Beer Gifts Guide 2016 – St. Bernardus Mixed Selection
If you or someone on your list this holiday season is a beer lover, chances are you’ll be stopping by your local LCBO.
Around this time of year it can get overwhelming in those stores, with so many special releases and gift sets packed-in snugly alongside the usual suspects. If you don’t have a plan ahead of time, there’s no telling what you might end up leaving with. So before you find yourself purchasing yet another Leffe glass or an oversized bottle of Stella Artois or even a three-pack of Coors Banquet complete with its very own branded mason jar, I urge you to save yourself the stress and consider St. Bernardus’ Mixed Selection.
St. Bernardus is a Belgian brewery known for their exceptional Abbey-style ales and this mix pack is a fine showcase of just that. It consists of a Witbier, two Tripels, two Dubbels and a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, known to many as a Quadrupel – a collection of famous styles rooted in monastic brewing tradition. These styles are no strangers to LCBO shelves, with a number of Trappist, Abbey and secular products available at times throughout the year. St. Bernardus’ Mixed Selection brings those styles together in such a way that, apart perhaps from certain Chimay gift sets in the past, I’ve never seen on LCBO shelves. And at just over $20, it offers head-scratchingly good value for money – tremendous quality and variety in very reasonable 330 ml portion sizes.
Belgian Witbiers are light and effervescent wheat ales that are occasionally spiced with fruit and herbs to create a very refreshing tasting beer. This style that had been brewed for hundreds of years was near extinction in the mid-20th century. Had it not been for our friends over at Hoegaarden, we might have had to settle for a 5-pack.
St. Bernadus Witbier – 5.5% ABV – Slightly tart with orange and lemon zest, phenolic yeast notes, fruity, herb and pepper. Honey and biscuity malt flavours.
Classic pairing: Beer steamed mussels.
Belgian Dubbels are dark ales that range in alcohol content between 6 and just over 7.5%. Common yeast strains used in Dubbels produce characteristic banana, dark fruit, clove and even bubble gum flavours, while it’s caramelized sugars or sugar syrups that bring forth the dried fruit and butter rum, not to mention the dark hue. The addition of adjunct sugars also allow for an increased alcohol content without a thick and heavy mouthfeel.
St. Bernardus Pater 6 – 6.7% ABV – Light and fruity with some rum and raisin flavours initially, followed by cherry and red grape. Nut and toffee. Finishes with some yeasty spice and breadiness.
St. Bernardus Prior 8 – 8.0% ABV – Plenty of dark dried fruit flavour like date and raisin. Some alcohol sweetness; rum, burnt sugar and toffee. Banana and spice. Subtle chocolate.
Classic pairing: Trappist or Abbey-style washed-rind cheese (try Chimay à la bière)
Belgian Tripels are light coloured ales that clock in between 7.5 and 9.5% ABV. They are fairly light bodied as well, largely due to the addition of pale sugars or syrups in place of grain. Like Dubbels, tripels also use yeast strains that produce esters and spicy phenolic flavours. Citrus fruit flavours can also be found.
St Bernardus Tripel – 8.0% ABV – Very well balanced and smooth. Light and bubbly mouthfeel. Bittersweet, with bright fruit flavours, orange, lemon, apple. A little banana. Honey, soft caramel and toffee. Crisp and spicy.
Watou Tripel – 7.5% ABV – Lemon drop candy, herbal, peppery. Well carbonated and refreshing. Fruity, pear and honey. A biscuity malt and vanilla. Finishes somewhat floral.
Pairing: Roquefort cheese
Though not technically a style of its own, the term ‘Quadrupel’, has been affixed to many Belgian Strong Dark Ales. Quadrupels can be simplified as double Dubbles; that is, stronger dark ales that share some flavour commonalities with their lower alcohol relative, albeit with greater complexity. Balance is critical with these beers, which clock in at 8% and above.
St. Bernardus Abt 12 – 10.0% ABV – Hey, remember that beer, the one with the $80 six-packs that sold out almost instantaneously at the LCBO a couple years back? It’s called Westvleteren XII and it’s considered by many to be the best beer in the world. Funny story; St. Bernardus was actually contracted by St. Sixtus, the brewery that produces Westvleteren, to brew their beer commercially over a period of 46 years, ending in 1992. When the contract expired, the recipe remained more or less intact and continued to be produced under the name St. Bernardus Abt 12.
St. Bernardus Abt 12 certainly is a world class beer that delivers a huge amount of flavour, balanced so that even at 10% it has a certain delicateness that makes it highly approachable. Dark fruit is abundant, like raisin, date, plum and supported with molasses, rich toffee and brown sugar. There’s an underlying creamy chocolate throughout and a honey sweetness. This fantastic beer finishes with a little spice, pepper and ash.
Pairing: Smoked duck.
Whether you’re looking for a treat for yourself, a gift or a stocking stuffer for someone else or even a way to liven up your holiday dinner party (why not host a beer tasting?) St. Bernadus’ Mixed Selection has you covered.