Monday, August 11, 2014

St. Bernardus Pater 6 (9/10)

To say that I’m a fan of St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a bit like saying the typical Central Ohio native “appreciates” the Ohio State Buckeyes.  To my palate, St. Bernardus Abt 12 is one of the finest Belgian beers made.  Given that, I absolutely had to pick up a bottle of St. Bernardus Pater 6 when I saw it on the shelves at a local retailer (specifically, The Andersons General Store near Sawmill and 161).

Pater 6 pours a dark, slightly mahogany brown with two-finger thick beige head that lasts (to a lesser level) as you drink it.  It leaves behind thick sheet-like lacing that incorporates back into the beer and doesn’t leave much on the glass.

Pater 6 is a Belgian Dubbel style ale.  According to the Beer Judge Certification style guidelines, a Belgian Dubbel should have a complex aroma, which should include rich malty notes, caramel and/or toast, fruity esters (usually raisins/plums/cherries), and spicy phenols reminiscent of clove, spice, pepper, rose, and or perfume.  Hops aroma is usually absent.

Given that guideline, Pater 6 definitely delivers on the rich malt.  That comes through loud and clear.  I also get a strong plum note, and a moderate amount of yeast.  Alcohol is present in the aroma but not too strong.  I get a little of the noble hops, but only barely.

The BJCP guidelines tell us a Dubbel’s flavor should be similar to its aroma.  It should be rich, complex, malty and sweet on the palate but finishing dry.  You can expect raisin flavors, dried fruit flavors, and perhaps clove-like spiciness.  The flavor should balance toward the malt.

Again, Pater 6 delivers.  The initial flavor note is a rich, malty sweetness.  Right behind that comes some dark fruit and dried plum.  The finish is malty but dry, with some noble hops bitterness.  In short, it’s exactly what you’d expect for a Dubbel.  I prefer mine a touch sweeter at the finish, but there’s nothing at all wrong with this as it is.

It’s very smooth and has an almost milky level of carbonation.  Lots of body.

Pater 6 is an outstanding example of the Belgian Dubbel style.  Beer Advocate agrees with me on this, rating it 92/100.  RateBeer is also in alignment, giving it a 96/100 overall.  My rating is a very solid 9.  Minus the yeasty elements in the aroma and with a slightly sweeter finish, it’d be a 10.  (Given that it’s bottle-fermented, the yeastiness is to be expected to a point.)

Bear in mind that retailer stock varies with demand and availability, but I’ve seen St. Bernadus products (if not this particular one) at Ale Wine and Spirits in Powell,

An article I read recently claimed that Columbus beer fans are increasingly checking out Belgian beers like Pater 6.  I have been a fan of Belgian style beers for a while now.  I’m even trying to brew them myself.  Something that always perplexed me was that two bottles of the exact same Belgian beer would sometimes taste wildly different to me.  One bottle would taste sweet, fruity, spicy, complex, and amazing.  The next bottle of that beer might seem dry, maybe bitter, and lack that complexity.  I scratched my head about this for a while until I happened to look at a label one night and notice the little graphic circled in the image to the right…

What’s that?  It’s the brewery’s recommendation for the temperature at which you should serve and drink this particular beer.  In this case, St. Bernardus is telling me that I should drink this beer when its temperature is between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius, or 42.8 degrees and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  (They’re also suggesting the style of glassware you should use to get the most from the beer’s aroma and flavor.)

To many Americans, this sounds a bit “warm” for a beer.  For an American macro-brew, and many other styles of beer, it is.  But Belgian beers (and many other styles) are designed to be enjoyed at higher temperatures than we’re used to here.  The temperature makes a difference in the flavor.  I’ve had Belgian beers that seemed bland and unpleasant at 34-40 degrees, but left out on the counter a bit until they hit the right temperature, became sweet, fruity, spicy, and delicious.

I’m not knocking local establishments, but I know that serving temperatures of beer can vary.  Perhaps the beer you ordered came out of a 35-degree cooler and was brought to your table within seconds.  Maybe it sat on the counter for five minutes before your busy server got to it, and it arrived at your table in the “sweet spot” range, or even too warm.  It can be hard to know, especially if you order a draft and don’t have a thermometer with you (and if you do have one  with you, you’re more hard-core than I am).  But what I’m getting at is this… If you’ve tried a particular Belgian beer and didn’t like it, don’t give up on it.  You might have gotten a bottle (or draft) that was too cold, or too warm, and you didn’t get to experience the beer the way the brewer intended.  I’ve tried some Belgian beers in bars or restaurants and didn’t care for them, only to re-try the same beer at home (where I can control the temperatures a bit more) and found them to be quite different.  You may experience the same thing.

Here endeth the lesson.

Flavor Profile:
Sweet, Malty, Dry, Bitter, or Sour:
Malty, starting sweet and finishing dry
Spice Level
Hops Level: Low
Dominant Flavors: Sweet malt, dark fruit, mild spice
ABV:  6.7%
IBU:  20
My Rating: 9/10

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