Look for the Smiley Monk
A Review of St. Bernardus Abt 12 by St. Bernardus Brouwerij
Posted on 2/1/2013 by Chops
                   
Exquisite
''Look for the smiley monk.'' This is often my advice to any craft beer newbie who yearns to explore the wonderful world of Belgian beers. The reason, of course, is that you simply cannot go wrong with a St. Bernardus brew. Every single beer in their delectable arsenal is of world class quality and is highly respected in the brewing community. It's one of those rare occasions where you can utilize lofty generalized statements: if you don't like St. Bernardus, you don't like Belgian beer. The reason is that these beers rarely venture out to stylistic edges. They are perfected examples of what is widely regarded as the most difficult beer styles to brew. They are truly exceptional. I recently had the pleasure of sampling the St. Bernardus Abt 12, a 10% Belgian Quad and the strongest beer in their product line.

In the glass, this beer has a muddy dark brown coloration. There is a lot of sediment and yeasty floaters swirling around, so let this beer settle for a few minutes before diving in. No worries though, because it gives your brain plenty to do in the meantime. It comes with rocky tan head that has great retention. On the nose, I detected a sweet malty caramel aroma along with those signature Belgian yeasts. They compliment each other perfectly and combine to form a solid dark brown sweet bready base. Swirling around on top are candied dark fruits, a dusting of spices (namely clove), notes of brown sugar, and a slight alcohol twinge. Mmm, I couldn't ask for a better introduction. Nothing left to do but smile, close my eyes, and take that first sip.

There is a reason why big Belgian beers are often called ''liquid bread'' and the St. Bernardus Abt 12 embodies this phenomenon. This beer has a very thick mouthfeel and is buttery smooth. It coats your tongue in syrupy goodness and doesn't let go. The resulting finish is sweet and sticky with a long lasting bready malty aftertaste. The flavor profile closely mirrors the aroma, so there are really no surprises (again, stylistically sound). The malty caramel and dark brown breads are large and in charge. Complementing the mix are dark savory fruits like plum, earthy toasted nuts, and a touch of spice. Be warned though, this beer has a very well hidden strength. The alcohol presence is noticeable, but has no aggressive tendencies, resulting in a surprisingly easy drinking brew. In other words, take your time and enjoy the experience.

Overall, the St. Bernardus Abt 12 is an exquisite Belgian Quad. I cannot say enough great things about it. On top of being a perfect example of the style, it's also easily accessible and endlessly enjoyable. Needless to say, I can recommend this brew to any and all beer fans. I will, however, caution novices when trying this beer. While St. Bernardus Abt 12 is more approachable than most in the category, it's still a Belgian behemoth. Know what you're getting yourself into and respect the experience. Treat this beer right, and I guarantee that smiling monk will return the favor.

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St. Bernardus Abt 12 by St. Bernardus Brouwerij
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