Brasserie des Rocs is a Belgian brewery from Montignies-sur-Roc (about 1.5 hours southwest of Brussels, near the French border). They make beer that absolutely explodes with flavor. I’ll never forget the first time I ever tried a BdR beer. I was at Brouwer’s with For Whom The Beer Toales (our Chicago correspondent) and her family. A Grand Cru was ordered. The moment the succulent serum hit my lips I was 100% stupefied. I don’t know if, at that point in my life, I had ever tasted a beer so outrageous in flavor. I was actually very unsure of how I felt about it at first, and all of FWTBT’s family thought it was gross (not really beer drinkers). But, I was intrigued beyond belief by that first sip, and I kept sipping and sipping, until I was certain that it was one of the greatest beers on Earth. That was quite a few years ago, and I’ve had it many times since. I still think it’s one of the greatest beers on Earth. That could surely be argued, but there is no arguing the fact that it’s a Mike Tyson punch in the eye of flavor.
Allow me to highly recommend checking out the brewery website. There is a pretty hilarious video on the front page that is narrated by a BdR beer, you know…from the beer’s perspective. Whaa?!? If you want some relevant info about their beers you should check out the D&V International site. I’m also going to recommend a soundtrack to your enjoyment of a BdR beer, because I know that immediately after you read this you will rush out to your local bottle shop and procure away. Cocteau Twins collaborative album with Harold Budd from 1986, “The Moon & The Melodies”, is an absolute classic in my mind. It has a distinctly European feel to it, combining both ambient and shoegaze, to mark a nuance laden foray into a depressant imbibing, lazy Sunday. Every time Elizabeth Fraser’s stunning voice emerges from the densely distorted fog, you will be reminded to search for the hidden refinements in your fermented beverage. Consider it legal mind expansion.
I was laying in bed on Sunday morning, contemplating the day before me, and like most days, beer inevitably infiltrated my thoughts. I decided that I had a pretty serious craving for deep, sweet, complex Belgians. I decided that a trip to Big Star Beer Market was is order, since they have a pretty bad-ass selection of Belgians, and they are mostly unrefrigerated (the cellar dweller in me appreciates that). $40 later I had three 750ml bottles and a glass, all fashioning the BdR crest. Needless to say, it was a good Sunday.
In this, Part 1, I will explore the 9% Brune, a Belgian brown ale. It’s a 100 on ratebeer.com. Part 2 will see Triple Imperiale and Part 3 will see the beer that started it all for me, Grand Cru.
DES ROCS BRUNEfrom Brasserie Des Rocs is a pure malt beer with no sugar added, 7 types of malt are used and 3 different kind of hops. It has a rich, complex fruit aroma full of subtleness. The taste has an impressive depth with oily development throughout the mouth. It is a deep, mystic and extremely mature beer.
Brune pours a very clear brownish-amber color and displays very lively, rapidly rising bubbles from the bottom of the chalice. A tan head consisting of very fine bubbles rests on top and remains. If you look at the beer from a top view you can actually see the head sizzling where the rising carbonation bubbles hit the surface. That effervescence is definitely present in the mouthfeel, but the solution is so viscous with sugary sweetness that most of the prickling effects are greatly softened.
The scent is something to behold. It’s so deep and complex. How they use the word “subtleness” in the commercial description, I have no idea. Most prominent is the dark fruit – cherry skins, over-ripe plums, prunes, all of which seem to lend a juicy, vinous, almost acidic tartness. It is so intensely rich at the same time. There’s caramelized sugars and toffee, like creme brulee. Maybe I’m just baking a cake in my mind at this point, but I think there is some sweet bready maltiness as well, like pie crust.
The fact that the BdR brewers made this beer without any of the traditionally used sugar, and seemingly without any fruit what-so-ever, blows my mind. A 7 grain malt bill is pretty complex, but there is no doubt that the yeast that was used to ferment this beer is more diligent than most humans. I’m most curious as to the temperature that this fermented at. There are so many esters, it was surely on the very high-end of the scale.
I would not call this beer a sour, but it seems to be teetering on the very border. I struggle to fully explain that. It’s clear to me that this sample is not tainted in any way. It’s not infected. It just tastes so much like fermented cherries, which to me are pretty tart. The fruity esters are crazy potent, but there is a malt core beneath it all. There’s brown sugar and a spiciness, like nutmeg or something similar. It almost seems mulled as it warms. I thought of spicy mango. There is also bubblegum in the finish and a healthy (or not) dose of alcohol. I just laughed out loud. This beer is just silly. You absolutely must taste it before you die. Please help me explain it. I’m clearly failing.