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 GPHarris
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a - poured a three-fingers thick creamy and off-white head into a snifter. leaves nice sheet and lacing, really coats the glass and billows well. the body is hazy brown with red, the color of copper.
s - bananas, cloves, a little spice and malt.
t - spicey, bready, yeasty with a sweet honey-like finish.
m - crisp at first but really mellows and becomes very creamy in the finish.
d - solid sipper.

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Photo of kmo1030
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

cloudy dark/medium brown, with a thick creamy tan head.
perfume-y dark fruits in the nose. a little grainy and metallic. it's also got molasses, and some herbal noble hop aroma. a good amount of bready yeast. powdered cocoa and a little wood finish things off.
the taste is sweet with a good amount of dark fruity raisin. chocolate develops with warmth, complimenting, as in the aroma, a smokey wood character, that leans towards lightly scotch like actually. it has a metallic flavor when it's cold, it really seems to even out as it approaches room temp. there is a distinct herbal sort of flaovr in there, though i can't really indentify it. dry and surprisingly clean at the finish.
the mouth feel is a bit thin and it's really quite dry for the style.
decent drinkability. a fairly interesting beer and well worth a try.

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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 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 mdagnew
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

330ml bottle bought from

Poured a deep mahogany brown with some orange tinges... Creamy head poured nice and thick then faded to light layer. Fair amount of carbonation drifts to the surface... some sticky lacing...

Aroma - Toasted bready malts, some chocolate, spicy dark fruits (figs, raisins), anise notes, pretty strong yeastiness, some nutmeg and other fruitcake type notes, brown sugar / toffee sweetness, peppery hops, nut brown butter hints...

Taste – Spicy, rich dark fruits (raisins, figs, red grapes, also some apples), definite toasted bread, very light toffee sweetness, medicinal notes, yeasty, some faint woodiness, herbal, peppery / spicy hops, some saltiness... flavours all become more balanced as the beer warms - it can be a little harsh to begin with...

Feel - Pretty sharp and dry.. Medium bodied... Pretty drinkable although the slight harshness might put some people off...

Overall - A pretty good dark ale - definitely needs to be at room temperature though. Also might benefit from some aging... Certainly worth a try...

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Photo of Morris729
4.12/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown ruby color with a thick beige head on top with a nice retention. Nose is complex with fruity notes of fig and some spicy soy sauce along with musty horse blanket and sour yeast. Taste begins with dark caramel and sweet raisins followed by tart black cherries. There is also some spicy pepper and ginger root along with a bit of a yeasty barnyard funk. An interesting and enjoyable brew.

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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 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 HardTarget
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Bottle Inspection: Temp and glass suggested (8-10 C, goblet) and observed. Date of 02 02 09 (enjoyed 23 12 06), 6.5% abv, Ingredients listed in French and Flemmish.

Aroma: Rich and yeasty. Some spiced plum.

Appearance: Rocky tan head sits atop a hazy brown amber goblet. A careful pour avoided dark sediment in the bottle. The head stays tight and lasts, giving clumpy rings of lace.

Flavor: Wonderful Belgian yeast, a Dubbel profile with lightly sweet bready malt and just a lingering ghost of noble hops. A solid Abbey beer.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is a bit stinging and fizzy, medium body, slightly drying finish.

Overall Impression: Great beer! I hand carried this back to Texas from Belgium, to find 2 weeks later it had arrived on local shelves. Great to see Pierre in Texas, looking forward to enjoying more of his work in the future.

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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 EPICAC
4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Had a bottle at De Hopduvel in Ghent.

Appearance: Pours a clear ruby-brown with a three-finger, fluffy, beige head with impressive retention that leaves thick rings of lace.

Smel: Light overall. Notes of cherries, grain and sweet malts.

Taste: Notes of cherries and chocolate not accompanied by sweetness or tartness. The finish has some light roasted character.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, high carbonation with a light dryness in the finish.

Drinkability: Very balanced.

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Photo of briman
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served from bottle into standard pint glass.

Pours a clear deep amber color. Huge, fluffy off-white head, excellent retention. Tons of lacing.

Aroma is yeasty, & fruity (cherries), with some peppery spice notes.

Flavor has some slight malt sweetness, but very complex with cherry & banana fruits and peppery spices. Finish is dry, with a very slight bitter hop presence coming through. Maybe a hint of alcohol comes through in the aftertaste.

Medium body, high but not overbearing carbonation. Balance is excellent, malt takes the lead, but the hops come in just right in the finish & everything melds together well.

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Photo of Byeast
3.51/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearance: poured a dark , opaque brown , with some reddish hues throughout. The head is a lively half inch of offwhite foam.

Smell: A fairly fresh aroma to the beer. Yeasty , a bit fruity in a fruit roll up kind of way , hints of sweeter , darker malts.

Taste: A mild blend of fruityness , yeast , and slight hop bitterness. Fruit flavors hint at the more red varieties - strawberry , rasberry , cherry etc. There is also just a hint of spice that is similar to cinnamon. The maltiness is a tad thin and on the darker/ brown side. Just a bit of balancing , floral hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: good creaminess from the active carbonation , with a very dry finish.

Drinkability: This beer was very drinkable , i was definatly expecting a little more though. The flavors were pleasant but they came in quick flashes. Overall the beer had a more refreshing , quaffable quality than anything. Way to hyped.

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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 dherling
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured out a murky dark brown with a decent tan head that lasted a long time. Ok lacing. The nose offered bready malt, sweet bananas, some sour cherry, a tiny bit of spice, and something reminiscent of sticky buns. The taste was rich with malt flavors, again I get a abked good flavor, something with sweet sticky caramel or icing, and a little fruity. Finish is a bit long, malt sticky, and stays with you for a while

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Photo of TexIndy
4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml bottle with no date on bottom of bottle into my Chimay goblet. Had a good head that ebbed down to a constant thin head that also stuck to the sides throughout. Was a dark amber with good carb. Nice sweet malt smell with hints of the alcohol within. The taste was excellent and makes this one of the best Belgian Darks I've had. The mouthfeel was very creamy. Overall a great beer that I highly recommend. Only thing keeping it out of my regular rotation is the price ($9 for 750ml). (4, RR-P, T, Y)

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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 rarevos
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Abv was 6.7% according to the bottle, and the design was different than the one pictured (bottle consumed on 10/18/06, and there's no date on the bottle or cork for when it was brewed/capped). Poured into Chimay goblet.

A: Pours a dark brown with ruby at the edges. Head is long-lasting, and looks like nitro-head: medium-brown, creamy, fine bubbles.

S: This smells like it's brewed with the Unibroue yeast. A bit of peppery spiciness, a decent amount of caramel malt. Some cinnamon or nutmeg.

T/M: Caramel and bit of cocoa up front, and some spiciness and peppery yeast toward the middle. Finish is dry and lightly bitter. Tiny TINY hint of a Flemish sour ale, but this by no means has a Rodenbach quality: the Flemishness is almost entirely a mild oaky quality and a tiny touch of vinousness. Overall, it's a pretty dry beer. It's not at all clear to me what is achieved through the cave aging process.

D: At 6.7 abv, this is pretty drinkable, and has a decent amount of flavor for a Belgian, without the "sipping" limitation. Went well with a spicy, garlicky frittata.

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Photo of RBorsato
4.42/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Note: This is a review of the bottled version originally brewed by Br. de Smedt, Opwijk, Belgium.

Mahogany colored with a low-moderate light brown head. Carbonation has subsidede likely due to age but can be swirled to reinvigorate. Strong raisin and dark fruit aromas and flavors with lots of toffee-like maltiness. A strong dubbel in flavor without the ABV to match. Medium bodied with a dry malty and light spicy finish.

Per label: "Kanne" (?)

Per MJ notes:
-Malts: Amber Vienna, Caramunich
-16P / 1064 S.G.
-Small quantities of South American spices (?)

Best Before: 03/01/03 ('9/01' on cork)
Tasted: 09/29/06

(25.4 oz. / 75 cl tall straight brown wine-like bottle, corked, and caged)

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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 CharlieMopps
3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep black body all the way through with a thick, creamy one inch head and immaculate retention.

S: Malty and almost mildewy (cave-aging) smell with faint notes of cinnamony spice, but very low-key.

T: Interesting malt flavors with a somewhat odd finish. The taste seemed dry and perhaps raisiny, or some background fruit accent. Very smooth going down though, almost reminiscent of a brandy, in a way.

M: Easy on the carbonation, which was enjoyable on the palate. A nice bite to it without being overwhelming, but at the same time not standout in this department either.

D: Due to the well-balanced taste, I could enjoy a few of these without giving my tongue too much of a lashing. With an agreeable taste and aroma from the cave aging, it was surprisingly good in an unsurprising way.

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

A nice deep red/brown with a decent head. Looks nice. Nose is sweet alcohol, spicy cardamom, and the slightist metallic whiff. Tatse is spicy but mellow, like cumin. Doesn't taste like a belgian dark ale, it's more wheat (oddly), but with a malty aftertaste. Hint of ethanol on the finish. Interesting combo. Drinkability is good, and mouthfeel is frothy and nice and tingly.

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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 KroMagnon
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at BXL in NYC. The beer had a nice dark brown color and a light brown head. The aroma was not as fruity as I expected from a stronger Belgian ale, and indeed I don't think this is really a Belgian Dark Ale - its more like a Belgian porter, if you could imagine such a thing...It had some roasty notes in the aroma and also in the flavor, but it was not harsh at all and seemed more licorice-like and also had hints of chocolate, as well as some malty sweetness. Maybe was a little light on the mouthfeel, which seemed off, but overall it was rather good and I recommend it.

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Photo of vancurly
3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Opened the 330ml bottle with a big pphhhht...nice bit of secondary in there by the sound of it.
Bottle has a best before of 07 07 08.
Pours dark orangy/amber, with edges of, big forthy head. A good lookin' beer....
Big spicy nose....cloves, nutmeg and mixed fruit. A sharp tang in the nostril too, like lemonade, or ginger ale. Some earthy, "fleshy" aromas as well.
Ginger nut, musk & clove spice continues in the mouth, along with complex malts. Hint of leather, or even a fragrant smoke/incense.
Has a medium mouthfeel, but finishes fairly sharply, leaving a spice perfume.

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