Sunday, September 4, 2011

Deschutes-The Stoic Belgian Quad?

Before I get into the rest of the details of Mark's visit to Seattle I have to post up my review of this recent release from Deschutes Brewing, The Stoic. I'm pretty much in a no win situation with this somewhat controversially named "Belgian Quad" style  ale. It's been getting panned a bit by folks for its deviation from the style it claims to be and people are generally not impressed. I am the first to say I am a Deschutes fanboi and love almost everything they offer. To me they are a model of how a successful brewery should run. They have a clear product line of standard offerings that are excellent high quality beers across the board, and they release high caliber seasonal and small batch one offs on a regular basis that are exciting and keep their brewmasters engaged. So I figure I lose either way in this review. If I love it I'm just a fanboi and if a hate it I'm just another hater getting on the bandwagon. But wait I forgot! There are only about 5 people that read this so no one really cares, I guess I'll just write down what I think.

The Stoic Is Deschutes first take on a "Belgian-Styled" Quadruple. Which means it's been fermented 4 times and is strong. 11% according to the bottle. note: this beer has a "best by" date approximately 1 year out (mine is 8/4/12). So you shouldn't lay it down for too long.

The Description from Deschutes is a beer brewed with Pomegranate, 16.5% aged in wine barrels (Pinot Noir I believe) and 16.5% in Rye whiskey barrels. I paid $13.50 for my 22oz bottle which is at the affordable end of the range for Barrel aged Belgian style beers. This sounds like a recipe for success to me.

It pours a golden brown color very clear with a small head and fine uniform bubbles rising to the top. This different from many Belgian style Triples and Quads in that they tend to be hazier and have a thicker look and feel.

It has a sweet fruit smell and the typical Belgian yeast Banana smell we all know and love. You also pick up the sweet maltiness. I don't get the pomegranate though...

It is Sweet effervescent up front and the Belgian yeast and banana are very prominent. There is a slight warmth from rye at the end but it is much lighter than I would have expected from a whiskey barrel aged beer. I suppose the 16.5% is pretty low relative to the 30% you see from their Anniversary Black Butte or other barrel aged beers.

It has a creaminess in your mouth as the beer continues to give off carbonation as you hold it. If you hold it long enough it gets foamy and thick. The pomegranate and wine tartness comes out as you hold it in your mouth. It's not readily noticeable and it took me a few tries to start to pick it out. You

People are panning this beer for not being thick and strong like a Grand Cru or Belgian strong ales. I can understand and agree. It's not reminiscent of a Belgian Quad or Grand Cru. It's not as heavily sweet and malty and doesn't have the same warm strength and alcohol hotness you typically get. So I agree it's not a typical Belgian Quad and people who buy this looking for one would be disappointed. So now that we're past that is it a bad beer?

No. It's a very nice beer that's subtle, complex, and merges a few different styles and flavor profiles to create something very nice and complex without being strong and overpoweringly sweet.

The rye whiskey and tartness from the wine and pomegranate add a nice complexity. The sweetness and banana are classic Belgian traits. Maybe not a begin quad but definitely a good beer.

Pros: It's a very drinkable, complex and Subtle beer. You can be counter culture cool and like this beer. But wait, Isn't beer culture about just enjoying beer?

Cons: The name and labeling as a Belgian quad piss people off if you're looking for a strong tasting thick sweet malty strong ale. A bunch of folk will give you a hard time for liking this beer. But wait, it's not like this is some macro-brew light lager, or some holier than though brewer who doesn't admit his beers don't carbonate and thinks we're not worthy.

Verdict: If you took the label off this beer people would love it. So just drink it and enjoy!

4/5 stars.

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