Grottenbier | Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

276 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:
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 276 |  Reviews: 202
Photo of Zorro
4.1/5  rDev +8.8%
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.

 1,329 characters

Photo of Sigmund
4.27/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle, corked "champagne" style. "Best before" date 23.03.2001! Cloudy brown colour, large and lingering light tan head. Excellent vinous aroma, oak, red berries, leather. Pleasant oaky flavour with a nice acidity, vinous character. Notes of spices, well balanced hops. Very nice "cave beer".

 300 characters

Photo of bark
4.07/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The colour is dark brown with a tint of wine red; the liquid is clear. The thin, firm foam is beige.

The roasted smell got a dominating flavour of brown sugar, acid, fruits (apricots), yeast and strong wine.

The taste is sweet with notes of brown sugar, burned almonds, sour apples, apricots, oranges and some sort of aroma hops. The medium long aftertaste got notes of alcohol, toffee and a slight sourness.

The carbonation is fresh (maybe a little bit too strong) with large bubbles.

I don’t know, really. It feels like just another brown ale from Belgium. Nothing is wrong but not _really_ special either.

 624 characters

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.

 292 characters

Photo of RenoZymurgist
3.01/5  rDev -20.2%
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.

 1,050 characters

Photo of neonbrown82
4.52/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is absolute quality, as I've come to expect from the rest of the St. Bernardus line.

Pours into my St. Bernardus chalice to a clear and dark ruby red color with a good carbonation and a thick creamy head that sticks around through the duration of the glass. Leaves a spotty lacing.

The smell is the weakest link of this brew, but still good. Has an almost over-bearing candi sugar aroma. The smell is good, but not any more distinct or noteworthy than 90% of fine belgian ales I've had the pleasure of sniffing.

The taste soothed my worries about the beer being "just another belgian." This is a sessionable version of the Abt 12. Has some subtle dark fruity/berry flavors with a candi sugar backing (much less dominating than it is in the nose). The flavors are balanced quite perfectly. There is a tiny hint of ethanol in the finish that is soon accompanied by a light fruity aftertase.

The body is full and very smooth and creamy. Chewy. This is a very highly drinkable beer. As I said earlier, its a more easily sessionable version of Abt 12.

 1,063 characters

Photo of SkeeterHawk
4.33/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours an extremely clear deep brown color with a thick tanish head that lasts forever. There are a lot of bubbles rising that you can see straight through when holding the beer to the light.

Aroma: A lot of fruitiness in the aroma. There are also some well defined toasty notes here also. There is a slight sour aroma that gets more noticeable as it warms up a bit. There is also a mild minerally aroma that I can’t put my finger on, but it reminds me a bit of chalk.

Taste: Wow, this beer is wonderfully complex! I get a whole lot of the toastiness that I would imagine is from Munich malts. There are ripe plums playing havoc on the palate as it is bombarded with some spicy notes. The start of the profile is very balanced, but the beer then fades to a slightly sweet finish. I think that the balance is derived as much from the sourness as any hops (that I don’t notice). This mild sourness serves to add complexity rather than bringing the beer over to the “tart side of the force”.

Opinion: This is an incredibly drinkable beer, and it was no wonder why Michael Jackson raved about it. The flavor is passive enough to slip past the palate of the typical swill drinker, while there is plenty of underlying complexity to challenge even the most seasoned palate. Reading the style guidelines, I don’t see that this beer is supposed to have a sour component, but the example that I am drinking certainly has a sour presence. It is by far not a big enough part of the profile to suggest that this beer be in an Oud Bruin category, but it is something to be noted...and the reason for some of my scores being 4's. This particular example may have caught something, but in my opinion, it helped! Reading the literature on this beer, one would think that it would be really consistent from bottle to bottle, but I can not say that I know what this beer has been through to get to my glass. Regardless, I would highly recommend this beer, and I will certainly try it again when the opportunity arises.

 2,024 characters

Photo of KarlHungus
3.81/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown color with a huge fluffy dirty white head. The aroma is very spicy. I've never smelled a beer quite like this before, but it is nice. The taste is similar to the aroma. The mouthfeel is rather thin for a brew this dark. Overall, this is an enjoyable beer. It's not a beer that I would want to have everyday, but it is an interesting occasional choice.

 370 characters

Photo of grassrootsVT
3.31/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Have had this one on tap at Monk's before but thought I'd give a try out of the bottle. Poured into a red wine glass a murky brown - caramel color, with no head. Smelled tangy sweet with an earthy musty character - it sits unlively, giving nearly no aroma. A caramel hint in the palate - i almost detect a bit of rusty iron - a soury sweet balance that intensifies and the abates - as it warmed, the flavors became more apparent. A good carb level but not much else to be said for mouthfeel - perhaps a well spread equilibrium of flavors.. Drinkability? I'm all good on this one - can't believe michael jackson is quoted on the bottle as believing this to be beer of the year.

 683 characters

Photo of Sephiroth
3.79/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The cork pops, and this much hyped beer pours into my Westmalle chalice a ruby, brown like color. It smells of yeast.

I was at first extremely dissapointed by this beer, but as it warmed from cellar to room temperature, I discovered a much fuller flavor. This beer has dark fruit flavors aplenty. The finish is quite dry.

I forgot to mention the wonderful head retention of this beer. I should also mention that I paid only $7.50 for this beer.

 452 characters

Photo of budsboy
4.06/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Corked, caged bottle. Uncorks with considerable force. Pours clear, brilliant amber with a big, creamy, billowing head.

Smells of spicy malt, almost syrupy. Hints of fruit. Less pungent than other St. Bernardus products, a little disappointing.

Rich malty mouthfuls of beer goodness, wow. Bread and dark fruit flavor, warming, with a bitter-sweet finish. Very pleasing and a bit surprising.

Full-bodied, meal like, with a bit of zip from the carbonation.

Well, I've finished this bottle already, far too fast. That, I would judge, is a drinkable beer. Try some.

 575 characters

Photo of OatherS
4.35/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer is amazing.

Appearance: Nice head. Slight amber/brown color.

Smell: Caramel/chocolaty hints. Similar to a dubbel.

Taste: This beer is very good. Nice dubble type taste. Caramel and chocolate type tastes.

Mouthfeel: Smooth.

Drinkability: I could drink this all night long!!!

 298 characters

Photo of TheJudge
4.38/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The beautiful bottle pours a nice deep caramel color, just off brown, with a light brown head that holds well, and laces beautifully. Smells real good, sweet on top, but you can feel the malt. No real hop to speak of, but I wasn't expecting any. The malt smell follows throught in the taste, front to back. The sweetness of the aroma is not there in the taste. Bitter, in fact. It goes down very well, not too bubbly, not too heavily malty. This is indeed a beer that you can drink all night.

 492 characters

Photo of amatuerbeerguy
4.08/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark Brown incolor clarity fair, head retention high. Some raison break thru, with malt being dominant, phenols present spices fairly prevelant, hops flavoring moderate, slight sweetness. with a medium to high body, warming prevalent. Dark color rich malt flavor some accentual flavors prevalent. Warmong and sweetness, medium to high body. A drinkable beer with the 6.7% alcohol.

 380 characters

Photo of dgallina
3.15/5  rDev -16.4%
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.

 431 characters

Photo of GClarkage
3.43/5  rDev -9%
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.

 619 characters

Photo of Dogbrick
3.95/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer is a dark mahogany color with a thick beige head that never goes away. Thin, sticky lacing. The aroma consists of yeast, spices and some banana. Medium-bodied with flavors of fruit (cherry mostly), yeast, spices and a bit of alcohol. The flavor falls off a bit and it would have been a lot better with more malt flavor. The finish is vinous and somewhat bitter. All in all a pretty good Dubbel.

 404 characters

Photo of BeerResearcher
4.2/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

25.4oz brown bottle. Pierre Celis Signature Selection. Cave Aged Brown.
It poured a chestnut/teak color with a solid beige head and some sticky and sliding lacing.
Smells like a farm on a rainy day. A dry malty smell mingles with a bit of cloves and citrus.
A sufficient and deep malty flavor is balanced nicely with resinous hop bitterness. An upfront earthy & oaky taste gives way to a taste sour dough bread, bananas, cloves and peppers. This brew is crisp, lightly sweet and finishes dry.

 495 characters

Photo of blitheringidiot
3.93/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Label Lingo and bottle babble: Golden caged & corked 03:52 L3405 on the cork cap top. This cork slipped right out of the bottle with a pull and without a pout.

Foggy brownish orange pour into a tulip with rising tiny microscopic bubbles rising up to a khaki, sticky, inch high, cratered surface of the moon, spumescent foam cap, which remains well retained.

Spicy malt nose of red apples and cinnamon notes with sugary, bunt cake aromas.

First Swigs: Deep apple cider malts. Drying hop finish. Sweet caramely cocoa aftertaste. Rootbeer anise hints. Astringent walnut shell and nutmeg dry aftertaste which lingers in a massive bittering flavors.

Quite a frothy sipping lil’ number. Medium bodied, but leaves a tongue lashing coating behind.

Last Swigs: Walnut shell and cake malts. Somewhat one dimensional in the flavor department. Just to be honest, what the heck does a cave have to do with this?

Beer is good. Happy beering.

 950 characters

Photo of maltydog
3.76/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Draft - 10 oz. fluted goblet. burnt amber with ruby highlights. Nose was extremely, but pleasantly, herbal (maybe some anise). Head is opaque and healthy, belgian lace is evident. The herbal nose is very evident in the taste. Pleasntly bitter and complented the rabbit terrine that I was enjoying perfectly. Herbal quality mellows as beer warms and the malt becomes more evident. Definitely a good food beer, particularly terrines, pates and foie gras. The finish is very dry and, again, herbal. I think this beer is definitely better when paired with food than on its own. It seems that with all of the herbal qualities that this offering could be considered a gruit. All in all, a nice effort from Pierre Celis and definitely a beer worth trying!

 748 characters

Photo of Dukeofearl
3.27/5  rDev -13.3%
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.

 657 characters

Photo of gentlebubbles
3.3/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Cola-colored brew with red highlights under a looseknit off-white head that shortly falls.

Sweet malty scent with overtones of prunes and port.

The aggressive fizziness and thin body make it hard for me to taste much aside from raisins. It's okay, but I have to say I'm not getting much from this.

 303 characters

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.

 299 characters

Photo of paterlodie
4/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

productiocode 1279 best before end 2005. Pours in mighty fine and forms a thick a stable head. Has the same nice yeastsmell as the other ones from the Watou brewery. Further a nice caremelmalt arome together with roast and these fruits& spice from the yeast make it a complex smell. Taste is full malty, dry, spicy with a roast and hoppy finish. Good beer to enjoy on a long dark and cold night, feels like a lot more then the 6.7% alcohol it says it has.

 455 characters

Photo of Citadel82
3.06/5  rDev -18.8%
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.

 469 characters

Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Beer rating: 3.77 out of 5 with 276 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.