Val-Dieu Winter | Brasserie de l'Abbaye du Val-Dieu

very good
24 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Val-Dieu WinterVal-Dieu Winter

Brewed by:
Brasserie de l'Abbaye du Val-Dieu

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by PorterLambic on 01-11-2005

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 24 | Ratings: 35
Photo of CaptFrothy
4.23/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Billowing bursting cap of foam, looks like some advanced fermentation has been taking place in the bottle.
Tastes more akin to a Dubbel than a Belgian strong dark, whatever yeast they using is special stuff, a fruity element in the taste along with the biscuit flavors. My bottle says 7% not the 10.5 listed here.

Anyway, one of those purchases where I return to get more, only picked it up since there was 20% off Belgian beer sale at State Line and I'd never seen this before. Very finely crafted and special imo.

 517 characters

Photo of KYGunner
4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The nose is full with molasses, sweet dried fruit like prune date and fig, with sour green Apple and bread. The flavor is stronger to the bread and malt with touches of anise, carriage, figs and crabapple. Slightly thick in feel it has a sticky sweetness in the mouth. I enjoyed this thoroughly and found it to be an excellent example of the style.

 348 characters

Photo of tpd975
3.67/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours dark brown with a small tan head. No retention or lace noted.

S: Sweet bready malt, yeast, brown sugar, and toffee.

T: Dark fruit, sweet candy malts, doughy yeast.

M: Medium in body, smooth fairly creamy.

D: Not too bad, but not a great beer.

 255 characters

Photo of watchnerd
3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750 ml bottle, poured into a big goblet wine glass, like you'd use for a bordeaux.

Cloudy nutty brown with medium carbonation and a chunky, lumpy head, tastes of plums, raisons, and potpourri, almost patchouli, moving to yeast and alcohol on the finish, that all dissolves into a nice warm rush to the cheeks that reduces the drinkability a bit, but sure tastes great on the way to hiccupville.

 395 characters

Photo of TheLiterati
3.46/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a goblet a deep, rich brown. Smells of fruit - raisins and grapes as another BA mentioned. I also agree with that BA's assessment of this ale having a soda-like aroma. Sweet on the nose and the palate, but not necessarily cloying.

Mouthfeel is smooth as is the taste. Nothing overwhelmingly outstanding, but a good solid strong, dark ale.

 352 characters

Photo of ccrida
3.6/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml poured into my Gouden Carolus goblet, the Winter abbey is a hazy deep Garnet with a small, creamy, off-white head that leaves foamy sheets of lace. Served at cellar temp, this year's vintage.

Smell is fruity and one dimensional, like grape soda. Soft, to reserved for my taste.

Taste, actually, is pretty much the same, grape soda wise. But I really like grape soda...especially when it's packing 10.5%! This is a really sugary quad, loads of red wine and raisin, with a nice rumminess. Lacking complexity but enjoyable nevertheless.

Mouthfeel is light, highly digestible. The sugar coating in the mouth is thick.

Drinkability is high if you can handle the sugar and don't mind the thin fruitiness, but this is strong and rich by any standard, it's probably much better with a year or two on it, and good enough that I'll grab 1 or 2 more and try.

 861 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This reportedly is the Grand Cru. It pours a muddy brown with little head. It is about three years old and so understated carbonation. Overall pleasant, and a drying rich taste. Definite dark fruit, pepper, and cocoa, well balanced. Medium mouthfeel.

 250 characters

Photo of Raymond69
4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle dated 06/06, Edit:
Just realized this is the best before date and re-evaluated the hit I gave it for mouthfeel.

Pours a dark hazy reddish brown , very little head, minimal amounts of lacing.

Smell is slightly yeast, some caramel,.

This beer has a sweet, grape-like taste to it. The hops balance out the sweetness almost perfectly.

This beer has a thick sweet mouthfeel. This particular bottle might be a little off because the carbonation is a little low.

Overall this beer has great drinkability for a high ABV beer. I kinda wished I'd saved this for the winter, but loved it nonetheless.

 613 characters

Photo of rallison
4.55/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Beautiful ruby red black with a 1 finger off-white head that leaves some nice lacing.

S: Mmmm, tasty dark fruits. Raisins, plums and yumminess.

T: Delicious. Port soaked raisins, plums and some other sweeter fruits and flavors that I can't quite place. A bit of Candi Sugar sweetness, with just a touch of alcohol. Wonderfully rich and delicious.

M: Perfect. Nice bit of carbonation to keep this 10.5% light enough, but with a perfectly rich coating too. Nice.

D: Extremely drinkable. 10.5%? This is how you do a beer of this gravity. I could drink this all day.

Highly recommended. One excellent winter beer.

 627 characters

Photo of jettjon
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

OK, it’s a cold winter night (well as cold as it gets here in Florida), and It’s time for a good Belgian Strong Dark ale. Presented in a caged-cork 750ml bottle, best before date on cork 10/07. I actually had to use a corkscrew on this one; that’s a rarity. Slight pop as the cork is extracted. Into the tulip, served at about 45 degrees.

Pours a very dark, practically opaque brown/black with a reddish tint when held to a light. Somewhat vigorous pour yields a solid fingers-worth of tan foam that fades slowly leaving solid sheets of lacing in its wake. Damn fine looking beer. Nose of sweet dark fruits, lightly bready malt and boozy alcohol. Cherry syrup. A bit of peppery spice in there as well. I’m betting that the nose really intensifies with warming. Tastes very well balanced with a combination of sweet, fruity malts matched against a subdued hop background with a firm alcohol presence. Damn fine dark ale flavor. Wine-like flavor complexity. Bitter, dry finish. Mouth is nicely balanced between a viscous, slick wetness and moderate, lively carbonation. Drinkability is excellent; I will be sipping this 10.5% ABV beverage all night.

Overall: An exemplary strong dark, and damn fine beer by any measure. Highly recommended.

 1,247 characters

Photo of Beerzebub
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Very dark brown color. Quarter inch of beige head mostly dissipates, but leaves sticky patches of Havarti-like lace.

Smells of sweet toffee and caramel, grapes, raisins, prunes, black figs, floral honey, solventy rummy alcohol.

Tastes fairly sweet, pleasant smooth cane sugar flavor. Fresh dark grapes, papaya, dried fruit, floral honey, caramelized sugar, milk chocolate, bread crust, coriander, cinnamon. Some aspect of fortified wine: port, sweet Marsala. Subtle roastiness and mildly bitter astringency helps balance the sweetness and alcohol. Alcohol is forthright, but manages not to overwhelm. It works, fairly cohesive.

Silky mouthfeel, with fine carbonation, but becomes thin. Some astringency, like grape skins. Very drinkable, considering.

Good interesting beer. For the style and the alcohol content, the dark sugars and dark malts seem restrained, white sugar must be a major ingredient. It makes for a relatively light and drinkable Belgian strong dark ale, despite the sweetness - the high gravity beer version of a good snickerdoodle?

 1,063 characters

Photo of EmilNoldSinclair
4.6/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an oversized wine glass and consumed with aged cheddar (truly a delight!) This one gave an inch high head approx. The bubbles were very small and off-white. After letting it warm up a bit, I found that a decently sized layer of head remained (as it did throughout the remainder of the tasting!) The head clung to the glass all over the place. The color was nearly an opaque black, but held up to light it was a very very dark translucent brown.
The smell was of spiced raisins, figs, and alcohol. It improves as it warms.
The taste was delightful: red apples, raisins, plums, and chocolate, with some definite ethanol presence. Also, cinnamon? The hops are very tame, well a Belgian should be! This taste faded (with only some chocolate remaining) into a pleasant toffee flavor.
I felt like I was chewing this beer. Thick mouthfeel...Mild mild carbonation.
Overall, an excellent beer (I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is even better than a Chimay Grande Reserve). However, though the ethanol is pleasing, I imagine it could get to be too much after several pours into an oversized wine glass! (not that anyone would need that much to drink!)

 1,184 characters

Photo of beerogre
4.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Once again my senses are treated to the extravagance that is the Belgian Strong Dark Ale. This is yet another fine example of the style.

My first few sips reminded me immediately of the Ommegang version, with the bready taste initially most noticeable but then it began to take me in a sweeter, more licoricey direction, though not to the extent of some, such as Gouden Carolus Carolus D'Or - Cuvée Van De Keizer.

I don't think the mouthfeel is quite there so much as in some of its peers, but what it may lose here it easily picks up in the drinkability category.

All in all a very decent effort, if not quite Top of the Class.

 638 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.65/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

What is the value in putting a 'best by' date on the cork when it can't be seen until the cork is pulled from the bottle? This one reads 07/07. Good thing I decided to drink it today and not next winter.

Murky chestnut with orange and amber edges. The khaki colored head is of high quality, but doesn't have the typical, rocky Belgian ale look. It's densely creamy and melts rather than deflates. There's also a tremendous amount of thick, spackle-like lace that is probably my favorite part of the appearance.

The nose is intensely dark fruity with raisins, plums and figs coming immediately to mind. It smells more sour than sweet, a situation that I hope is reversed on the palate. Spices are present as well, with a particularly funky cloviness front and center. Complex doesn't even begin to describe the aroma.

Val-Dieu Winter is darker and richer and thicker than I was expecting. Is there such a style as Imperial Belgian Strong Dark Ale? It looks like we'll have to invent it to describe this wonderful beer. Like the nose, complexity is the operative word on the palate. It's a good thing I have 750 ml to figure this one out.

There's at least half again as much malt as in most versions of the style. Each mouthful simply oozes with dark malty goodness. As a result, the tanginess that I appreciated in the nose is still present, but sweetness easily overtakes it and is, by far, the dominant flavor sensation. As far as flavors themselves, I'm still not sure that I can identify them all. How do those Belgians brew such amazingly complex beer? I'm guessing that witchcraft plays a role.

I'm tempted to compare Val-Dieu to a dark holiday fruitcake. The flavor profile consists of roasted malt, cocoa, darkest caramel, black currants, dates, figs, tobacco and clove. Oh yeah, and a few huge scoops of candi sugar. It really doesn't matter in what circumstances one enjoys a world-class beer such as this, but it occurs to me that the optimal situation would be as an after dinner treat, in place of dessert. In other words, as the beer version of a tawny port (which it resembles by the way).

Truthfully, I didn't notice any alcohol until I went looking for it. It's easily identified, but is such a well-buried contributor that it deserves stealth status. One expects to taste alcohol and to feel its spreading warmth in port wine, so why shouldn't one expect and enjoy the same in a port wine-like beer? I have a sneaking suspicion that Winter will be good long after 07/07.

The mouthfeel is the best of both worlds. It's as big, as thick and as lush as the finest Imperial stouts, yet it manages to convey the lightness (to some extent at least) of the finest Belgian ales. It's a hard line to straddle, which makes its success at doing so all the more remarkable.

I had no idea how good this beer is. It's been sitting in a box in a corner of my cellar for at least a year and I'm sure I've passed it by more than once while awaiting the onset of winter. Well Winter has arrived and I couldn't be happier. I might just light a fire tonight and I might just pour the rest of the bottle into a snifter. This outstanding offering from Brasserie de l'Abbaye du Val-Dieu deserves nothing less.

 3,228 characters

Photo of clickpush
4.61/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pour: 750ml bottle to tulip glass. Comes out with a half inch tan head over a dark, cherry-wood colored body. Lots of bubbles active throughout, and the head clings to the glass on it's descent, leaving great lacings both on the walls and over the surface of the beer.

Nose: Chalky & sour, chocolate and very dry cocoa powder. Faint but attractive.

Mouth: Super malty, sweet & sour. Faint sour notes immediately upon entering the mouth give way to lots of sweet fruity esters as it moves back: plums and sour cherries, brown sugar. Mouthfeel is superbly carbonated all the way back, sparkly and creamy at the same time.

 625 characters

Photo of dblinkhorn
3.87/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750ml corked and caged bottle into a tulip glass.

Appearance - Pours a slighly brownish honey-amber. It has an off-white head that is creamy throughout but with some soapiness on top. It dissipates at a moderate rate leaving spotty lacing here and there on the way down. It eventually settles at a patchy and thin layer of lacing on top.

Smell - Some rich nutty aromas with a spicy and warming alcohol up front. Herbal hops with slight floral notes. Dark figs and raisins dominate the fruitiness. There is also a strong brown sugar and caramel sweetnes. Some pepper and corriander spiciness with notes of nutmeg. A rich malt aroma ties it altogether in the background.

Taste - Rich pudding-like malt character with a strong nut character right up front. Also some metallic character is present in the malt as well. Clove and even strong corriander as the spice heightens in the middle. The alcohol also turns on full blast at 10.5% ABV and produces a warming and spicy/tingly feeling. Some herbal and floral for the hops, but more subdued than on the nose. The finish brings forth a nice medley of all of these flavors, with some more metallic character shining through. The aftertaste has lots of powdery yeast flavors and moderate earthiness with a dying malt richness.

Mouthfeel - Decent smoothness with a medium body. A sharp opening from the carbonation, but it mellows up a bit and has a nice edge throughout the taste. Adds a refreshing character, but is still just slightly overpowering for the style.

Drinkability - Strong flavors and a highly present alcohol. Has heavy body as well. One bottle of this would do me in.

A decent Belgian strong dark here. I do enjoy the nutty character it has, it reminds me of a Belgian version of a nut brown ale. Definitely worth a try or two. I would buy this beer again, but it won't be one of those beers that I always have on hand.

 1,912 characters

Photo of GClarkage
4.62/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

04/13/06- Had on tap at the Toronado in San Francisco, CA during Belgian Beer Month.

Presentation- Via the tap into a tulip style glass.

Appearance- Brown and a touch mahagoney. Light 1/4 inch frothy head. Decent lacing.

Smell- Nice dark fruit scented brew. Grapes, figs and dates. Maybe some winter spices thown in as well...cloves?

Taste- Heavy grape flavor. Dates and figs combine to make a very dark and mildly sryupy sweet taste. A nice roasted dark sweet malt under all the fruit.

Mouthfeel- Not super syrupy, but a touch thick. Lower carbonation. Slides down your throat.

Drinkability- Super easy drinker. Wonderful flavor and high recommended.

 669 characters

Photo of Crosling
3.77/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Burgundy color, with a full and creamy foam that lasts. Lightly aromatic, with hints of burnt popcorn, brandy, dark fruit (plum) and the attributes of Belgian Yeast. Flavor is very rich and full, with extremely well hidden alcohol, fruit, chocolate and Belgian yeast. Not complex, nor polite, but quite tasty.

 309 characters

Photo of Beauregard
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had this at Mahaffey's recently during the wonderful winter beer months. I was extcited to see it on tap and find out how it compared to my favorite Belgians, so I quickly ordered and received a *very* generous serving in a goblet glass. Now, some beers loosely adhere to their style; in this case, the Val Dieu lives up to its "strong dark" title in every way. Beautiful, intimidating rich dark color with creamy head and noticable carbonation. Medium-body feels smooth in your mouth until the prominent alcohol taste hits you. At the same time, this beer is quite flavorful, with malt and fruit sweetness that balances things out nicely. Deep taste that is very drinkable despite its strength. I'd say it ranks as one of my favorite Belgians.

 746 characters

Photo of brentk56
3.42/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a burnt caramel brown body with a thick tan head; excellent retention and lacing

Smell: An awful lot of yeast in the aroma (reminds me of proofing baker's yeast); some grape and caramel odors in the background

Taste: As with the aroma, the yeast flavor is very prominent and somewhat overwhelms the caramel malt, grape and dark fruit; mid-palate strkes a strong herbacious bitter flavor (perhaps there are some seasonal spices in there, too) which, however, provides balancing complexity with milk chocolate flavors through to the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with lots of carbonation; warming alcohol appears on the finish

Drinkability: Complex and different; not my favorite BSDA because of the yeast profile, but intriguing nonetheless

 771 characters

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled from the Tap at Lucky Baldwin’s during their August 20-28 Belgium Beer Festival.
Number #29 on the List.
$3 for a Taster in a small Chimay Goblet Glass.

Now this one was a real turn up for the books, I (rather conceitedly) mistakenly thought that this was the Val-Dieu Bière De Noël until moments before leaving when I overheard someone say it was 10, doesn’t say that on LB’s list and I knew the Bière De Noël was only around 7% so something was afoot and it wasn’t 12 inches…..time to give this one a whirl.

Appearance: Dark brown chestnut body with a lovely creamy vanilla head that sat around for the first 5 minutes but slowly dissolves to a thin yet uniform covering.

Nose: Hazelnuts, dark fruits, plum skins and spices. Alcohol is virulent in the backend and reminds you that this is a double-digit brew.

Taste: Lots of rich dark fruits and Xmas spices meld into a fantastic middle that blends yet more spice variants, chocolate, nuts, liquorices, malts, toast, chocolate covered digestive biscuits, figs and a little prune juice in the finish. The ending has a high alcohol kick that stays around.

Mouthfeel: Super smooth with a finely dissolved carbonation. Sits nicely in the mouth and caresses the tongue, it needs to, the high grade pure alcohol is here for sure but the Tastes and Mouthfeel really help to take the edge of the kick.

Drinkability: Well it may well be 10.5% but gracious me it doesn’t drink this high, the nose entices you, the tastes enthrall and the Mouthfeel retains long term interest. Very nice. Good job I was leaving after this one.

Overall: Damn tasty I have to say, it seems that this 10.5% Winter is also bottled as well…..yet the BA Avatar has the same/similar label as the Val-Dieu Bière De Noël (7%)…the confusion this creates is annoying….is this a “souped-up” version of the standard Xmas brew!?! Maybe? Whatever it is, was, or maybe, it is well worth trying.

 1,959 characters

Photo of merlin48
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark, but clear, chestnut body that appears ruby mahogany when held to the light. Lots of bubble activity going on in the goblet. Smallish offwhite head leaves profuse patchy lace. The aroma has lots of fusel dark fruits, spicy clove and nutmeg, and a note of black licorice. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, with medium carbonation and an alcohol bite. Taste has lots of dark fruits, with prunes being most apparent. Some Concord grapes are also noted. Anise, or black licorice, is prominent in a spicy array that also includes some clove and nutmeg. Drinkability is decent, and this is a well crafted Belgian Winter Ale. Similar to other Val Dieu offerings, but this one seemed to have more of a spicy anise component.

 731 characters

Photo of RoyalT
4.42/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance – This one is a dark, blackish-brown in color. I wasn’t able to get much of a head on the first pour but by the time I got to the bottom of the bottle it was working.

Smell – The solid bready malts define the nose of this ale. The traditional Belgian dark fruits are here in spades along with a light chocolate and a warning of alcohol.

Taste – Well, where to start? The yeast steps back a bit. The fruits are enormous and very complex. I won’t list every dark fruit that I can think of, but they all show up in this flavor profile. They are mixed with some serious alcohol, too. The dark malt actually comes in at the end, which is unusual.

Mouthfeel – This one is almost full-bodied with some nice, fluffy carbonation and a noticeable alcohol slap in the mouth.

Drinkability – This was a solid BSDA that had two faults. First, the head could have been better. Second, the alcohol was just a bit too sharp for the style. Less those two concerns this beer was damn near perfect.

 1,008 characters

Photo of PorterLambic
4.7/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a mahogany brown with a big, fluffy, light tan head (bad pour by yours truly) that left an island of foam floating til the bottom of the glass with great lace all around it. Smell is sweet, fruity (white grape), malty, some spice (ginger & nutmeg). Taste is malty, sweet, white grapes, nutmeg & ginger spices, earthy, and some alcohol smooth and late.Great balance and complexity. I was pleasantly surprised by the grape note to this beer. Unexpected but exquisitely well done. Mouthfeel is full-bodied, smooth, creamy, chewy and pleasantly warming without being overpowering. Drinkability is top of the chart! I could drink this all day long. The 10.5% ABV is not noticeable at all, drinks like 6-7% tops. Spice could be a bit more noticeable in the smell and taste. Not a bad thing to be found anywhere in this brew. This is an truly amazing beer. If you like any of Val-Dieu's other offerings, you must try this!

 921 characters

Val-Dieu Winter from Brasserie de l'Abbaye du Val-Dieu
4.08 out of 5 based on 35 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

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.