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

A: This beer is hazy brown with lots of red hues. A pale brown head slowly sets into nice lacings.

S: Sweet malt, some caramell. Yeast, very Belgian, a bit sour. Flowers and spices. Some fresh fruits, manily green apples.

T: Sweet at first, then dry. There's spices and yeast. Some dark dried fruits, but also fresh green apples. Sour.

M: Dry and bitter long aftertaste. Body is medium to full while the carbonation is light to medium.

O: Nice and well balanced.

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Photo of Crittervision
3.11/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Split a 750ml from 1992 a few ways on 12 August 2011 at Kulminator. 

Watery brown body with a thin, quickly disappearing head that matche...d the natural paper color on the label. 

Smell is quite nice. Heavy on the cocoa, some peppercorn, and a lot of tobacco sweetness. 

Taste is syrupy sweet, but also green vegetables. Caramel. Mild alcohol. 

Mouthfeel is light and thin. 

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Photo of rvdoorn
4.32/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: The beer pours reddish amber color, with a light brown head, which leaves a nice lacing.
Smell: Malts, flowers, caramel, spicy clove, cinnamon, pepper, nuts and fresh apple
Taste: Malts, clove and yeast. Some light caramel and pepper. Sour apples and nutty. This beer overall is very dry, with a bitter crispy pepper alcohol in the aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: medium body,high carbonation
Overall: Quite complex brew, very sharp and spicy. I like it, but not too often

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

Bought at De Honte, Cadznd.
Pours a highly carbonated murky dark brown color. Foamy tanhead settles slowly. Great for BDA apperance.
Smells of cherry, musty yeast,oak, wet leaves, cloves, nutmeg, dried fig, apple, yeast, and a nice finish of sour fruit make the nose much more complex and interesting than anticipated
Flavors of sour apple,cherry, yeast, lambic-like bacteria sour notes, pepper, nutmeg, sour wood, oak, spicy overall, nice touch of yeast marries perfect with the light creaminess form the yest.
The body is highly carbonated, well balanced and very drinkable. Beautifully balanced, one of the best BDA's I've ever enjoyed

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Photo of bylerteck
3.31/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On tap at Cafe Belgique in Amsterdam. From notes.

A - Poured a cloudy/hazy dark brown. Beautiful two finger head that leaves thick rings of lacing caked on the glass. Head retention in the form of a thin film.

S - A little sour cherry. Fairly mild. Woodiness obvious. Started weak but improved and became stronger.

T - Yeasty. Plum with some sour notes and oakiness. Obvious candi sugar sweetness. Quaite oaky or woody.

M - Medium body with nice light carbonation. Slightly sour finish.

O/D - Probably a good intro to more sour beers. Not the best example of something venturing in these waters but a decent beer and worth a try if you want something with a slight sour note that is quite refreshing.

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Photo of StJamesGate
3.63/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours amber brown with piles of rocky off white foam that rings nicely. Bright mint-kola nose with some soil and wax - but pretty shallow. Big over ripe banana in the lead then clove, a phenol hit and spicy hops. Med-thin, fizzy, no heat.

Entry-level Belg brown. Too lively to quaff, and no complexity, but easy enough otherwise.

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Photo of atis
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle

Pours dark brown with off-white large rocky head that slowly dissipates, leaving some foamy patches on the surface. Aroma is spicy yeast, some sweet malt.

Taste is an exciting combination of spicy Belgian yeast, bready malt with hints of dark fruit, herbal bitterness with citrus in the finish and slowly increasing sweet aftertaste. Mouthfeel is light medium.

Certainly an interesting beer. Very unusual and memorable taste, but I am not sure if I would like to drink it very often.

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Photo of eric5bellies
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drank from my Duvel Tulip

A - This beer pour a very dark ruby colour with an off white head that reduces to a film.

S - Slghtly sour aromas from the pour, a little stewed dark fruit as well.

T - Quite a bit of sweetnes up fron with some boiled sweets flavours in the middle that are mostly dark fruit. Finishes with a sour bitterness that is balanced.

M - Medium to light body with fullish carbonation.

D - This is a beer that has a bit of everything and yet retains balance.

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

A smell of spring in the cellar first nosing. The yeast is very aromatic and through the scents of musty old and very valuable, one can sense a nose finely alcohol. The mouth does not really follow the same logic as it has an ease to drink very impressive. With hints of sherry Oloroso. Obviously, like any beer Pierre Celis, we find a whole bunch of spices, exotic enough, a mixture which is a little like the Fruit Défendu. Fairly long finish, slightly medicinal. A little lack of surprise over a method that is meant extremely original.

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Photo of Brabander
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I bought this beer at the brewery when i was there in july this year. Drank it yesterday together with Mrs. Brabander.

We both find this beer not spectacular. Poured in our Chalices the beer has a dark red/brown fluid and a normal head.

This dark ale has a very dry taste. Good if you like dry beers but not for us.

Caramel and herbs are hidden in the beer. There are better dark ales and there are better Bernardus beers than this one (but you all know that!)

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Photo of beerpirates
3.3/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

33 cl bottel poured into my cantillon glass

A- This beer has a dark brown body with a huge thick creamy light tan head. The head last and last and pulls away from the glass changing into a cloud floating on the beer.

S- The smell of dark candy sugar with notes of toasted sweet malt has a perfume note to it but it doesn't smell overly sweet.

T- The toasted malt has a smooth candy flavor to it with faint hints of prunes and the finish is a nice soft bitter hops. This beer had some good depth to the malt and it wasn't overly sweet but very smooth to drink.

M- This beer is very dry , mouthfeel with no alcohol warmth. There was a light fizz in the finish that made it feel lighter in the mouthfeel.

D- abv is very wel hidden , but i'm not à big fan

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Photo of Thehuntmaster
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle 6,5% ABV

Appearance: The beer pours a murky, chestnut brown and is capped by a massive (typically Belgian), cream coloured head. The head dissipates reasonably fast, leaving good lace and a 1/2 inch cap that lasts most of the way down.

Smell: Even as I pour I can smell the spiciness of the nose. On closer inspection cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon are all present. Toasted bread, golden raisins and figs round off the nose, giving Grottenbier a wonderfully powerful and complex nose.

Taste: After such a powerful nose, the flavour seems a little light on the first sip; however it does improve with subsequent sips and warming. Toasted whole-wheat bread and spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper) dominate the flavour. Some earthy hops make a welcome appearance in the slightly bitter finish. This flavour could potentially be world class, if only it was a little deeper and complex.

Mouthfeel: Medium/light bodied with a high level of carbonation.

Drinkability: I am really regretting not buying a 750ml. I will most certainly have this one again.

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Photo of Daniell
3.35/5  rDev -11.4%
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 +6.9%
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 +14.6%
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 +9.8%
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 -5.8%
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 +9%
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 +1.3%
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 -5.8%
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 +5.8%
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 -2.1%
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 +12.4%
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 +25.4%
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 +2.6%
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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Grottenbier from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
3.78 out of 5 based on 276 ratings.
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