Tasting Note 2 (of 7) from Doc and Barley’s Killer Beer Night

Doc has written about Alesmith before, so I won’t elaborate too much. As brewers, the Alesmithees aren’t too flashy or extreme. They make a little over a dozen standard offerings and they make them quite well. Their IPA is outstanding. Their Speedway Stout is one of the best dark beers in America. And if you want a great Belgian Pale Ale, try their Horny Devil. I was able to sample most of their offerings during a brief stint when Wifey and I lived in the Golden State. But one brew that had eluded me forever was their Belgian Dark Strong Ale offering…the Grand Cru.

While wandering through my old favorite package store during our recent jaunt to New England, my eye quickly fell to the bottom shelf in the beer aisle. That’s where I caught a glimpse of a little green frog and realized that I would finally get a chance to sample B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher. With such a treat available, I figured there might be other goodies awaiting me on the dusty lower shelves. I quickly scanned for Alesmith offerings and I soon spied their IPA and the Yulesmith before spotting an understated, red-foil topped, black bottle with gold script writing. The Grand Cru! At last.

Regular readers know that BDSAs are probably my favorite style. They’re tricky to make well, but I was fairly certain that the good folks at Alesmith would hit all the right notes. I was not disappointed.

The Grand Cru pours a deep chestnut brown with lovely ruby highlights. The head on this beauty was one of the strangest I have ever seen. Ivory in color, it expanded slowly in my tulip glass…and then the middle dropped out. A soft, fluffy head remained floating on air at the top of the glass while a tighter, thicker head stayed snug on top of the beer. Doc and I were thoroughly confused. I wasn’t sure if I should drink it or let it sit there and continue defying the laws of physics. My thirst won out…as it always does.

The nose is subtle but exquisite. Sweet, caramel malts up front cover up an underbelly of rich cognac and dark, ripened fruits. Notes of spice (cinammon and clove) cut through, as does a touch of classic mustiness which hints at the Trappist yeasts used to make this brew. There’s obviously a lot of candi sugar in here since the sweetness is the prime mover, but there’s actually a nice touch of hops to balance things out. My only concern is that, as nice as the aroma is, it’s fairly faint. You really have to give your nose a work-out to catch everything. Nothing wrong with subtlety of course, but if you’ve got a beautiful voice, there’s no need to whisper.

The flavor is a bit more intense than the nose, but still mellow and quiet. Sweetness and breadiness up front build up to a slightly vinous fruitiness in the center. There’s a touch of hop bitterness and a good amount of ABV burn on the back-end, but neither is particularly strong. The elements all blend appropriately. Nothing is cloying or dominant. Just a well-balanced, carefully calibrated brew with nice hints of sugar, spice, and everything nice.

The mouthfeel is slightly richer than medium-bodied. It’s well-carbonated, but syrupy and mouth-coating. Definitely not a session ale. This is a beer to be sipped and shared with friends over a roaring fire and a big meal. It’s the kind of beer that makes wine kind of pointless. Why drink a Pinot if you’ve got a cellar-temp bottle of Grand Cru waiting for you? Why indeed. 3.5 Hops for a top-shelf beer that I found on the bottom-shelf. I’m just happy Grand Cru and I finally found each other.

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