These five bottles have been sitting around since this time last year when they formed a gift pack offered as part of the LCBO Christmas selection. I trust they have traveled through the last twelve months well as they range from 6.7% to 10.5%.
These beers are made commercially so are "Abbey" rather than "Trappist" ales but they carry on a Trappist tradition that only stopped applying to them in 1992 as they were no longer being brewed within the monastery walls. The beers numbered 6, 8 and 12 are supposed to be continuations of that monkish brew. More on the history here from the brewery itself and here from an article by Michael Jackson. The commercial operation appears to be something of an offshoot of Westvleteren, brewing the beers for the monastery from 1962 to 1992 and then privately from 1992 perhaps with a different yeast strain. Correct me if I have that mixed up. I only have the internet to rely upon in these matters.
- Pater 6: a light chestnut ale under a rich rocky tan head. Interestingly, somewhat creamy and dry at the same time. Plenty of dark maltiness with figgy, plummy notes as well as rough grain. Additional roughness from aged low-acid hops. There is also a black cherry note in there. More attic than burlap in the mustiness. Only 1% of BAers give a thumbs down but they do make some valid observations - it is more rustic than elegant and there is a coarseness to the hopping. With a swirl of the yeast, there is a little more milkiness smoothing it and something of a dry cocoa effect - especially when you shake out that last dribble of pure yeast. More pumpernickel than Christmas cake but still a very nice dubbel.
- Prior 8: another light chestnut ale under a tan head - but the head is finer, billowy rather than rocky. Maltier and richer, though still with grain - more of the familiar dubbel like a Chimay Red or maybe like Ommegang (or even maybe the Harvey's Elizabethan Ale I had two years ago...maybe, maybe, maybe...). Spicy and plummy - also fig, date and licorice some white pepper from the hops but mainly dry, barky. Soft water and more burlappy than #6, spice rather than herb with a bit of buttery biscuit back there. Very good and a nice warmly enveloped 8%. On the swirl, again, yeast like cooled scalded milk and a bit of chocolate rather than dry cocoa. Again, 99% of BAers approve.
- Watou Tripel: gold ale under a stiff fine mousse white head. Slow fine multi-bubbly carbonation. The aroma is all pear juice. In the mouth cream rich pear, white pepper heat from the 7.5%, honey and a slight nod to cotton candy. Fresh, smooth and bright. Subdued fine herbs - lavender and rosemary. Well balanced and fairly sweet for a tripel. On the swirl the chalky milky yeast smooths even more. 3% of BAers do not like, fining it too sweet or the yeast too chunky but these things are fine with me.
- St. Bernardus Tripel: A finer more subdued tripel. Straw slightly greyish coloured ale under fine while lacy head. In the mouth, soft water cream, a little heat, a tiny bit of white pepper and twig herbs. A very low general volume setting for flavour, rich but quiet. Fruit? Apple and peach but low acid. No real Belgian candi sticky feeling you get with some tripels. Somewhere between comfort and elegance. On the swirl some banana and tangier peachiness and it falls a bit from grace. 99% of BAers approve.
- Abt 12: A huge rocky tan head over cloudy red-tinged mahogany ale. Masses of lace as the head recedes. Funky burlap with rich malt nose. In the mouth, again smooth and soft water comforty. Spices - nutmeg and all spice - in and through the dark raisin and date malt as well as a tiny nod to some twiggy herb, most like rosemary. The 10.5% is more noticeable in belly warmth than heat in the mouth. This is well balanced and perhaps not that greatly challenging but at the end of the day (especially at the end of the day at the end of the weekend at the end of the year) does every beer have to be a challenge? This is worthy of the 99% approval the BAers give.