Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

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Belgian Dark Ale
Ranked #27
Ranked #24,591
3.8 | pDev: 12.89%
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Very Good
Notes: From Pierre Celis, brewed at Brouwerij St. Bernardus.

No longer available in the US.
Reviews: 205 | Ratings: 279
Photo of Daniell
3.35/5  rDev -11.8%
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 RuudJH
4.04/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Beer that's aged in the marl stone caves of Kanne, on the Dutch Belgian border.
0.33 cl. bottle, best before 2013.

Clear brown ale, thin head, decent carbonation.

Smell and taste are typical for a belgian dark ale: the yeast and roasty malts, some candy caramel bottle conditioning, some dark fruits. A more recent tasting, sniffing directly from the corked 75 cl. bottle, has overwhelming vanilla as well. Koriander too.
Easy mouthfeel: smooth and clean. No problems with the alcohol.

I'm not sure what the marl cave aging does to this beer, but it's a good deal smooth.
It could be just a gimmick, but it's not a bad beer at all.

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Photo of dgilks
4.33/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sweet, malty, raisins, hint of banana and a touch of spice. Reasonable aroma.

Very nice, moderately clear, amber colour with red tinges. Good, big, fluffy, off-white head. Good head retention.

Good flavour with dark fruit notes and some rounded caramelised sugar flavours. Some lighter stone fruit esters and faint phenolics are good. The whole flavour is well balanced.

Medium body with moderately high carbonation. Good.

A very tasty, malty, fruity Belgian ale. Lots going on and very easy to drink. I like it.

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Photo of Ch1mpy
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Gift from LCW. Thanks!

A: Foam gushing out of the bottle as soon as I open it. Oh my, should have expected that. Pours a foggy brown. Has a rapidly diminishing beige head. Very little lacing.

S: Sweet smell of yeast and apples. Refreshing!

T: Sweet taste of caramel malts and rather a lot of fruit. Still rather laid back, not overly complex.

M: Smooth mouthfeel, very little carbonation.

D: This is really good stuff. During my next trip down to the Limburg region I'll try to score some more.

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Photo of bloxy14
3.56/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had a bottle of this before dinner and was very impressed.

A: A very poor pour into a Gulden Drak glass left it with a thin white head that dissappeared immediately. I think this was my fault as I wasn't paying attention.

S: Smell for me is a little lacking but I have been in front of a wood fired pizza oven all day so could be better than I am able to realise.

T: Taste is great and surprising after the lack of nose. Malt, some cloves, slight orange and caramel is apparent. Most of the taste is after the event.

M: Creamy and low carbonation.

D: Good beer to drink in a cave or anywhere else.

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Photo of bobsy
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Split a bottle of this at Volo with Doug. Pours a deep mahogany with a billowing off-white head. Good retentiion and lacing rounds off some good looks. The aroma is neat - somewhat musty, with funk, cherries, bread, spice and a hint of vinegar. Certainly complex, and as high quality as you would expect from this brewery.

There's quite a lot going on with this one, and it feels like the offspring of a saison and a Flemish brown. Aged hops hit first followed by fruit and a musty funkiness, that I'm digging. Certain some leather and cider notes going on. There's also a very slight sourness to it, which adds a bit more depth. A cool thing about the flavour is that you can pick out that St. Bernardus house yeast, and it lends a nice spicy breadiness to the whole proceeding. Medium carbonation and body, with a slightly drying finish.

Another hit, and a complex, almost vinous Flemish beer.

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Photo of mrmanning
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle at Chancey Smith's- A deep and clouded muddy brown with a frothy beige cap that laces well. Nose of yeasty funk, candy sugar, caramel, spices and floral notes. Tastes sweet, but with a funky yeasty twang. Prune and caramel with an almost sour yeast presence meets floral hoppiness, with an oaked aspect. Creamy, funky and sweet finish with good lingering aftertaste. Very good! Thanks Milos!

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Photo of crnipeter
3.56/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Caramel-coppery brown with unstable tan head. Sweet chocolaty scent perfectly melted with spices I couldn't ID, some alcohol warmth, altogether resembling a strong herbal liquor. Very dry - the beer evaporates from the tongue before its flavor profile could be fully developed. Malty with chocolate. Spices, peppery yeastiness and that earthy mustiness reminding us of Rochefort 6 are followed by a sharp cut leaving clean palette behind. Almost no aftertaste. Effervescent. Somewhat dull and a bit watery on the palette. It seems that aging has reduced the beer's full potential.

Definitely above the average, but still, the best experience I had with this beer was its label.

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Photo of PapaEugene
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought this beer since it is brewed in one of my favorite breweries...St. Bernardus.

A: A beautiful brown/amber color with a 2 fingers thick cream colored head that went rather fast.

S: First association is that with a good beer stew. Herbal. Cloves, cinnamon, rosemary and orange peel. Caramel and roasted malts.

T: Roasted malts, cloves, caramel, orange and I even notice some liquorice.

M: Light/medium carbonation and a little creamy.

D: Good, but my least favorite coming from the Bernardus brewery(not counting the Tripel, since in general I don't like Tripel). Taste doesn't really live up to the smell.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle, mostly likely aged for a year or so. Pours a cloudy brown with a thick off-white head. Aroma of sweet malt, some light spices (pepper, allspice even) and a touch of roasted malt. Flavor of yeast and sweet fruits initially with some roasted malt and spices in the finish. Pretty decent--I was a little scared of this beer considering that I didn't know how old it was/how well it held up over time, but it was fine! Not too sweet either, which often plagues some abbey dubbels. Nice beer!

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Photo of wl0307
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
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 TurdFurgison
4.74/5  rDev +24.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I picked up this bomber for $8.99 at Palmers in Columbus. The beer is dark copper color, clear with a hint of haze, and has a thin off-white foam comprised of relatively large bubbles. The aroma is nearly perfect, a wonderful mix of esters and phenols, all sorts of fruits from plums to bananas. The taste is strong with these fruits, very rich and flavorful bananas, plums, a little apple, and some caramel malty sweetness holding everything together. Actually I found it to smell and taste very similar to Prior 8, possibly with extra banana. Exceptional beer from an exceptional brewery.

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Photo of WesWes
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
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 magictrokini
3.62/5  rDev -4.7%
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 Garrison120
3.54/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

33cl bottle pours dark amber brown. Mine almost exploded on opening.

Decent head at first that dissipates to maybe 2mm.
Smells sweet like caramel and cinnamon with a little spice, quite nice actually.

On the palate it starts off very dry with little taste and then spices rush in quickly to take over. There is a little 'tiny' bit of sweetness for a second that tastes like dark fruits but it is soon overcome by and ends with a moderate bitterness of hops.

Overall it is interesting, but quite dry for a brown. I would probably choose it over some of the makeshift bruins here in Belgium, but I won't seek it out.

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Photo of USCTrojanBrian
4.1/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nice offering from Frisco Grille (Columbia, Md.)

Poured into a chalice.

1/2 finger head, amber-brown color. Touch of sweetness in the nose. Nothing too overpowering here. Nice mix of light sourness and light sweetness, a little dance between the two. I think the sweet won out, had some body to it but wasn't particularly special in the nose or grabbing you with flavor.

Delicious just the same, but a bit subdued. Unusual offering.

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Photo of TKempe
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reddish brown in color and slightly hazy to the eye, with a large, everlasting off-white head (leaving great lace) and lots of fine and very active carbonation

This beer smells just beautiful: spicy and sweet in a very nuanced and unique way (almost like a kind of cologne). Maybe there is some cinnamon in there, some brown sugar as well. Hops shine through lovely and when the beer warms you get to know a very sturdy body of maltness. Yeast is there as well, slightly sharp in character, giving the nose a bit of a raw or even geuze-like quality.

The taste is somewhat weaker than the smell. But this can not be considered a shortcoming. When the brew warms, many flavours pop up, ranging from dark fruits to dark malts and again a palette of spices rises up that is hard to identify. After-taste is very dry and slightly bitter.

Whereas the body is medium to full, the texture seems to have given up just a bit too much of its carbonation to the beer's head.

At first, Grottenbier might seem a little simplistic or equal in tone, but this only means the opportunity to truly taste, or degustate, as it is commonly named in Belgium.

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Photo of JeremyK
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a goblet. This beer has a nice cherrywood color and nice lacing that diminishes in 5 minutes or so. Not an overly noticable or pronounced nose. Slight maltiness, with good bitterness and mild hops. This beer has a nice spiceness and not the least bit sweet. This beer, in my opinion, is a great introduction to Belgians for those that have never tasted one.

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Photo of BretSikkink
3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Shiny brown color, good carbonation with a super active head and excellent, rocky, stickiness. Good lacing.

Aromas of toasted, dark malts, along with some dark fruit complexity. The flavor is very pleasant, again featuring the sweet, figgy Belgian malt goodness.

Mouthfeel is acceptably full, although somewhat deceptively thin. Spicy and dry in the finish, it definitely leaves me wanting more.

Well done, and certainly a worthy Belgian Dark Ale. I've had it more than the once, and I'm sure I'll be back.

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Photo of thierrynantes
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Beer bottle (33cl), tasted in 2002.

Appearance: mahogany brown. tan foam head, little fine bubbles, short persistence.
Smell: aromatic wine with spicy notes
Taste and mouthfeel: full bodied. Aromas very melted with red fruit cooked, vanilla notes.
Drinkability : a good beer in the style Belgian dark ale

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Photo of triplecoil
4.1/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served in a Grotten chalice at the Monk's Cell (Publick House).

Poured a nice medium brown with some brighter highlights and a two finder head that mellowed to about a quarter inch that stuck around from then on. Nose was woody with a hint of yeast and some brown sugar. Taste was woody and sweet with a touch of honey and spice. Mouthfeel was where this one took a bit of a dive...way too carbonated...but at least the bubbles weren't overly biting.

Despite the mouthfeel issue, this was a nice belgian brown. Easy on the palate.

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Photo of brendan13
3.23/5  rDev -15%
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 OWSLEY069
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber to a brown-ish color, with a tan head. In the aroma, earthy and barnyardy malt and a small sourness. In the taste, quite malty and a small sour white grape flavor. A lighter body and a smooth mouthfeel and a small dry to malty sweet aftertaste. The small sourness is nice, light and easy to drink, almost session like.

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Photo of drpimento
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured with and nice head with plenty of lace. Brownish color with some amber and cherry highlights. Malty body but not too thick. Some sweet/tartness. Dark fruits, toffee, and some yeasty flavors predominate. Very nice. Good finish. Don't notice any alcohol. Interesting beer. Getting harder to find.

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Photo of tempest
3.8/5  rDev 0%
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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Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Beer rating: 85 out of 100 with 279 ratings