It’s become tradition for the beers of Liquid Excursion to be paired with music. Any good excursion has a soundtrack right? Since my ultimate goal is to relax when I tipple on immensely bold depressants such as those forged by the goofily skilled brewers of Brasserie des Rocs, it’s only natural that I would strive for an auditory pairing that brings equal parts soothing massage of the inner ear and transcendence of the soul.
Tonight, the vinyl disc that spins beneath the needle is imprinted with And Their Refinement Of The Decline by Stars Of The Lid. Stars Of The Lid are without a doubt a powerhouse in the world or drone, ambient and neoclassical. The music of And Their Refinement Of The Decline can often feel austere or placid. To allow it’s sound waves to pass over and through you is akin to floating adrift a “dopamine cloud”. Here, when acting as the setting to a tale with such an outlandish protagonist of a beverage, it acts as counterpoint, and grounds me before the flavors have a chance to overwhelm my synapses. As any true soundtrack should, this album simply accentuates, but never urges my thoughts in any particular direction. That is, solely, a task for Grand Cru this night.
Much like the two BdR beers that I previously reviewed, this beer pours a dark reddish-brown that is outrageously full of floating globs of God knows what. I’d lean toward yeast, but if that is truly the case, may the man in charge of priming these bottles be quickly and quietly relieved of his duties. It’s far more solidified whatnot than I’ve ever seen in a beer. I’m actually beginning to think that I may have something to do with the pollution of this fine fluid. The moment that I tipped the bottle to empty a portion into my glass there was a slight hesitation and a glunk noise, as if something was obstructing the flow and then freed. I initially thought that I must have accidentally, partially froze the beer, that the chunks were bits of icy slush. But then I let it warm most considerably and the goop stayed goop. What the poop?
I can pretty easily get past the floating oddities though. The music is relieving my stress and the flavor is just far too opulent to allow for any spoilage of this experience.
The first word that comes to my mind when I smell Grand Cru is “caramelized”. Like most extremely complex, dark Belgians, I believe that this beer was boiled for much longer than most American ales often are. The sugars are cooked and browned, and that bit of aroma coupled with the intense fruitiness of the yeast makes for visions of sugarplums…er…more like visions of fruit cordials and rum soaked cake. In the nose, well…in more than the nose, this beer is like an after dinner snifter of brandy and a bit of freshly baked desert.
I know that all three of these BdR beers share a lot of attributes. The most distinguishing characteristic of Grand Cru is its undeniable fruitiness and spiciness. The residual sweetness that this beer possesses makes the fruity esters come across as being much like fruit leather. There’s notes of cherry, grape/raisin, plum/date, and caramel apple. Cinnamon seems to powder it at all the hue of the fluid itself. I’m thinking about eating a cold slice of apple crisp the day after Thanksgiving. Possible a big old bowl of bread pudding with a shot of Cognac on top. This is surely the liquid bread of ancient lore.
Despite our unsightly friends that drifted in on the tides, the mouthfeel is divine. It’s smooth yet not overly cloying. Yes, the sugars coat the mouth, but it’s never obtrusive. It all seamlessly leads into the aftertaste, which is the absolute best quality of this beer in my opinion. I tip back the glass over and over again because it’s a circus in there, but I’d be content for days with what remains post-ingestion. If I could surgically implant that flavor into the recesses of my trachea I would hastily do so.
The booze is intense with this one. All 9.5% of Grand Cru are revealed from beneath the chilled cloak of the refrigerant. Esters and ethanol mingle and burn the nostrils with each exhale. Brasseries des Rocs may have cunningly removed the “Abbey” from their name, but I still can’t help but envision brown robed men of the cloth finding sustenance in the holy liquid before me. What strange incantations may befit such a meal? I’ve got to say, I’m not a man of God, but after a night in the company of Stars Of The Lid And BdR’s Grand Cru, I’m singing psalms that speak of malted barley, hops, yeast and water.
In case you missed my musings on Brune in Part 1, please be sure to catch up here. Otherwise, you’ll be a bit lost.
Allow me to apologize that such a long period of time has passed since the initial excursion. The first edition was produced on a perfect Sunday night. I was all alone in my cellar dwelling with nowhere to be and no one to distract me. I was warm and blanketed in glorious sounds, scents, tastes and visions. I had been craving Belgian ales so deeply, and I needed a calming escape from the rigors of life. I found it that night, and it felt amazing. I wanted to recreate the night for Part 2, but the stars really have to align just so for a true recreation. It took a few weeks, but here I am, blissful as before.
I figured that I should, again, offer a score to the experience. Last time saw a pairing with an undeniable founder of the long standing shoegaze movement. Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie is a master of distortion, and some of the world’s most highly revered albums, namely My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, would not have existed where it not for him. Tonight, I again attempt to pair my mind meltingly complex Belgian ale with equally profound sounds. Though The Campfire Headphase is no Music Has the Right to Children, it’s never-the-less a pillar in the world of IDM, ambient, and downtempo. It pairs perfectly well with relaxation, and even better with transcendence of mind and palate.
Triple Imperiale fills the glass with aquarium like wonderment. To gaze upon this brown, highly carbonated, viscous mess in my glass is much like what it would be to open your eyes beneath the goopy confines of a hot bayou. The waters are muddy brown, but life thrives. Bubbles rise from the depths… something stirs on the floor of this slimy hotbed. Amidst the uncomfortable submersion, to see only briefly is unmasking evidence that there swims near endless translucent organisms, weaving in and out of every nook and cranny of the body. Are these wiggling jellyfish with stingers at the ready, or may they be amoeba like microorganisms, mutated far from any micro precursor?
We need not contemplate these things, for a blind man would surely find endless delight here. May the scents, sounds and flavors guide us tonight.
Triple Imperiale has all the complexity of nose that the world’s greatest ales possess. It’s staggering. It’s challenging… to the writer part of my brain, but completely delightful to the rest. This beer is not too different from the Brune that I last reviewed in odor. I wouldn’t say that it has a cherry tartness to it, but the esters power through the brown sugar and caramel and deep, slightly browned pie crust fumes at the forefront. There’s more of a prune and date and robust red wine scent. It smells wood aged in many ways. There is a mustiness deep within, vanilla notes, caramelized, charing, with subtly bubblegum, taffy and cotton candy. Good gracious! Again, there must be a crucially long boil with this brew to cook the sugars so fully, and a yeast strain that could go toe to toe with the very best of them. Brilliant.
I feared that the flavor could never rival the scent, and that’s mostly true, but the music and the candle light in my room and the ominous crackling of the needle against the vinyl and the Belgian masterpiece before me… this is just all too much for me right now. What a night!
The flavor is very wine like in it’s fruitiness and heat. With the glaring exception of a malty-er-than-thou finish, this is a seriously vinous, estery, fruitscapade of a beer. But beer it is. The malty, baker’s chocolatey dry finish is profound, but long before the aftertaste, all that fruit lies upon breads and cookies and pie crusts and cakes…all slightly overcooked and crusted. But like Momma used to say, the crust is the best part. All the sugars are crystallized at the edge. The peripheral is often the most exciting place to be.
This shit is super sweet, and I’m not speaking in colloquialism, but I could be. The typical Belgian candy sugar meets Belgian yeast reaction in bubblegum is present, but it’s possibly closer to creme brulee, as was Brune. Blue hot scorching of soft sugars. Male vs. female. Power vs. subtlety. Pro-fun-dity.
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.