Grottenbier | Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

Liked This Beer
3.77 w/ 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

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Ratings: 276 |  Reviews: 202
Photo of beerceller99
3.26/5  rDev -13.5%
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 granger10
3.5/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I would go so far as to call this an extreme beer. The dryness displayed by this beer was amazing. No sweetness to speak of which is quite amazing considering the alcohol strength and malt flavors. Loads of complexity here. Main flavor is bitter orange peel but there's more tarty citric flavors. The bitterness and tartness are really soft. A peppery spice is there as well as more spices that were unique to me. Strong hits of yeast midway through and then in the finish. A solid beer but almost too much to me. I have to give respect to the brewers here, but it's just not my cup of tea.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.25/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Very very nice deep ruby color with a head that goes on forever-it took 3 pours to get the whole thing out of the bottle.Great earthy aroma-very yeasty-hints of oak and somewhat breadlike.Nice big malty flavor upfront.Somewhat sweet,a tad of lingering bitterness.Wonderful silky smooth mouthfeel-the huge malt profile is very smooth-almost syrupy.A very quaffable brew-I could see enjoying this one all night.It was really quite nice as it warmed in the bottle.Damn sure worth checking out.

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Photo of allengarvin
4.18/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle, bought online from Cork popped out easily. Poured it into a Duvel goblet.

Appearance: big creamy head at first, which settles down and leaves about a fingers-width on top of the beer. Dark dark color, which shows a ruby tint when held up to the light, but otherwise opaque.

Aroma: Spicy, estery aroma.

Tasty: Good malt, a little toasty, with a good mouthfeel. Hints of breadiness, along with caramel notes present, and a good spiciness from the yeast. Long aftertaste at the back of the tongue. Slightly acidic, and actually quite refreshing for the strength of the beer.

This isn't as complex as many of Belgian's dark beers that one finds in the state, but it's interesting, and highly drinkable. I hope it'll become available in Texas; it's good to have Pierre Celis' brewing skill back.

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Photo of Mitchster
4.48/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pierre Celis Signature Selection. Matured in the Kanne and Valkenburg Caverns. Considered "The Beer of the Year" by Michael Jackson. 750ml corked and caged silk-screened bottle. 6.7% ABV.

Cork pops off with a brish "Whissh". Pours out to a brilliantly clear dark brown with beautiful ruby accents, forming a tall and dense rocky beige head with excellent retention and beautiful lacing. The head peaks out of the glass, supported by brisk carbonation. Great looking brew. arpma of Belgian sour funk, musty basement, dry husky malts, mild penols, distant earthy hops, mild phenols. Very nice. Mouthfeel is spritzy with an airy, medium body. Taste begins with initial sweet and sour, followed by belgian phenols intermixed with metals, earthy and dirty amber malts with a faint suggestions of figs and cinnamon, the suggestion of dark candi/brown sugar arrives towards the finish, which is bone-dry and has an earthy bitterness of moderate intensity, accentuated by the unfortunate metals. As it warms, distinct flavors of cotton candy, pineapple, and grapefruit become apparent, a touch of orange peel appears, the carbonation and alcohol mellow, the sweetness softens, and ultimately it becomes a much better beer. At room temp, it's all about the toast.

This is a complex, yet odd beer. It held alot of promise with the nice aroma and the initial sour zip, but I kept wanting more tartness. This beer is schizophrenic...the 1st half is a completely different beast than the 2nd half. There is little continuity until it warms. As it warms, it really unfolds and nearly meets my lofty expectations. Reminds me of Goudenband mixed 30/70 with a decent abbey single poured over a fresh tropical fruit cocktail. Unique and very good. Worth the $10 I paid for it? Almost.

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Photo of Crosling
3.47/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Sampled at Beer Mania in Brussels, Belgium.

Dark Orange.

The aroma was fairly subtle, roses being the most enjoyable but dark fruits, cinnamon and pepper.

Dry and medicinal throughout with notes of dark fruits, nuts and cinnamon and a suggestion of cellar mustiness as well.

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Photo of Guinness4me
3.73/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It seems a shame to be drinking this beer in Florida in the middle of summer! I feel I should have it while I sit on a bear-skin run in a ski lodge! Bold, spicy and easy to drink.

It pours an impressive creamy, plentiful head which dissipated quickly. To me, the aroma is a true beer smell, but tastes nothing like it smells. I think the flavor reminds me of a black and tan! It has a smooth mouthfeel and I barely tasted the alcohol in it. I could drink quite a few of these. I'd love to try it on tap.

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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 ngandhi
3.09/5  rDev -18%
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 Wildman
3.65/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured a dark reddish amber color and formed a nice bubbly white head that left circular lace as it subsided. A medium amount of carbonation is present. The aroma was of malt, cinnamon, and spices. The flavor was of malt and spices. The finish was fairly light and sprite. Compared to the other from this brewer, it was a bit of a let down, but it had a lot to live up to. It is a servicable brew, just not outstanding.

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Photo of mickeymac
3.68/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It comes in a regal-looking 750 ml bottle. The beer pours a deep, dark brown with a billowy off-white head that leaves plenty of lace. The smell has traces of ripe fruit and just a bit of tartness but nothing really outstanding. The same holds true in the taste: interesting fruit flavors with a slight sour note but nothing particularly noteworthy. For some reason, I was reminded of a piece of fruit-flavored chewing gum that had been chewed too long, leaving little of the original flavor. The mouthfeel is decent and it goes down well. It's just not one worth searching out when the world is full of so many outstanding Belgian Strong Dark Ales.

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Photo of ZAP
3.75/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Auburn colored...big fluffy ol white head...nose is musty....a bit spicy....flavor is sweet tropical fruits....some spicy pepper...some cinnamon on the finish...subtle flavors...smooth....almost creamy texture...perhaps a bit light bodied and flavored...

Enjoyable....not a powerhouse of flavors, but is more of a smooth, understated Belgian....

I'd buy several others before this but I'm glad I tried it once...decent enough..

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Photo of rdrummer
3.58/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Okay, I'll admit from the start that I expected this to be a beer that would beat all my prior experiences. It didn't. It is one beautiful beer from the first cork pop to the effervescence of the pour. It is a beautiful, deep amber color with a pure white head that is not long lasting.

The aroma is above average but hard to distinguish. There is the hint of clove and cinnamon with a serious malty base. There is a hint of the hops in the nose as well.

Things start to go down hill from there. Maybe, it is wrong to rate beers because they don't meet expectations, but with Pierre Celis name on the label, the idea of cave aging, and the praise from Michael Jackson, I expected much more than I got. There is an exteme dryness to the maltiness of the beer. It is representative of cheaper brown ales that have little taste. I was expecting more not the same amount of taste from a Celis beer.

This is a dry beer. I like dry wine and some dry beers, but this was parching. It could be that this is simply not aged enough or aged too long. My ability to taste is not up to that distinction.

I was not impressed enough that I would seek out this beer again, and was certainly not left desiring more. It's a good beer, but not a great one.

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Photo of RedDiamond
3.31/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Absolutely the most violent cork busting POP I’ve ever gotten from a corked beer. And the ensuing carbonation roils and blazes with the jubilant overabundance of champagne. A thick tan head sits like it intends to stick around awhile. Sourish aroma gives me some concern. Is it supposed to smell like that? Best guess is yes. Still…..

The color of course is brown. It is the brown of a chestnut mare, the brown of sad puppy dog eyes, the brown of soiled bus depot toilet seats or the air above Mexico City. It’s pretty darn brown.

The flavor – alas, I was hoping I could just stick to the color and carbonation. The flavor is fairly disappointing. It says “Chimay” at first, which is good. But the body is thin and aside from all that mad-as-a-hornet CO2 that’s surging up from the glass, there’s nothing robust here or especially compelling. There’s no accentuated clarity or verve. There’s nothing to savor or sing praise about.

I suppose this brew would do well at a picnic in which one’s attentions may be focused on one’s food and paramour. And honestly, the Grotten Brown does inspire some appetite. Mind you, this is not an awful brew. But it doesn’t inspire any profuse willingness to drink the stuff. And I don’t care how many Belgian caves this has been aged in or if, as the label proclaims, it is Michael Jackson’s beer of the year. Must have been an uneventful year, and I believe MJ needs a cup of coffee.

Seriously, a good Chimay tops this one any day of the week.

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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 jdhilt
4.13/5  rDev +9.5%
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 Gavage
4.16/5  rDev +10.3%
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 TheLongBeachBum
3.38/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Presentation: A fancy looking 750ml brown glass bottle that appears to have a front and back label, but they are actually screen printed onto the bottle. The dark blue and cream colored screen printed obverse label lists the beer as ‘Pierre Celis Signature Selection Grotten Brown’. It also lists the beer as 6.7% and ‘Belgium Cave-Aged Ale’.

Appearance: Silky smooth pour that readily forms a nice thick head. Well carbonated and creamy in appearance, the tan brown head is resolute and remains throughout the drink.

Nose: Another let down, deep inhalation does reveal some dark fruits, malts, yeasty aromas. Hardly complex, but entertaining at times when you can get deep into the nose.

Taste: Smooth but grainy malts, when I started this it reminded me a little of some Milds I drank in England. In the middle it develops some cinnamon towards the end and an astringent nutty finish. It goes as soon as it comes, so to speak. It improved a little as it warmed, but not any significant degree. I found this to be lacking to be honest.

Mouthfeel: Thin and uninspiring it has no depth, but the finely attenuated carbonation and smooth feel on the tongue rescues it from a lower mark.

Drinkability: Reasonably quaffable but a little boring. Inoffensive, but a tad one dimensional and timid. I am glad I shared the one bottle I had, because it may have been a chore to get the whole bottle by myself.

Overall: The presentation of the bottle and the ‘cave-aged’ hype all fooled me into thinking that this would be something special. Sadly it wasn’t. Not that bad, but really just above average. But given its background, hype and price, it was a big disappointment. Think hard before dropping your money on this one.

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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 benmiliron
2.3/5  rDev -39%
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 GreenCard
4.13/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Sampled 33cl bottle...

Appearance: chestnut brown, thick layer of tannish foam that compacts into whipped cream, lots of bubbles

Aroma: malt, dark bread, dried pears, clove, speculoos

Flavor: mild malt sweetness, a slight acidity, dried fruit, spice, yeast, mild continental hop flavor, very balanced, finishes semi-dry with a dark malt aftertaste

Mouthfeel: medium body, zesty carbonation, slight warmth, very smooth

Overall Impression: Tried this beer for the first time at The Belgian Beer Weekend 2003 and I was quite impressed with it. It seemed to be somewhat of a "sleeper" hit at the festival. Not a lot of it on hand, but it was gone by the end of the weekend when word had gotten around. Great beer with a lot of subtle things going on. Nice, tasteful label too!

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Photo of ark57
4.23/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Another masterpiece from Pierre Celis. There is a great spicy phenolic and hoppy aroma. The body is reamy and rich and yet lean at the same time. I find it elegant to drink. It finishes spicy, and left me wanting a lot more. A wonderful beer to savor and it is not as bad to finish the whole bottle because it is not as high in alcohol as many other Belgians.

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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 Jon
3.83/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ruddy brown color with a fluffy, taupe-hued crown. Lavish rings of lace remain on the glass. Spicy aromas exhibit traces of spiced citrus, pepper, and cinnamon. Some malty, caramel sweetness penetrates, as well. Spicy, fruity flavors reminiscent of the detected aromas permeate the palate en route to a mildly astringent, dry finish. Well-carbonated, moderately bodied and a rather light and pleasant mouthfeel leads to good drinkability in this full-flavored Belgian Brown. Very good, though it failed to exceed my expectations given its acclaim.

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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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Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Beer rating: 60.1% out of 100 with 276 ratings
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