Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale

I love the Fall. It’s my favorite season and I love pumpkin spiced things like coffee and pastries and I like when the weather starts getting cold.

ABV: 9%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Trappist communities observe the counsel of the Rule of St. Benedict, a 6th century guide for monastic life, that stresses the importance of ora et labora or ‘pray and work.’ Monks are encouraged to be self-supportive and offer charitable assistance to others by producing and selling goods to the public. The bell tower rising skyward above the abbey church is one of the defining architectural features of our Spencer Abbey. Simple, solid, striking, beautiful, the tower guides many a wayfarer to their spiritual home. The font used in our Spencer logo is derived from the calligraphy inscribed upon the limestone end panels of the high altar of the abbey church, which was created by Br. David Holly, a monk and artist of Spencer at the time of its foundation in 1950. Our brewery project is one of necessity. For over 60 years, we have cooked and packed jams and jellies at our monastery under the Trappist Preserves label. This business has allowed us to support ourselves, while providing wholesome monastic work and charitable assistance to the poorer communities and persons in need. However, when we look to the future, as our community grows and ages, we see our need for an additional enterprise that supports our community and charities in the years to come. In our community, each monk’s work is assigned after matching up community need and the individual’s interests and abilities. A few years ago, one of our brothers expressed interest in brewing and even did some training at a local craft brewery. Over time, his passion for brewing affected some other monks, who recognized that brewing was a very traditional monastic enterprise. Thus, when the time came to re-chart the economic path for the monastery’s future, the idea of a brewery gained traction. However, before we could come to a decision, we had to develop the brewery idea into a realistic plan. With the blessing of the abbot, we embarked upon a two-year data-gathering mission. We visited each Trappist brewery to learn everything we could from our European brothers. Beginning at the Abbey of Westmalle, we slowly made our way around Belgium, staying at the monasteries and making friends, receiving good advice and drinking some of the world’s best beer. The final stop of our first trip was the Abbey of Sint Sixtus, brewer of the acclaimed Westvleteren ales; by the end of our second trip and more detailed discussions, we were confident that we had put together a realistic plan for a new brewery. Following monastic tradition, the monks voted and confirmed the project by an overwhelming majority – we would build America’s first Trappist brewery. Observing Trappist tradition we have named the brewery, and the beer, Spencer after our beloved town of Spencer, MA.”

Random: This is my first beer from Spencer.

The beer poured with four fingers of tan-colored head. It dissipated slowly, but left a lot of lacing on the glass. The body was a dark amber color that had some floaties in it, but was relatively clear. There was a lot of visible carbonation. The nose was filled with spice. Specifically, I picked up nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. Cloves and molasses came through next. The taste was also very spicy. The same spices from the nose came through along with lots of booze and some dark fruit, specifically dates, raisins and figs. The body was on the thicker side, but had a lot of booze and carbonation. It had a sticky and lengthy finish with spice. This was another beer that was a gift, so I have no clue how much it is. I enjoyed this beer and I think it would pair well with holiday desserts. Definitely give this one a try.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Troegs The Mad Elf Grand Cru

I was so excited when Troegs announced they were putting out a grand cru version of Mad Elf. It took me awhile to find it, but when I did, I couldn’t wait to review it.

ABV: 11%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “We’ve been wanting to do this for a while now. Twenty years in just feels right. If you know Tröegs, you know The Mad Elf, the mischievous belle of the holiday beer ball that helped put our little brewery on the map. In your hands is the Director’s Cut. Tart Balaton cherries – loads of them – make all the difference. Bottle-conditioned and flush with notes of cinnamon and clove, this beer begs to be shared. Take a bottle home, gather your friends, and cherish the cherries.”

Random: I still need to make my way to the new Troegs brewery.

The beer poured with a half finger of white head. It dissipated slowly and left no lacing on the glass, but did leave a slight crown on top of the body. The body was a dark reddish-brown with only slight visible carbonation due to the dark color of the body. The nose was filled with Belgian yeast, cherries and lots of cinnamon and clove. The taste was more of the same. It was like a dialed up version of the original with lots of cherries and honey. It transitioned into yeast and then lots of holiday spice with clove, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. There was a touch of vanilla and the end of the sip, along with some heat from the booze. The body was thick and chewy with light carbonation. It had a lengthy finish with cherry and booze. I picked this bottle up for $15.99, which came to $.73 per ounce. I enjoyed this beer a lot, but could have used a year of age to tame the booze.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Trappistes Rochefort 8

Tonight’s selection is a Belgian classic that I haven’t reviewed before, but was really excited to try. Let’s see how it was.

ABV: 9.2%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to merchantduvin.com, “Originally called ‘Spécial,’ Rochefort 8 dates to the mid-1950s. The name comes from the original gravity in ‘Belgian degrees.’ Deep brown color; the flavor is vigorous and complex, with firm body to support the strength. The aroma has elusive notes of fresh fruit, spice, leather, and figs. Great with full-flavored dishes like pate, duck, or wild game; shows well with strong-flavored cheeses. Also wonderful alone as an aperitif. Serve in traditional Rochefort stemmed goblet.”

Random: I usually get a craving for true Belgian beers in Winter.

This beer poured with a three finger, light brown head. It dissipated quickly and left no lacing on the glass. There was a small crown left on top of the cloudy mahogany body with some floaties visible. There was no visible carbonation due to the cloudiness. The nose was intense. It was filled with sweet dark fruit, specifically currants, figs and dates. There was a brown sugar sweetness as well, but the alcohol was well-hidden. The taste had flavors more towards leather and tobacco but there was still a significant fruit presence. Oak, vanilla and brown sugar came through next. The body was thick and chewy with moderate carbonation. It had a quick finish with vanilla. A single bottle was $7, which came to $.63 per ounce. This beer was outstanding and I will definitely be searching it out again to buy a few bottles to age.

Untappd Rating: 4.5/5.0

Kane Solitude

I’m a bit of an introvert, so the name of this beer is definitely in my wheelhouse. Val got me a mug for some sort of holiday that shows an introvert’s heart that is one of my favorites. Let’s get to the beer.

ABV: 9.8%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Solitude was inspired by the cold days of late winter and early spring on the coast, when the ocean temperatures keep a chill in the night air almost into early summer. A big dark beer that is comforting on a cold night, but with hints of dark fruits and a smoothness that suggests the coming of warmer weather, Solitude is a traditional dark strong fermented with our house Belgian yeast. Deep ruby reds highlight its dark color, and Belgian candi sugars add flavors of dark cherries and plums, complementing the subtle esters familiar to the style.”

Random: This beer comes in at 28 IBUs.

The beer poured with a thick, one finger tan head that dissipated slowly. It left a lot of lacing on the glass. The body was a dark brown color with moderate carbonation visible. The nose had alcohol and cola with prunes and dates. There was a lot of yeast present as well. The taste had the same prunes and dates, but quickly went into licorice and vanilla. It also had candi sugar and some plum notes. It had a bit of dark, berry jam to it. Yeast finished up the sip. The alcohol was well-integrated. The body was on the thicker side with high carbonation. It had a quick finish with yeast and licorice. I don’t remember how much I paid for the bomber, since I purchased it at the brewery. This was a pleasant beer that I’m glad I got a chance to try.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Troegs Naked Elf

Val and I went to Uno’s in Hamilton and they happened to have a tap takeover from Troegs along with a craft beer craft festival. We ended up getting some very cute things there, although the space was incredibly small and it felt quite crowded. Anyways, I tried this beer, which I had been looking to try for awhile.


ABV: 8.5%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Gone are the cherries, honey and chocolate malt that dress up our holiday favorite Mad Elf, leaving ‘him’ stark-raving nude to reveal notes of cinnamon, allspice, clove and tangy fruity esters.”

Random: Mad Elf seemed to have been less popular this past year. Normally, it’s insanely hard to find on the shelves and this year it was insanely easy.

This beer poured with a quarter of a finger of white head that dissipated slowly. It left some lacing on the glass. The body was incredibly cloudy and reddish-brown. There was light carbonation visible. The nose had a lot of fruit notes, despite no cherries being in the beer and some oak. It had alcohol and a certain sweetness to it. The taste was equally sweet with golden fruit, yeast and light coriander. It had a lighter body than the regular version, but was still thick with moderate carbonation. The finish was lengthy with golden fruit. I enjoyed this beer a lot and even without knowing, it would have reminded me of the regular version. If you see this one out and about, give it a shot.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Allagash Aventureux

The next brewery we went to was Stoneface. This was in the back of an industrial park. When we walked in, we were immediately greeted and offered free samples. The tasting room was small, but had windows into the brewery so you could watch the brewing process. Their beer was very impressive, so much that we bought a bottle of everything they had. They also had their merchandise for sale and I came home with a very cool hop shirt from them. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time there as there wasn’t much to do, but if you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth going there.


ABV: 9.8%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: This is Allagash Black aged in rum barrels from New England Distilling.

Random: I had this beer at Slab for free. We went there every day we were in Portland and the day that we left, we went there to get a pizza to go. If you find yourself in Portland, you absolutely must try this place. The beer selection is awesome, the food is ridiculously good and the service is friendly and attentive. This was one of the best places we ate all of vacation.

This beer poured with a one finger, tan head that dissipated slowly and left a lot of lacing on the glass. It had a dark brown body with no visible carbonation due to the color. The nose was filled with lightly toasted oak, dark fruit and roasted malt. The taste was even better. It was very smooth with smoke, dark roasted malts and vanilla and oak. The alcohol was insanely hidden. It had a very thick body with low carbonation, which made this a nice sipper as we waited for our pizza. It had a long oaky finish. Having just had Allagash Black at the brewery (after not having it for a few years), this beer was really nice to have and the oak aging really added some nice qualities to the beer. I would definitely have this again.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Weyerbacher 20th Anniversary Ale

At this point in my vacation, I’m hoping that I’ve had some lobster. I love lobster and it’s one of the things that Maine is known for. I think the last time I had it was when we made lobster rolls on rainy day. Anyways, let’s check out this year’s anniversary beer from Weyerbacher.


ABV: 11%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Weyerbacher is turning 20 this year! How do we celebrate 20 years of bold and innovative beers? With the release of our 20th Anniversary ale! Our 20th Anniversary brew is a Belgian-Style Dark Ale weighing in at 11% ABV. It’s malty with notes of caramel, raisins and berries, as well as subtle hints of coriander and star anise.”

Random: I’m hoping that it’s a bit cooler in Maine. I’m sick of this humidity.

This beer poured with a two finger, tan head that dissipated slowly and left limited lacing on the glass with a crown. The body was a dark mahogany color with high carbonation. The nose had raisin, fig, candi sugar and booze. A touch of anise was there as well. The taste was quite sweet with a lot of candi sugar. Raisins and figs came through with some bread. There was anise at the back end. The booze provided some warming as well. It had a thick body with high carbonation. The finish was long with candi sugar and booze warming. This was $3.69 for the bottle, which broke down to $.30 per ounce. I always enjoy trying the anniversary beers from Weyerbacher and this wasn’t the best one that I’ve had, but this was solid.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Finch’s Nuclear Winter

The other half and I went to a local restaurant for dinner when we first moved down here. It was packed and advertised that they had craft beer. It had pretty crappy food (one of the worst cheesesteaks that I’ve ever had) and had only an okay craft beer selection. The thing that annoyed me was that on their “craft beer menu” they listed their craft beers just as brewery names, and the servers really didn’t know which beers they were. It was annoying to say the least. This was the beer that I had while there.


ABV: 8%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Nuclear Winter is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale with Extra Special Malt and Caravienne malts and Dark Candi sugar for increased color and alcohol content. Small amounts of East Kent Goldings are added but are not the prominent feature of this beer. The Belgian yeast dominates the beer’s flavor and aroma profile. It will surely warm you up in the cold winter months.”

Random: I’m back to watching “Gangland.” This episode is about the Vagos motorcycle gang.

This beer poured with a one finger, cream-colored head. It was quick to dissipate and left no lacing on the glass. The body is a clear, mahogany color with moderate carbonation. The nose was sweet with candi sugar and some booze and molasses. The taste had more depth with dark fruit molasses and candi sugars. It was very sweet, to the point of cloying. The booze was present and warmed the back of the throat. It had a thick body with moderate carbonation. The finish was long and sweet. This wasn’t a bad beer, but it’s nothing that amazed me. I wouldn’t rush back to have it again.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Corsendonk Christmas Ale

I got into the Christmas beer thing a bit late this year, especially since I focused on pumpkin beers for awhile. I saw this one on tap and had to give it a shot.


ABV: 8.5%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to stkillian.com, “Brewed with Pale, Munich and Caramunich malts; Kent Goldings hops. This is a rich, dark, joyous brew with which to celebrate the holiday season. Its aroma of chocolate malt and spiciness is reminiscent of the wonderfull smells of holiday baking in Mom’s kitchen. Silky smooth on the palate, it’s predominantly malty, with smoky, spicy and citrusy notes and a long, lingering finish that is lightly tart and malty. Bottle conditioned for a fresh, lively taste. Round and well balanced, it’s a welcome addition for holiday tables and beyond.”

Random: The other half and I managed to buy each other 2 of the exact same gifts this year.

This beer poured with a one finger, tan head. It was very slow to dissipated and left lots of lacing on the glass. The body was a hazy, dark brown color. I couldn’t see any carbonation due to the color. The nose had notes of Belgian yeast and dark fruit with holiday spice too. The taste was teeming with spice and dark fruit, specifically raisins and currants and dates. There was yeast present too, but it didn’t take away from the dark fruit or spice. This had a thick body with light carbonation, making this a perfect holiday sipper. The booze was hidden with some warming on the long, spicy finish. I really enjoyed this beer, although it wasn’t mind-blowing and I can’t believe it has taken me so long to try this. If you can still get your hands on this one, make sure that you do.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Epic Brainless On Cherries Belgian-Style Ale (Batch 5+)

My other half tends to really enjoy fruit beers. I let her try whatever I happen to be tasting for the night, but fruit beers are really in her wheelhouse. When I saw that Epic put out a new batch of their fruity Belgians, I came home with a bomber of each of them. This was the first one that she requested that I open and I hadn’t ever tried it either, so I was pretty excited to crack it open.


ABV: 10.10%

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “We took our double gold medal winning Brainless® Belgian, added cherry puree and aged it in French wine casks (cabernet and syrah) for a secondary fermentation in the barrels. Pours a beautiful deep ruby color with a medium white head. A nice nose of sweet cherries, Belgian malts, and barrel aging.”

Random: As much as I am sick of the cold here, I still would not want to live in Florida. Can you tell I’m watching CSI:Miami?

This beer poured with almost no head that dissipated instantly and left no lacing on the glass. So far, color me surprised. Given that it was a Belgian, I was expecting a huge head and lots of lacing. The body was a clear, dark mahogany color with low carbonation visible. The nose had a lot of tart cherries with Belgian yeast and a touch of spice, but the stars were definitely yeast and cherries. The taste had a lot of cherries and a touch of cinnamon, all in good balance. There was some Belgian yeast as well, but not nearly as much as in the nose. The body was thick with high carbonation. The long finish ended with cherry and a hint of booze warming. I really enjoyed this beer and would definitely have it again. Go grab one while you still can find it.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0