex, even has a slight vinous note to it.

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Photo of Zorro
4.1/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clear brown beer with a high carbonation level. Puffy tan head hangs around for a while.

Scent seems subtle at first. Sweet sugars and spices with coriander being one that stands out. Honeysuckle and flowers make a floral appearance. There is a tart tang of lemon in the scent. The scent of apples completes the scent. For the mild scent I realize I can smell this sitting on the table 3 feet from my nose! This isn't lacking in scent; it is just mild and well balanced.

Taste is sweet with a little tartness in the finish. Pleasant flavor of brown sugar and spice rounded out some oak and a bit of raw bitterness in the finish. Seems to have a fairly high tannin level like a red wine. Noticeable alcohol flavor and enough hop bitterness to give this a hop aftertaste. A bit of lemon and floral flavors in the finish. A tasty brew that only has one sort of flaw, I expected a bolder and stronger flavor profile.

Mouthfeel is good but not great, I have tasted several better this week.

A good drinkable beer and my first cave aged beer. A tasty pleasing brew here but I expected a more intense flavors from this one. A recommended experience but this is surpassed by quiet a few other Belgian beers, not to mention Ommegang is better too. This would be a good beer for a brunch where you want something light.

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Photo of BlackHaddock
3.38/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Brown 33cl bottle, best before May 2009, drank early, in July 2007.

Poured into a 'forbidden fruit' chalice.

Looks cloudy, moody and interesting, I thought I had kept the 'gist' out of the glass but obviously failed . Maroon red in colour, with a tight foaming, slightly off-white head.

Grainy smell with yeast and malts too.

Tastes strange, a mix of fruits which have gone off, not citrus fruits, but sour plums, pears and apples. Add hops to the mix and some breadcrumbs and you are halfway to getting the taste.

Feels a little gritty in the mouth and the sourness lingers for a long time.

Although I found the beer interesting, I can't say it will ever be a favourite.

As a footnote, I purchased this bottle in Aubel on my way to the caves (Grotten) in Valkenburg, which is one of the towns the beer celebrates.

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Photo of Evil_Pidde
4/5  rDev +5.8%
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.

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Photo of jdhilt
4.13/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours with a three-finger light brown head that stays and leaves a good lace. Nose has hints of raisin. Medium bodied. Very good carbonation and a cloudy amber color. There are traces of yeast. Starts and finishes sweet, not an intense brown. $7.99 for a 750ml bottle.

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Photo of weeare138
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Ortino's Northside...
Appears a turbid, russet toned amber with a small, light tan cap that quickly fizzles away. Light speckles of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of raisin puree mixed with a hearty dose of brown sugar, prunes, and a touch of spice & vanilla. I'm really struggling to pull anything else from this brew. It seems very mild in the aroma.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a nod to an Abbey Dubbel but certainly toned down a huge notch if we're comparing it to a close relative from the same brewery, St. Bernardus 8, lacking depth, fruity phenols, and esters with a raisin bread chewiness that I so desire from this.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, smooth, easy drinking, decently balanced. The feel is probably the best part about this beer. It does finish a bit on the thin side but the goods outweigh the bads in this category.

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Photo of wl0307
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Revisiting this ale 3.5 years since my last encounter; BB 17/06/2011, served mildly-chilled (I'd say around 9-10゚C) in Westmalle's broad-rimmed chalice.

A: bright, reddish amber in colour, coming with pretty good clarity, a thin beige foamy fast settling to a thin cap, and very mild/moderate input of fine fizz.
S: clean yet complex - the lightly toasted malts are backed by a really deep flow of herbal-spicy yeastiness (laced with a touch of toasted tea-leaves as well); a very close sniff after a swirl reveals sweet dried red dates, rose-bud infused tea, mashed kidney beans, and lightly savoury yeasts. I really like everything in this glass, even though this is by no means a super-complex aroma.
T: a quiet foretaste of yeasty, grainy and caramely malts slowly brings aboard hints of honey-tea, red-bean paste, dried dates, mixed herbal bitterness, as well as cardamom- & nutmeg-like spiciness that intensifies slowly into the aftertaste. The good level of hop- as well as yeast-bitterness comes slightly dry on the palate as well, but always at a reasonable level to make just a "more-ish" finish.
M&D: the overall flavour is well-structured, quietly evolving, showing various enjoyable elements as the taste-buds "process" the taste. Given rather soft/smooth carbonation, a medium body, non-existence of alcohol, and a decent level of bitterness, this spicy Belgian dark/amber ale is truly attractive and quaffable to me. I can definitely drink this ale for hours and sessions without getting bored or drunk!

* Tasting Date: 17/10/05
My bottle is 6.5%abv., with a BB date of 15/12/06. I travelled to Maastricht at one time during my three-month fieldwork trip to Belgium last year, and was quite surprised to see this beer widely available at many bars there along with other more usual suspects, without knowing that the caves where this beer is aged and stored is right at the doorstep~~ (I mean "very close".) Brought a single bottle of this beer back from Belgium and having stored it for one and a half year now, it's time to see if ageing has really improved its complexity.
4.5 A: in a tulip-shaped wine glass, it pours a very deep ruby to mahogany colour, with a huge, tight frothy off-white beer head with very good retention.
4 S: plenty of fruit esters and a profoundly sweetish note of figs plus Chinese red-bean paste upfront, against a slightly sharply tart citrusy aroma; after swirling, a deeper perfumy nose comes through, mixed with lots of date-jam, preserved figs and dried berries, caramelised brown sugar, finally a cinnamon or similar spicy note, and a syrupy sweetish aroma. Overall the nose is perfumy, sweetish, but at the same time quite settled.
4 T&4.5 M: quite dryish spicy and malty from the first second onwards, with lots of preserved figs, brown-sugar-flavoured red-bean paste, and a growingly dryish-sweet caramel maltiness lent to a juicy, semi-resinous aftertaste with a touch of coconut powder and nutmeg+cinnamon-like spicy bitterness at the tail, finished rather dry. Quite nicely-structured, with lots of flavours to offer but remaining "cool" and not loud. The mouthfeel is mellow and soft throughout, supported by a creamy texture full of tiny fizz, without going thin.
4.5 D: I fail to compare this to my last six bottles consumed in the UK and Belgium during the past several years, as no notes of them are left. But this bottle shows a stability of texture and flavour, even aroma, which I hadn't expected before opening the bottle--perhaps ageing does make a difference. This is very much my cup of tea, relatively low-profile (for its style), while providing almost all the same satisfaction a cup of spiced tea can bring~~ the only difference being that this one comes with alcohol and some grainy flavour.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
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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Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
3.78 out of 5 based on 276 ratings.
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