Monster Beers: St Bernardus

Beer Monster Review

It’s been a while since I did a Monster Beer, so I thought I’d make it a special one. Instead of a single beer, here we have a collection of four from the Belgian St Bernardus brewery.

St. Bernardus was founded in 1946, originally to brew the St Sixtus range of beers for the monks of Westvleteren. Since that contract came to an end in 1992, they’ve been producing beer under their own label instead, no longer permitted to be called ‘trappist’.

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Technically, one of these doesn’t quite qualify as a Monster Beer, as the Pater 6 is only 6.7% but they make such a nice collection it seems a shame to split them up.

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Starting with the Pater 6, a deep dark reddish brown 6.7% ABV beer with a fine, lingering foam. The nose is packed with black treacle, with hints of liquorice, rich dates and a whiff of cloves playing with the alcohol.

In the mouth, the treacle feel continues with sticky sweetness ameliorated by burnt sugar bitterness. There are big rich malt flavours there too, and a nice fruitiness. The alcohol heat is more pronounced than the strength would suggest, and there’s a decent level of carbonation which helps to cut through all that sweetness.

Perhaps not technically a monster, but a seriously tasty big beer nonetheless.

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Next is the Prior 8, stronger at 8% ABV but very similar in appearance to the Pater 6. A sweet malty nose is nicely complemented by a citrus sharpness, candied orange peel and just the faint aroma of bananas.

Again, the blend of sticky sweet treacle and burnt sugar bitterness is the first impression in the mouth. The fruit and alcohol heat is there, but curiously less pronounced that in it’s weaker brother.

While still a tasty beer, the Prior 8 manages to lose to the Pater 6 in terms of size and complexity.

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The Tripel is also 8% ABV. A much lighter colour in the glass, deep gold with a huge white foam head. The nose is classic Belgian Tripel, with banana, spices, hints of honey sweetness and yeast.

The first thing that hits the mouth is those bubbles, along with sweet syrup and summer fruits. There’s a touch of alcohol towards the end, but despite that and all the bubbles the sweetness almost becomes too sticky and lingering by the end of the glass.

It’s a good Tripel if you like them on the sweet side, but I found the sweetness a little too much.

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Finally we have the Abt 12, the big boy of the collection at 10%. The darkest of the four in the glass, with a fine bubbled head. There’s plenty of dark blackcurrant fruit on the nose, and subtle whiffs of liquorice and toasted malt.

Lots of strong sweet flavours and bubbles in the mouth, but the first impression is a huge alcohol hit burning down the throat. Full of sticky black fruit with the alcohol heat cutting mercilessly through it to overwhelm the finish, this really is a superb sipping Quadrupel.

A spectacular monster beer – you should see how many times the word ‘big’ appears in my notes – and the best of the collection.

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