Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy) - Trappistes Rochefort 10

Let's learn a little about Trappist beer, shall we? First of all, to be considered a Trappist beer, the beer itself must be brewed in a monastery by Trappist monks. According to Wikipedia, there are 171 Trappist monasteries throughout the world (including a few right here in California) but only seven are authorized to label their beer "Trappist Beer." These breweries are Chimay, Westvleteren, Orval, Westmalle, Achel, Koningshoeven (the only one in The Netherlands) and Rochefort. With the exception of Achel (1998) and Orval (1931), all of these breweries were opened before 1900. As a whole, they have a reputation for producing beer that is meticulously crafted and some of the best beer in the world. In fact, Westvleteren's "Westvleteren 12" is rated the best beer in the world by both and So the Trappist monks really know their stuff when it comes to producing good beer.

One Trappist beer that caught my eye a while back was Rochefort 10. Brewed by the monks in the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint Rémy in the tiny town of Rochefort in the south of Belgium, a decent amount of the beer the monks produce makes it over to the states. The abbey produces three different beers: Rochefort 6, Rochefort 8 and Rochefort 10. The numbers refer to the strength of the beer so Rochefort 6 is the least alcoholic of their offerings and Rochefort 10 has the highest alcohol content. While I definitely plan on trying the other two, Rochefort 10 was at the top of my list and I was able to pick one up from a local Whole Foods.

Rochefort 10 pours a syrupy-looking dark brown color a smallish tan head that disappears pretty quickly. The end result is a liquid in your glass that looks the color and consistency of a dark maple syrup. This caught me off guard a bit because one of the qualities I've come to expect from Trappist beers is a fantastic looking head. This one smelled different, too, with strong notes of tootsie roll and brown sugar along with raisin and a hint of banana. At first, the smell was pretty weak, but as the beer warmed, the smell opened up like crazy.

Any skepticism I had about this beer disappeared as soon as I took a sip. This was definitely a Trappist beer. There's a lot of sweetness upfront that seems to split itself into different categories of sweet. I got a lot of malt sweetness along with brown sugar and raisin and just a hint of coffee bitterness in the background. At first taste, the beer doesn't seem to show signs of it's high ABV (11.3%!) but on the finish, a lingering warmness creeps up in your mouth and leaves an almost peaty, drying finish on your tongue. What separates this beer for me are all the nuances within the taste that show me that the beer was well-crafted. Those monks know what they're doing.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 20

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