Way back in the summer of 2009 I happened upon something of a beer clearance sale at our local Earth Fare supermarket. Among other things, I made off with two bottles of Trappistes Rochefort 6, from the Brasserie de Rochefort at the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy.
I consumed one of the bottles soon after, leaving the second to mature in the cellar. After 15 months, I brought it forth.
What a difference the cellaring makes here! By way of comparison, I offer tasting notes from both sessions. Keep in mind, these are bottles from the same case and therefore ostensibly from the same batch (rumor has it that the good brothers at the Abbey only brew the 6 once a year).
Beer has been brewed at the Abbey since at least 15951. With that sort of establishment history, the product is bound to be worthwhile.
Original Tasting (8/2009)
Appearance (4/5): Thick, viscous, chocolatey-brown — nice and unfiltered. A billowy white head fizzles to thin lacing.
Aroma (4/5): Brown. Malty, but not a strong nose (perhaps because it’s still too cold).
Taste (4/5): Lovely. Not overly distinctive or bold, but highly drinkable — quaffable, even. Malt predominates. And a delicious malt it is.
Palate (4.5/5): As above, “quaffable.” Drinks like a much lower-ABV brew. Nice and spritzy with palate-scrubbing bubbles.
Overall (4/5): Not especially distinctive, but it’s so damn likable I have to give it a good score. It has that certain Trappist je ne sais quoi, with a wonderful yeast presence. I predict this will cellar well, and pairs quite well with an array of food choices.
Cellared Tasting (10/2010)
Appearance (5/5): Deep caramel-brown. Lots of foam with wonderful residual “Belgian lace.” The bottom of the bottle yields cocoa powder-like sediment.
Aroma (4/5): Surprisingly earthy and malty, with a lot of fruity yeast, but overall not too many robust notes. More subtle than I would have expected.
Taste (5/5): Amazing! Much more complex than the nose would suggest. Robust and malty, but balanced throughout. Notes of fig, date, apple, coriander, cardamom, and ginger.
Palate (4.5/5): Finishes nice and spritzy with only the minutest amount of over-sweetness to keep it from a ‘5’.
Overall (5/5): Near-perfection. Excellent with the dinner dish (mushroom-saffron risotto with cotolette alla zingara — pork chop with peppers and capers). It loves the spicy chop. That sweetness on the palate is forgiven.
NB. Drink the sediment. Love it.
In my estimation, 15 months in the cellar did a good job in accentuating the flavor profiles (which I will attribute to the yeast activity), but was not so long as to significantly alter the overall character of the beer. The Rochefort brothers suggest a maximum cellar life of 5 years. Next go-round, I’ll take them up on the challenge.
1. By way of reference, in 1595 Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, the defeat of the Spanish Armada was a mere 7 years past, Jamestown had not yet been settled, and Caravaggio was still painting.