Beer Profiles

(The Professor says: most images from sites selling product or the brewer’s site. Unibroue from beernews.org.)

Written by Tom Becham

Tried some very interesting and unusual beers this weekend.

First was Palo Santo Brown Ale from Dogfish Head Brewing. This is a brown ale that is aged in Paraguayan Palo Santo wood. Wood aging always imparts some complex, layered flavors to beers, and this one was no exception. It smelled almost like gingerbread, with strong notes of caramel, vanilla and molasses. The taste contained all these same elements, with the flavor and texture of cream also making an appearance. There was no noticeable hopping in this beer (even though I know it had to contain hops). Nonetheless, what could have been cloying sweetness (the beer was 12% ABV!!!) was kept in check by the alcohol burn. Normally, balancing maltiness with alcohol doesn’t work for me (Samichlaus – 14% ABV – and Belzebuth – 13% ABV – beers being the prime examples of this), but perhaps since this was a dark brew that made a difference. In all, a sipper, and one I will enjoy again, but not frequently as it is a “Big Beer” in all respects. Enjoy it with dessert, as its flavors would overpower any food. Though it might happily complement a creme brulee or tiramisu.

My second beer of the weekend was another from Dogfish Head called Midas Touch. This is a curious brew based on the historic brew of a Turkish ruler and made from malted barley, honey, white muscat grapes and saffron. Dogfish Head doesn’t state if they used wild yeasts to ferment this brew, but it would have been authentic to do so, and it would also explain the slight funkiness in the aroma and taste of this beer. The listed ingredients all show themselves in the aroma and taste, but this is definitely not very beer-like. It is more like a dry mead mixed with a sweet white dessert wine with hints of malt barely perceptible now and then. Very good, very unique, stretches the boundaries of what can be considered beer. Try with any dishes with which you’d have a Riesling wine.

Finally, there is Unibroue’s Quatre Centieme. Now, I confess without shame that I am a big fan of anything Unibroue makes. This particular beer was brewed in 2008 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city of Quebec, near the Unibroue facilities. Normally, I like to be sure my beer is newer and fresher, but Unibroue usually ages well, and the strong nature of their beers generally preserves them well. Quatre Centieme was…. well, a bit odd, but in a good way. It seemed to me like Unibroue used German hefeweizen yeasts (which impart a distinct aroma and taste of banana to beers made with them), in a beer that was striving to be like Belgium’s Duvel (it was both strongly sweet and richly hoppy at the same time). It also had a sparkling carbonation, and a nice light, satisfying finish, all of which is unusual in a beer of 7.5% ABV. Try this one before a meal, or after an extremely spicy Indian dinner.

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