Grottenbier | Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

very good
276 Ratings
Read the review

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

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 276 |  Reviews: 202
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

 523 characters

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

Bottle courtesy of Sparky. Thanks.

Aroma presents malty, fruity, yeasty. Nice mix and blending.
Big full head that settles slowly. Amber of deep red and brown. Pretty clear esp. when first poured.
Flavor is like the aroma but duller and flatter. More malt and less fruit. Mild spiceness.
Not particulary soft, but nice fullness from both the carbonation and heaviness of malt. Nice feel overall. A bit of a spicey bite on the tongue.
This is nice. There is nothing really wrong with it. Just nothing really special about it either.

 538 characters

Photo of Erdinger2003
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a fine head that falls into a thin layer with a very strong lacing made of millions of tiny bubbles that look pillowy. So many smells hit my palate from metalic to sweet smells. The taste and smell of the hops is very suttle, but it creates a little different flavor. Mouthfeel is very carbonated and a little smooth. It's very watery on the tongue. The more and more you drink this beer, the less flavor and body there is.

 429 characters

Photo of kolbe
4.57/5  rDev +20.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I was surprised to see all of the negative/mediocre reviews for this beer. I think it must be a side-effect of inconsistent quality controls due to the intricacies of the aging process applied to this beer or something along those lines.

My bottle of this beer was absolutely fantastic. It had a great nose, high carbonation, and fabulous drinkability. The only flavors were pleasant and organic, none of the acidic or other offensive flavors noted by other tasters. Any more details were unfortunately obscured by my subsequent enjoyment of a fair quantity of Caracole Nostradamus, but I do specifically remember being quite pleased with every aspect of the Celis Grottenbier, particularly its flavor and lively carbonation.

I strongly recommend this beer, but I must add the caveat that negative reviews by otherwise reputable and wise individuals appear to make this one hit-or-miss.

 892 characters

Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer came a dark brown with slight purple highlights and a smooth creamy, dirty tan head. Smelled smoky and earthy with some pleasant dark fruits, musky nuts and dry spices mixed with yeast. The flavor begins with an initial dark bitter malt that runs into a neat red wine dryness that is mixed with earthy nutmeg and oregano. This flavor is dominated by a variety of fresh earthy notes that made me think of a beer picked fresh from some sort of magical beer garden. Very fresh and delicious. The earthy liveliness of this beer trails off in the finish. This I appreciated as dinner came shortly after I began the beer. The mouth feel was light bodied with lots of light carbonation. This is a fantastic sipper.

 717 characters

Photo of kmpitz2
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes. Beer poured a deep ruby color with a finger of light abd bubbly head that stayed nicely over the beer. Nose was light fruity sweetness, grape, fig, even a touch of caramel. I also got a bit of tartness coming through. Flavor was sweet, fruity and caramel laced with a modest tart finish. Same grape and dark fruits pretty prevalent. Finish reminded me a lot of a sweet-tart candy. Feel was moderate with a light bite on the finish. I enjoyed it. Overall, a pretty nice beer. Flavor and aroma worked together well together. I'm keen to try this in bottle to see how it compares to what I had on tap.

 610 characters

Photo of akorsak
3.62/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I am drinking a 750 mL C&C bottle poured into my brand new Trappist Westvleteren glass (thank you, The ale is cold and slowly warming.

Appearance: A deep brown color, this ale has auburn tones when held to light. There are no visible particles suspended in the ale. It pours with a good two-fingers-length head that lingers for a bit before disappearing.

Smell: This ale is a cornucopia of aromas. On first sniff, I pick up a gingerbread house smell. The gingerbread, including nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin aromas is interesting. There is a light hoppy aroma, but for the most part the array of spices assert themselves.

Taste: The spices in the aroma don't stop there, they continue into the taste. I feel as though I just went down on a gingerbread man, the spices and tastes are that reminiscent of gingerbread. That horrible, nasty thought aside, I am intrigued by this ale. The tastes, the spices here present a very lively ale that plays with the tastebuds.

Mouthfeel: Very high on the mouthfeel, as I've never had an ale that tastes like this. While I don't think that the cave-aged component is all that radical,the resultant tastes are outta sight.

Drinkability: At a relatively low 6.7% abv, this is very drinkable. The gingerbread component may get to be too much for some, so beware.

 1,329 characters

Photo of bruachan
3.81/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

from hudson w&s

after removing the cage this beer opened itself, nearly sending me to the emergency room in the process
pours a likeable garnet with a huge, sudsy head that descends to a ubiquitous upper stratum with circular smudges and frosting stuck all around

corainder dominates the aroma and the taste reflects. truthfully, i would have identified this as a wit in a blind tasting. it even has that wit tartness (but no wheat). i detect the raisin of special b and ginger as it warms

mouthfeel is slightly creamy but well carbonated

 548 characters

Photo of Stubbie1
2.65/5  rDev -29.9%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

L20011021 on the cork cover, I’m thinking 21 Oct 2001 (?)

This brew pours a wonderful brown color. A thick off white head is on top and stays on top for quite a spell. It slowly fades to a thick lace. Aroma is kind of week. Hints and only hints of dark fruit and candy are present. There is a more dominating musty, horse blanket aroma to this beer. Taste is kind of thin up front. I have a hard time pulling anything out. Yeasty flavors are out front followed by a hint of malt and a bitter dry finish. A bit watery in the mouth and not a bunch going for this beer except for the “hype” on the label.

Other than looking great in a glass, that is about this entire brew has going for itself. Try if you must.

 718 characters

Photo of nlmartin
1.78/5  rDev -52.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Poured from the bottle into a wide mouth goblet.

Appearance: The beer poure a very pleasing clear brown with a nice off white head. Leaves behind seemingly nice rings of lacing.

Smell: This beer smelled very nice. The smell consisted of sweet maltyness coupled with cinnomin and clove combination.

Taste: The lead in taste was malty sweetness that broke into straight up acid. This beer taste worse than ass! Man I feel let down. Fuck Michael Jackson with his beer of the year!

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: The beer just simply feels like acid to the mouth. This is totally undrinkable. I sat through about a half hour of beer torture hoping it would get better as it warmed. Do not buy this nasty acidic beer. Your money will better be spent on almost anything else. Man this beer is crap. In short half of a bomber is all I can gag down.

 848 characters

Photo of Countpopeula
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Aroma - Even before I poured the beer I caught the whiff of malt. Once in the glass I could easily detect a musky/herbal aroma mix with some spices. In the background I could also pick up the sent of yeast, and pushed even farther back I could just barley make out the aroma of citrus and plum. As I got to the bottom of the bottle the esters really started coming out and the fruitiness started to become more pronounced.

Appearance - It pours with a large very stable light tan head made up of a mix of small and medium bubble sizes. It leaves big sticky laces on the glass; in fact you could almost call them sheets. The color is a hazy deep ruby.

Flavor - The first thing I can taste is sweet caramel with a little tartness on the sides of my tongue. As I drink more of it (and get closer to the bottom) I can also start to pick out clove and banana flavors as the yeast becomes more prominent in the profile. This beer almost has two finishes. Initially, I thought it finished smooth with a light lingering sweetness, but then the alcohol evaporated, and it actually finished dry with some bitterness (almost peppery).

Mouthfeel - It has the medium body that you would expect from a malty brown ale. I could definitely sense the prickliness of the carbonation, but it was not nearly what I was expecting from something that started off with such a big head.

Drinkability - This is a very good beer, I could drink it all night long.

 1,450 characters

Photo of DogFood11
3.16/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Ivory white head that is fluffy and lasting. Carbonation is evident and bold. Clear dark amber.

Couldn't pick up much of a gameplan in the smell. Some bitterness and spices come through in the taste. This is laid back in every way. Nothing steps forward and its very mellow. I could see how folks would like this brew as it is an easy drinker and paired nicely with some mild sausage. It also had the interest of some BMC drinkers so maybe this mild brew can be used for a transition type into the belgian ranks.

A couple 750 ml bottles poured as a nightcapper with some friends. It went across well with the group although I was a bit less impressed. I have to say the smell was weak and the taste followed suit. Nice overall appearance and the mouthfeel was ok but in the end its not something I'll pursue.

 815 characters

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

Cave aging doesnt seem to do a whole hell of a lot for this brew. All around everything is alright to pretty good.
Nothing especially worthwhile or noteworthy...
Kinda creamy mouthfeel... a little chalkiness to the finish.
A bit like an english brown ale in flavor profile... mild, light sweet coffee, a hint of nuttyness, a smidge of caramel and molassess.
I'm a bit biased to strong dark ales so this comes up short to my palate. The style doesnt seem to be highly regarded on this site... so this is probably better per style than I am giving it credit for.
Nothing to sneeze at but I don't find it to be life altering.

 628 characters

Photo of freed
4.27/5  rDev +13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I asked my wife to pick me up a small Belgian while she was in the grocer getting a piece of cake and she came back with this monster bottle (at a monster price), but I can't really complain.

The huge beer pours a somewhat dullish brown with an airy but textureless head. For some reason I expected a whopping head with some sediment or something. Just a dullish brown.

The aroma was kind of simple, but nice. Nothing comes across as excessive or overpowering. There were nice contributions from the roasted barley and from the yeast.

The taste started out a little thin and eventually solidified into a warm, satisfying beer. The malt was bready and slightly toasty, the yeast gave it some interesting floral and sour edges, and the body eventually worked to a full but not filling drink. Despite the large bottle, it drank very well and was an excellent desert.

 872 characters

Photo of battlekow
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Grotten pours a satisfying maple color with a large, fluffy, shockingly white head. Excellent retention. Smells yeasty and dusty, with some ester/clove characteristics, reminiscent of a hefeweizen. Tastes pretty fruity--lemon is prominent--and yeasty, with a bit of a hoppiness in the finish. Tastes better as it warms; I thought I detected some phenol when at first, but no longer. Mouthfeel has a luxuriant frothiness. Grotten basically tastes like a bigger version of a hefeweizen to me.

 490 characters

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.

 1,329 characters

Photo of Sigmund
4.27/5  rDev +13%
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 +7.7%
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 -31.2%
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 -20.4%
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 +19.6%
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 +14.6%
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 +0.8%
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 -12.4%
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 +0.3%
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

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