Grottenbier | Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

very good
202 Reviews
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 Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 202 | Ratings: 276
Photo of ADR
3.56/5  rDev -5.8%
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.

 442 characters

Photo of Hefe
4.44/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted on tap at RFD in DC on 1/17/04

Appearance: Hazy, bordering on murky brown, with a tannish head that becom a nice sticky lace after several minutes.

Smell: Wowsers! Ridiculously complex, notes of orange rind, banana, toffee, asian spice, peat, caramel malt, yeast, and on and on.

Taste: The aromas follow through to the tastebuds, everything in balance, no one flavor dominating. This finish lingers for quite some time.

Mouthfeel: Just a little less full than I would have liked. Still, yeasty and creamy with slight acidic bite.

Drinkability: Thank you sir may I have another?

 601 characters

Photo of Imbiber
4.49/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Reddish brown with a lively white bubbly head, slightly hazy. Aroma is yeasty, slightly peppery, with a hint of spices. Lots of flavours, this is a complex beer. Malt, cloves, hops (to a degree), candy sugar are all interwoven and doing what they do best on the tongue. Aftertaste is quite spicy, there's a long finish with this beer. Not the most outstanding Belgian I've had, but quite high on the list; a bold beer.

 418 characters

Photo of hyuga
4.1/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A brown brew as would be expected, and topped with an off-creme colored head, which settles to thin lacing after a couple of minutes. Kind of a bakery frosting sweetness in the aroma and that St. Bernardus candy sugar with a bit of caramel malt and and a hint of hops. Not as complex as I'd expected, but still a nice aroma. The flavors are also not as complex as I'd expected, but it's still a tasty beer. Cinnamon notes are easy to pick up, it's almost as if this was actually brewed with cinnamon. Good caramel malt and hints of candy sugar make up the sweetness, and hops sting at the tongue with a slight peppery flavor and the help of the carbonation, which is like a thick layer of small bubbles on the tongue, as is usual with this style. A little less thick and chewy than I like for this style. Certainly not a bad beer, an enjoyable one, but it wouldn't be my pick of the year.

 888 characters

Photo of moulefrite
4.02/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a really nice deep chestnut color. A soft pillowy head forms, subsides and can be easily coaxed back into action with a slight swirl. The lace is minimal yet again with some coaxing....aromas are deep and warming with banana and spice up front with a mild and very pleasant sweetness drawing one in. The mouthfeel is crisp and exciting with cleansing carbonation. The taste is complex and displays some of the qualities I find in the Trappistes Rochefort stuff-especially the blue cheesy like flavor. Again, flavors of ripe banana surface. An intense bitter chocolate like quality emerges also. Traces of roasted coffee linger and ripe "Cave Aged Blue Cheese" flavors return with a passion.This is very much like a low octane Trappist brew in my opinion. Quite tasty, but certainly not my choice for "Beer of the Year?" I'd love to pair this with a Blue Cheese Crusted Tenderloin and a side of Pomme Frites albiet.

 920 characters

Photo of francisweizen
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml corked and caged bottle. 2003 Pierre Celis signature selection and Michael Jacksons "beer of the year". Quite a heavily hyped brew...but does it deliver? The pour yields a dark brown, burgundian brew in my chalice with a nice off-white head of foam. The aromas are very strong and consists of molasses, cloves, bananas and other fruits, belgian candy sugar, belgian malts, hops, and yeast. The taste is quite yeasty, very fruity, amazingly dry, and quite complex...but not as complex as the aromas would make you believe. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth and the drinkability is nice. A nice beer, but not worth the $9 I paid for it..

 642 characters

Photo of feloniousmonk
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: a deep, ruddy brown, no closer to violet, so let's settle on eggplant, and possessed of a thick, fluffy, cream-soda-toned head of foam.
Aroma: Ah! Beautiful! Grapes, plums, raisins, more, with plenty of spice, tingling and tantalizing, stimulating, arousing, feeling both ancient and exotic and altogether inviting.
Taste: the fun continues on the tongue, with a luscious wave of hops, a brilliant blitz of spices. Very fun in the mouth, at first, hops and spice keep the palate occupied. But later on, disappointment arrives, as the mouthfeel dips in enthusiasm some, falters, mellows too much, the finish is not quite as we'd desire, a bit short, flat, light.
A pity that the initial promise did not deliver any greater complexities, but it's a nice enough beverage as it is, just nothing too terrific.

 819 characters

Photo of gueuzeonhigh
4.21/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sculptured foamy head. If I wasn't so excited to taste and poured a bit more meticulously, I might have created a story book appearance of the beer peacefully resting in my glass.

Not much of a nose. Hints of sweetness, maybe a note of hops.

Caramel flavor on the start. Opens with a barrage of caramel and a clean flavor of malt and yeast.

Light body, lingering finish; the flavor hangs in there but the caramel notes dissipates and a certain sweetness is left on the palate.

Nice enjoyable drinkability. I could easily consume 1500 ml in a sitting.

 564 characters

Photo of putnam
5/5  rDev +32.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A 16oz. shot into my 34 oz. wine glass produced a 3 inch tall merengue of off white and tan. It lingered even while marble-sized explosions on the surface carved deep craters on the top. The liquid is quite dark and brown.

The aromas are of cinnamon-dusted, candied orange peel in front of doughy, candied pineapple and vanilla.

On the palate it melts away with undulating surges of flavor. Bitter chocolate - simple, clear, and pure - benignly rules as it borrows light herbal bitterness, bready sweetness, milk cream and exotic fruits and spices from other, more transparently arrayed elements.

It is velvety, with only the barest, sooty dustiness to offset the impression of melting buttercream.

What is truly stunning about this beer is that when you think it's going to zig, it zags. It appears exotic, with citronella hints on the nose; but, on the palate, it is classically proportioned with chocolatey, powdered slate flavors. The texture is broad, but there is no residual sugar. It is fruited, but bitterly dry. Simple but soulful. Considering its lightness and seriousness, it is amazingly drinkable.

Any fan of St. Bernardus beers, especially Prior 6, needs to seek this one out. Wonderful beer.

 1,223 characters

Photo of marburg
4.55/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This beer seems to revel in its own well-integrated simplicity. Molasses cookies, "exotic" microbrewed root beer, and cinnamon spice. A very appealing, coherent aroma.

Very smooth brew. Somehow this beer feels sweet, but it's remarkably dry. Molasses, cloves, and doughy bread are the backbone here with touches of the spiciness hinted at by the nose. Straightforward and simple but remarkably well integrated. I mean, this thing tastes like it's a natural liquid of the Earth. Light hop finish. Alcohol presence dominates as it sits out and warms. Superbly drinkable.

 571 characters

Photo of tavernjef
3.86/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Color is a solid dark chestnut brown, but the head is what made this one heavenly looking glass of nectar. Poured slowly into my B'De Kluis Hoegaarden Abbey glass, and instantly a tannish head emerged staying consistent in girth the whole way up to the rim which sat about a finger high, its foamy and creamy with some divets but it eventually just became like melted butter sitting on top and never fading. Amazingly whipped and sits like fresh snow on the needles of a spruce. Lace sticks like glue in shelving globs and sheets of finely stitched lace. Beautiful!
Aroma is mostly yeasty covering realms of clove, pepper, and cinnamon, musty bread, touch of citrus and banana, underlaying tones of malty sweetness. Taste is more of the same with a nice strength of one dimensional flavor with yeast that has some light notions of clove, pepper, musty bread and a backing of sweet semi-sugary malts. Not all that complex or layered, but a favorable sweetness and yeastyness holds for a good time with a medium body and a somewhat weak finish that has a very light nutty dryness. A fine drinkable Belgian Ale, but nothing to keep on the shelf for to long.

 1,156 characters

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

750 mL bottle served slightly chilled in a Delirium Noel glass.

Appearance: Clear brown with ruby overtones topped by a nice healthy beige head. Streamers of bubbles keep the head pretty decently replenished and assist in leaving decent amounts of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell: Strong spicy clove aromas dominate, with some light pepper, bubblegum, yeast, and banana scents kicking around.

Taste: Clovey and peppery with some nice caramel malt and candi sugar sweetness to balance it all out. Not overly complex.

Mouthfeel: Great carbonation on a medium bodied beer. Relatively crisp.

Drinkability: Pretty decent, but there are definitely better beers out there in this style: Maudite, Trois Pistoles, and La Terrible to name a few.

 756 characters

Photo of Bierman9
3.61/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

30MAR03. In all honesty, I'd never even heard of this bier before now!

It poured an opaque, deep brown color. Forget about any light passing through this! From what I could tell, it had a cloudy, sediment-induced character. The head formed was huge (almost Bighuge!). Lightly tan in color, it was quite well-lasting and rocky, with a fair amount of lacing.

The nose was hard to pin down. it had some dark-fruit type hints about it, but also an aroma somewhat like a Coke or Pepsi! How bizarre!!

The body tended to border on medium, or perhaps a nudge below. A more than fair amount of carbonation resulted in a bubbly/prickly feel on the tongue. Still acceptable to me.

The initial flavors I encounter are of mildly tropical to dark fruits, though not overly pronounced. There seems to be a subtle chocolate-type flavor lurking beneath the surface a bit as well. At the finish a small dollop of bitterness comes into play, and it ends in a dry manner. Makes me think of a Dubbel that is just lacking a bit more of the malty and fruity aspects. Nonetheless, an enjoyable treat on a cold, raw, New England day.

Thanks must go out to Denali, who surprised me with the gift of this bier upon meeting at the Black Forest Brew Haus on Long Island! Prosit, Bro!! (This bier was somehow originally listed as Grottenbier Bruin, from Brouwerij de Smedt/Brouwerij Affligem... Bottle pictured is same that I have...??)

overall: 3.75
appearance: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 3.5


beer review id: 57787 / 03-30-2003 12:22:32

 1,557 characters

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

Murky looking deep russet color. Kind of a "snow-cone" head on top. Big, pillowy, airy and just a little short of beige on the color spectrum. Retention is good and lacing full. The aroma is an interesting combo of candy and must...cookie dough and pepper...and yeast and soggy bread. The mouthfeel is light and airy. Body is quite light. Carbonation is kept in check, but nice. The flavors are very delicate in nature. Fruity esters and sweet rum cake come to mind. Brown sugar and candy sprinkles. Bakery fresh yeast tones and bread pudding. Interesting and nice flavor, but it doesn't blow my mind. This is really a pretty good beverage.

 640 characters

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

poured a deep hazy brown, 2 fingers of tight bubbled head that leave lace rings down to glass. Aroma is of yeast malt, candi sugar and cinnamon. Taste is of dart malts, strong yeasts, alcoholic esters, and earth. Body is well carbonated, medium to full, smooth with an acidic dry finish. Not having any expectations of this beer, I enjoyed it very much. I would drink another bottle of this anytime..

 400 characters

Photo of Gusler
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours from the 750ml corked bottle with a rich and full sound, the color a lightly hazed deep orange tinted copper, the head is brontosaurian in size, the texture semi creamy and the color a beauteous light tan with the lace a firm sheet to conceal the glass. The aroma of black walnuts, lightly sweet with a bit of plums and a hit of cinnamon, fresh and citrus crisp, start is slightly sweet with a thin malt profile, the top is middling in its feel, the finish is stingingly acidic, hops are basal, but spicy enough to make me notice, aftertaste vinous, dry and long lasting. I was expecting a bit more from this beer than it gave me, nonetheless a decent drinking beer, but certainly not anything to get excited about.

 730 characters

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.36/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer appears brown with reddish notes when held up to the light, quite cloudy. Pours with a lively carbonation that creates a beige head. A slightly sweet aroma, along with a mustiness and a bit of a sour aroma. A definite sour taste in this one but only lightly so. Definite Belgian character in this beer; musty, fruity, and slightly funky. A tart cherry flavor is here as well. Fairly dry, a slight pepperiness and a general spiciness to this brew. Fairly complex, even has a slight vinous note to it.

 509 characters

Photo of BierReise
3.87/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Dark murky brown with nice head yet lacing is sparse. Spicy aroma with notes of berries and clove. I definitely get the wheat beer similarity that another rated mentions. Lively mouthfeel that dances the LaBamba on your tongue. Interesting blend of flavors here and not one thing dominating. Fruity, malty, spicy, earthy and yeasty all at once. Another fine brew from St B's!

 375 characters

Photo of UncleJimbo
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured a hazy, amber color with tan foam. The smell was tart, with a hint of wildness more typical of gueze. There was also a spiciness to the smell, almost cinnamon-like, but not quite. Alcohol was also noticeable in the aroma. The taste was tart, almost sour, with some bitterness in the finish. There was an oakiness with some harsh, phenolic elements present, but also a very light, subtle, caramel-type sweetness far in the background. The mouthfeel was tart and a bit harsh on the tongue: very dry, almost astringent. The tongue was left feeling very dessicated. Overall, however, this was an interesting beer to sample.

Thanks to David at Anam Cara for this one.

 682 characters

Photo of Todd
2.7/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

An offering from the Pierre Celis (creator of the modern day Belgian Wit, like Hoegaarden and Celis White) Signature Series. Matured in Kanne Caverns (near the Dutch border) and touted by Michael Jackson as the "beer of the year."

My expectations were very high ... and I'll state that I understand completely what happens to a beer when it's aged, these are simply my notes on what I tasted.

750ml corked and caged bottle with probably the most beautiful screened label I have ever seen on a beer bottle. It poured wonderfully, showcasing its dark, rich copper color. The head was wonderfully laced and slightly off-white.

A submissive cinnamon in the aroma, backed by a mix of floral and granola. This is a bone-dry beer. Probably the driest beer I've ever tasted. Bold flavors of cinnamon and husky grain tannins last but a brief second on the palate before they are gone. Flash of tartness and perhaps some clove. You really have to concentrate and find the flavor, and unfortunately the novelty of aging this beer removed most of the flavor. No real sweetness, only hints of florally saccharin remain, giving way to the dryness. The dryness works long and hard after the flavors dissipate to continue to dry your palate to the bone. Notes of oxidation become more and more noticeable as the beer warms. Left my palate feeling unpleasant.

Not impressed, overall. A very one-dimensional offering, that's too expensive and extremly over-hyped, in my opinion. This is a great example of why some beers should not be aged ... some beers simply do not hold up and lose their zest.

The bottle and concept was more impressive than the beer.

 1,652 characters

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

Another beer specialty enjoyed with my fellow BAs...Lovely cognac color when poured. Cinnamon aroma. This was cave aged, give me more cave aged beer! The cinnamon was also predominant in the taste, which I also found slightly tart and dry. Glad to have been around when this was being poured. pat

 296 characters

Photo of beerinator
3.94/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Amber with hints of brown. Solid head of nicely shaped large bubbles. Good retentive head.

Aroma: Hay in the nose. Spices are evident immediately. Sweetness shows through in the aroma. Natural aromas present.

Taste: Little flavor on the tip of the tongue. Sweetness abides near the back of the mouth. Dry finish, with quick disappearing aftertaste. Carbonation bubbly on the tongue, mouthfeel is pleasant. The spices are muted based on the assumption made from the aroma, but they're present.

Notes: Solid beer. Very drinkable. The flavors seem deep, with hidden characteristics that would be fun to search for. The bubbles in the head are simply mesmerizing, and they lend well to the mouthfeel.

 717 characters

Photo of rastaman
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served way too cold, had to wait about 20 minutes until it was warm enough to taste anything. The flavour is quite subtle and soft, something about it was quite soft-drinky, had some nice bitter slightly acidic characters towards the end, quite soft and smooth aswell, with some light spicyness.

 295 characters

Photo of jcalabre
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Originally sampled from bottle 11 March 2002. Grottenbier Bruin has a good mix of malt & dried fruit in the bouquet & on the palate. The flavor has some spicey notes as well. Grottenbier Bruin is quite delicious and simply another winner from Pierre Celis.

 256 characters

Photo of aracauna
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The body is a dark mahogany with a good creamy white head. It has a very spicy nose. Banana and cloves mix w/ cinammon and buttercream. More bananas and caramel cream on the tongue. The mouthfeel is a bit fuzzy. Very warm, relaxing beer. Reminds me of Bananas Foster.

 267 characters

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

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.