Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Monk's Brew

They are often called "gypsy brewers," innovative craft brewers who, because they lack a brick-and-mortar brewery, rely upon the kindness and cooperation of others.  Freed from the worries of running an established brewery, these itinerant brewers can spend more time thinking about different and innovative ways to brew beer. 

Whenever there is a discussion of "gypsy brewers," it inevitable includes a reference to Mikkeller.  "Based" in Copenhagan, Denmark, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and his team have worked with a variety of brewers to produce beers with names like "Beer Geek Breakfast," "Black Hole," and the "Hop Bomb Challenge."  Another one of Mikkeller's beers is the "Monk's Brew."

Mikkeller brewed the Monk's Brew at De Proef Brouwerij in Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium.  The Monk's Brew is a Belgian Quadrupel, inspired by Belgium's independent Trappist breweries such those operated by the Rochefort and Westvleteren monasteries.  (Both of those monasteries produce some great beers.)  The "Brew" is a concoction of water, malt (both pilsner and pale), candy syrup, cassonade sugar, hops (Northern Brewer, hallertauer and Styrian Goldings), and ale yeast.

The result is a dark Belgian Ale.  The Monk’s Brew pours a deep brown color with a surprising garnet edge. The dense, light tan foam faded slowly to a thin ring that covered the surface of the beer.  The aroma of the beer clearly reveals its Belgian inspiration, with elements of candy sugar, dark fruits (think plums or raisins), and roasted malts.  The alcohol is clearly present in the aroma, which is expected given the 10% ABV.

As for the taste, the Monk's Brew drew from traditional elements of Belgian quadruples, with flavors of dark cherries and other such fruits (once again, raisins) on a background of caramel and chocolate.  The body of this beer is very malty and, thanks to the sugar, quite sweet.

When it comes to pairing a quadrupel like the Monk's Brew with food, that can present a challenge.  Like barleywines and other high powered beers, Quadrupels are sometimes best enjoyed by themselves. However, these beers can also be paired with meat dishes, including game, and a range of cheeses, including Asiago, Brie and blue cheeses. 

The Monk's Brew is available at craft beer stores with a good international selection.  It sells for about $13.99 a bottle.


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