AleSmith Grand Cru Ale | AleSmith Brewing Company

385 Reviews
AleSmith Grand Cru AleAleSmith Grand Cru Ale

Brewed by:
AleSmith Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Bottle conditioned.
AleSmith Grand Cru really needs to be tasted to be truly appreciated. Toasty, caramelly flavors, as well as flavors imparted by the Belgian yeast strain, predominate over a tapestry of subtle nuances. Winner of the blue ribbon at the 1999 California State Fair, it is a thing of beauty. It is available in 750 ml. champagne bottles.

Added by Jason on 04-27-2002

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Reviews: 385 | Ratings: 909
Photo of malcontent
3.28/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Ruby to brown body with a slight haze about it. Head is short-lived but lacing is generous.

Dried fruit, especially prunes and apricots, rush forward initially. Then, however, strong boozy aromas and faint spice (cardamom) flit back and forth. There's a lot good going on here but the fruit esters grow a touch strong.

Big fruit right off the bat (it's squarely apricot now) turns quickly to borderline cloying because of the alcohol. If it were more viscous this could pass as a dessert wine. Hints of toffee creep up before a mild sourness meets it, thereby creating an almost lactic (if not downright cheese-like) finish. A real mish-mash of flavors without much cohesion. The beer certainly has its strengths but seems to fail on the larger level.

Mouthfeel is a strength with a thick start that never descends in to syrupy territory. In fact, it's almost shockingly thin given the ABV. Still, the sheer inconsistency of the beer makes it fall short of my expectations. The real culprit actually seems to be a yeast strain that may have gotten away from the brewers. I'd be curious to see how this ages.

Big thanks to kryptic for the trade.

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Photo of GClarkage
4.09/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11/13/07- Received in trade with RKHaze.

Presentation- 750ml bottle. Nice silk screen logo bottle. Doesn't have the year of the release, but I know it was version 2003 per the trader. Poured into my Alesmith tulip as suggested by the bottle label.

Appearance- Mahogoney-brown in color pour. Really light lace patchwork with a 1.4 inch if that head upon pour. Very light rim after it settles.

Smell- Raisins, sugar plums, a really sweet caramel and light alcohol. Very pungent and sweet boquet.

Taste- Another caramello bar beer. Very sweet, but also has a tiny hint of sourness (think it was a bit past it's prime). Decent amount of alcohol noted as well as some raisins and dates. Maybe even a touch of coffee as noted in the first few sips. Mild hops noticed.

Mouthfeel- Very minor and light carbonation. Slight bitterness in the aftertaste and headed towards being a tad watery. Still silky and smooth though.

Drinkability- I wish badly I had tried this beer last year. I think 4 years old was pushing it a bit. I have no doubt in my mind this beer would have been fantastic or even world class if I had consumed it earlier. As is, it's still a very good beer, just a bit past it's prime.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.44/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Aged in my cellar for at least a year and a half. Pours a murky brown with a head that fades prettty quickly. The smell has aromas of spicy coriander, is slightly sour, and has quite a bit of brambly fruit. The taste really improves as it warms up and open to a spicy, brambly fruitiness, especially blackberry; candi sugar sweetness, and more coriander as well as some typical Belgian yeast notes. Very interesting flavors, and definitely a bit sweet. Very little noticeable alcohol. The mouthfell is very balanced, creamy, and sweet. Very well integrated and smooth, and despite the high abv is qquite drinkable- probably partly from the ageing.

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Photo of far333
3.82/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2000 vintage. Served at cellar temperature in a crystal snifter.

Picked up in a trade several years ago, and patiently waiting in my cellar ever since.

A murky brownish orange color, with a thin soapy head that rises up slowly and settles back down quickly with minimal lace.

Aroma of caramel, tart cherry, oak, sherry, roasted malt, and some brown sugar. A hint of the alcohol strength rises up.

This is strange and wonderful all at once. Mildly carbonated, yet a fine tingle dances on the tongue. Flavors of toasted malt, cocoa, and grainy brown sugar, but also hints of sherry and brandy, and fermented plum. The alcohol sits beneath and doesn't mess with the flavors.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin, fairly drinkable, but definitely a sipper.

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Photo of WesWes
4.35/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a ruby red color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a warm, malty scent that boasts of pale, crystal, and roasted malts along with a fruity Belgian yeast aroma. The esters smell of raisins and figs; very nice. The taste is great. It has a smooth, roasted malt flavor with a bit of crystal malt sweetness. It goes down easy and finishes warm and fruity. It's creamy and delicious. The yeast works well to compliment the array of malt flavors. The mouthfeel is excellent. It's a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a damn good beer. It has kick ass malt character and yeast esters. It's smooth and creamy; a slow drinker, but an enjoyable one.

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Photo of dnichols
4.52/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had two six ounce samples from the caged and corked 750 ml bottle whose cap was wrapped in gold foil.

A: It poured a cooper hue body with a slight off-white head that was gone before it could leave any lacing.

S: It had the aroma of dark fruits (plums and fresh plum black raisins) and a hint of bananas.

T: The sweet raisin flavor was dominant. I could also pick up the plums and dates. This is one complex ball of sweetness without being overpoweringly sweet.

M: It was medium bodied. Sweetness rolled across my tung with each sip. The was a sweet drying on the backside that left my mouth coated with a light sweet taste that encouraged the next sip.

D: This is an easy clean brew to drink. It has a enjoyable flavor and pleasant aftertaste. The 10% ABV might limit one to two or three at a setting but what a joyous session that would be.

Comments: I shared this fine ale with a couple of friends but secretly I was wishing I had it all to myself. My guilt now drives me to ordering a few more of these so next time, and the time after, I can enjoy it at my leisure and from the first to the last drop.

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Photo of Sixpoint
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasted this one at the annual FUNKY TASTING held at Barcade. Cheers to Warren and Bill, and to Glenn for procuring this beer.

This beer enters with the usual fanfare and aggression of a high-gravity Alesmith offering, yet there is one distinguishing feature that cannot escape my mind:


For some reason, this sample I enjoyed had an unmistakable roasted marshmallow flavor. The more I drank it, the more it reminded me of eating Count Chocula cereal as a kid.

Strange flashback!

Not one of my favorite offerings from Alesmith, but I still have not had a bad beer from them, nor do I ever expect to.

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Photo of CAMRAhardliner
3.81/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I picked this up for $14.20 at Downtown Wines in Boston.

It pours from the classy champagne bottle with thick gold foil around the neck a copper mahogany color. The head is diminutive for a Belgian Strong Ale but it lasts forever leaving a good smattering of lace. The aroma is very sweet with some sourness and a hint of wet cardboard. The taste is vinous with sherry, cherry cordial and maple syrup present. There is a whisper of wet cardboard in the background but it doesnt detract from the taste. Hop bitterness is more noticeable than typical for the style. Booze is prominent. The mouthfeel is coating and medium-thick. Carbonation is light. The finish is sweet with a peppery alcohol heat.

This is a decent BSDA but its not as good as I was expecting. More complexity and less sweetness and booze would make this another Rochefort 8.

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Photo of ccrida
2.77/5  rDev -31.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle into my large Gulden Draak tulip glass, The Grand Cru is a light muddy garnet with a big khaki head with large bubbles that quickly dissapates to a slight collar, leaving no lace. The label makes a few mentions of yearly vintages and aging potential, but there is no date that I can find, and only a blank crown cap and foil wrapper, no dated cork.

The smell is fairly rich, and is an interesting mix of BSDA dark fruit and barelywine malt, with a hint of booze. It can take you back a bit at first, but the fruit seems to take charge and it is ultimately pretty good, albeit funky.

The taste follows the smell, being an unusual mix of BSDA with a punch of barleywine. However, it's the inverse of the nose, in that the barleywine malt and diactly seem to take precedence over the BSPA fruit and spices. The finish is very vinous and a bit cloying as well, coating your mouth like red wine.

The mouthfeel is pretty thin, with very light carbonation at all. While I like my Belgians to have the light body that lends to the digestibility, this one comes off thin and watery and is not very satisfying.

Ultimately, this was not a very impressive brew. I'm not sure how old it was, but I've seen them at the store for a while, and this was the last bottle, which had been refrigerated. I love AleSmith's IPA, and with all the talk on the label about being the 1st place winner at the California state fair, I was disappointed.

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Photo of Overlord
3.78/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another great Alesmith offering. Pours a dark (surprise surprise) brown. Smells like rich malt and a bit of ... spices?

Nice thick, chewy mouthfeel. Dark fruit, rich malt with more than a hint of complex sweetness. Finishes a bit too sweet ... gets to be a chore after a while.

Pretty good.

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Photo of walshclimb
3.31/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This is a strange beer. I expected more, coming from Alesmith, but overall I was not very impressed. The bottle states that it is brewed once per year, but there is no indication on the bottle of brew date or year. I think it may be better aged, but how long? Who knows because we have no date. I don't know if this was a 2006 or 2007 bottle.

The appearance is the highlight. It is dark honey to red amber in color with a thin bubbly head that dissipates quickly to almost nothing. It smells malty up front with molasses and a hint of spice with maybe a hint of cough syrup. The initial flavor is hot and strongly malty with some carmel and slight perfume. Overall pretty sweet with maybe a hint of wet blanket. The aftertaste is sweet molasses and a little tart and is medium lived. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with an alcholic finish, and It is a little light on carbonation.

This is an interesting beer with complex flavor, but I would probably not buy it again. One small glass was enough. I would like to taste an aged bottle to see how the flavor changes.

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Photo of letsgopens
3.9/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This Belgian Strong Dark Ale pours clear but not translucent. Deep cherry brown with gold highlights. A short head and a bit of lace.

The aroma may be the high point of this selection. That is not to say that the flavor is not note worthy, but it seems to be a tiny bit lacking. But as I was saying, the initial aroma is that of light molasses, and toasted honey-top wheat bread. Earthy and sweet.

Flavorwise it is tangy and bitter with fruit notes: citrus and apple, with some alcohol in the finish.

A bit of a tangy bite on the tougnue with a pleasant carbonation and small tight bubbles. Fairly smooth and clean.

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Photo of BlindPig
3.78/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Thick dense tan head on a clear dark ruby body with some orange hues in it.
S- Sweet malts, hints of alcohol, big esters, different bread aromas, oranges, lemons, hints of fruit rind, and hints of yeast.
T- Really big alcohol and ester flavors. The tongue gets warm after this one! Not very well hidden at 10%. Some sweet malts and fruits like in the aroma come out too. Esters are one of the main things in this brew though.
M-Full body with low carbonation.
D- It is a sipper! I am not sure I like this one to much. I am not sure if I will buy this again.

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Photo of tanarm
4.58/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured gently to not disturb the yeast, as a result not much head forms, but a ring sticks to the sides of the chalice. It is a wonderful deep mahogany/amber color. Crystal clear.

Smell is very sweet, hints of belgian candi sugar and raisins.

The taste is sweet and caramelized up front. Crisp... notes of biscuit, maybe a pinch of chocolate. There's a little nip from the 10.5 ABV but it is balanced out by the rest of the flavors going on here. Light balanced bitterness in the finish. It has a full body that coats the palate nicely. Not too much carbonation... this is good. As the beer warms, the flavors keep getting more intense.

Very nice! This is one of my favorite beers. This one will age excellently as well, if you can wait that long. I can't...

On a side note this doesn't taste anything like any other Belgian Strong Dark Ale I've ever had, but I don't believe that is at all what they were going for here. I would say it's more like a Belgian Barleywine... if there were such a category.

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Photo of jasonjlewis
4.44/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What a great brew. I saw it on tap at hollingshead's in orange, ca. I tried a sample with my dad and he got it. He doesn't like a lot of beers that I like because they are too hoppy or whatever, but even he appreciated the delicate complexity of this brew. The alcohol presence is there and strong, but it is not overpowering. This is one hell of a brew. Nice chocolate maltiness and belgian funky undertones. I could drink this all day.

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Photo of dgfair
3.82/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

25.4 oz. bottle poured aggressively into my Corsendonk tulip.

A - Nice deep amber, red color. Some very small floaty particles even though I was careful to leave the majority of the yeast in the bottle. Very little carbonation. In fact, I was a little worried at first that I had a flat bottle on my hands, but the aggressive pour got a little off-white head to come out.

S- Very sweet, candi sugar upfront. Cherries, figs, and other dark fruits are also noticable. A little bit of a peppery, anise, coriander smell comes through as well. Definitely a nice, sweet complex aroma.

T - Definitely a candi sugar presence, but it's very well balanced by some more complex fruity flavors and a warming alcohol taste. A little bit of a nutty toffee flavor emerges as the liquid begins to warm, making a pleasant balance for the fruit. The alcohol continues to makes its presence known all the way to the swallow. A little too overpowering. I've had this one in the cellar for 9-12 months and I would say it still needs a little more time to develop.

M - Kind of thick...almost syrupy. Still fairly creamy and the light carbonation doesn't seem to affect it here too much.

D - At this point in its life cycle, this beer isn't very drinkable...definitely a slow sipper. I have a feeling that another year or two will make this a much more drinkable and developed ale.

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Photo of peabody
3.7/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours out a nice dark reddish brown with very little suds. Lacing appears on the tulip glass.
Smell is root beer and ainse. Sour cherry and raisin with a burning
sensation that must be the yeast. Can't really smell the alcohol.
Taste is licorice(sp) and orange peel with lots of alcohol. Very sweet but it quickly leaves and the alcohol and bitterness take over the palate.
Very oily slick feel in the mouth. Not a lot of carbonation here but with all the alcohol who needs it? The alcohol sits in the back of the throat and simmers keeping you warm on a cold night.
Great winter's sipping dring here! Couldn't drink a lot of it but I can and will finish this bottle.

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Photo of bradybeer
3.78/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A=Pours Dark Brown with a light brown head-little carbonation.

Aroma= Malty candy sweet with little hop aroma

Taste=not much hoppiness to get in the way of a malty candy sweet taste

Mouthfeel=medim body than thns out evn more in th finish

Drinakability=I like this beer-although as I have gotten older the less likely I am to seek out Belgium style ales-because I cann't get over the candy sweetness. I could drink this beer from time to time-however, it s a really good beer

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Photo of bennetj17
3.34/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Purchased last summer, covered with red foil. Nice reddish amber color with a high clarity. The tan foam is about 1/2 inch thick and settles pretty quickly despite a high degree of carbonation present. I like the contrast between the ruby hue of the beer and the almost brown color of the head. The nose is an astringent mix of plum, raisin, caramel, and strong alcohol with a lightly charred character. Much of the same fruity malt and alcoholic burn in the taste. The flavor also seems to have a decent hoppy balance giving it a slight bitter finish. The strength of flavor appears somewhat similar to a Barleywine style. The mouthfeel is pretty unremarkable, medium body, soft carbonation. Overall the drinkablility suffers from the harsh alcohol. It's decent, but I can't really say that I recommend it...

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Photo of Osiris9588
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml green glass bottle, capped and wrapped in red foil--no date or vintage. Pours a murky amber color with an orage hue, brightening when held to light. Plenty of sediment floats near the bottom. The beige head is big and fluffy, never growing too firm, shows decent retention.

The aroma is dominated by sweet malt and yeast, accented by notes of fig and cherry. The flavor blends the elements of the aroma along with strong candi sugar and licorice. The alcohol is unmistakenly there but not intrusive.

The mouth is light, but it is very complex on the palate. It's sweet, yet never cloying as different notes strike on all points of the palate. Very drinkable, though I think one 750ml bottle would be plenty for nearly anyone. Well balanced and very good overall.

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Photo of rajendra82
3.9/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The beer arrived in a handsome bomber, courtesy of BA dogfoodog. After removing the gold foil, I was expecting to use the corkscrew, but the plain old crown cap made liberating the beer a much easier proposition. I was also surprised by the green glass, which seems to be more of an exception for and American craft brewery use. The Duvel tulip I had appointed for imbibing awaited, so without further looking, I poured the beer. The body was Burgundy in color and quite clear. There was very little head to start with, and it faded right away. Despite the D etched at the bottom of the glass, there were no streamers, and the beer sat very still.

The smell was richly layered with dark malt goodness. I could smell raisins, figs, red beets, and grapes. The taste was pretty much the same, except some hop bitterness and oak wood like dryness became apparent at the end of each sip. This and a hint of sourness kept the taste from being too sweet. I was expecting a little more complexity from this beer, but overall this ended up being a little bit bland. It was slippery and smooth on the tongue, and not as thick as I initially suspected. By the end of the drinking session, the 10% ABV started to wear me down a little. A good pick up however for a Saturday night like this, where I can stay in bed late tomorrow.

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Photo of xymyl
4.57/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Color: Vibrant dark copper/mahogany, 2 tone tan/cream colored head (like shore and surf). Very small bubbles, long lasting carbonation, some lacing.

Aroma: Scotchlike peaty malt and sherry (think lagavulin with less peat), light smoke, toast, yeasty dough, caramel, various herbs and spices (crazy stuff like dill), old stale coriander, anise, cloves, cinamon, candi sugar, plums, cherries, rasins and much more (but I haven't got all day to write this).

Taste: starts off soft, lightly acidic and mouthwatering, then gets huge and lactic with a dense rush of flavors, everything I mentioned as being on the nose and many others as well, you have to wade through the richness and complexity, as well as the sweetness, then there is a light floral/citric/herbal note that creates a line between middle and end. The end is a dry/sweet/dry interplay that lasts a good while.

Body is medium-full to full.

Note: This has been aged a couple of years, but seems to be at its peak. The sweetness might put some off, but I don't think you can make something this complex and large without this level of sweetness. It is a perfect beer to substitute for both a vintage port and a island single malt scotch (esp. Lagavulin 16 year old), if you need a beer to stand in temporarily for a higher ranking (in age and alcohol) dead soldier.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.33/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tremendously flavorful with a balance of candied malt, estery fruits, and yeasty spice- all deliver the strength of taste, alcohol, and skill deserving of the "Grand Cru" tag.

Pouring with a slightly oily appearance of tawny ruby and rust, the beer lightens considerably toward the edges. A creamy off-white cap of foam rides for most of the session before succumbing to the weight of the beer. Lacing early and legging late, the beer is somewhat of ale and brandy at once.

Candied fruits of cherries, figs, raisins, and grapes fill the nose with a somewhat sugary scent of caramel and confection. Spicy with mild wine acidity, peppercorn, dried orange peel, and coriander complement the sweet estery mix, and do so with an added pop of cinnamon, nutmeg, and rum.

Sweetness settles in at first with impressions of powdered sugar and brown sugar that melds and coats fruit flavor of figs most prominantly, but also with secondary flavors of grapes, raisins, dates, and cherries. Spices balance the sweetness with a taste of Christmas that includes cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus zest, and white pepper. Additional complexities of mild vinous wines, rummy sweet alcohol and fruitcake finish the flavor profile and substitutes dessert to conclude any meal.

Richly textured as the sugary malt provides a mild oily texture to the mouth, but then the pepper and carbonation delivers a pang of sharpness and a lift of evaporation that allows for just enough lightness for easy of drinking. Alcohol warmth, peppery spice, and a semi-dry finish lingers well into the next sip like a fine port or cognac.

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Photo of Morris729
4.37/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep garnet amber color with a tall and foamy light tan head that soon settles into a nice lace. Nose is dark fruit, toasted bread, and spicy alcohol. Taste begins with candied sugar and a sweet fruitiness followed by a syrupy note. A bit of plum and notes of brandy come across towards the finish along with a touch of chocolate covered cherries. A very complex and thoroughly enjoyable brew.

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Photo of weeare138
4.57/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is an aged, 2004 vintage bottle that I've been sitting on for a while...
Appears a faintly transparent dark amber with a small light tan head that fades to a small cap. Scattered lacing is left around the glass.
Smell is of spicey Belgian yeast, vanilla, doughy, light orange, sugary candy, and coriander.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a warming syup, brown sugar, along with cocoa, and vanilla.
Mouthfeel is chewy, syrupy, with brown sugar, mildly spiced, and full bodied. Delicious.

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AleSmith Grand Cru Ale from AleSmith Brewing Company
4.06 out of 5 based on 909 ratings.
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