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Top 100 Beers of 2019

top beers 2019

 

#1

96
by David Sapsis
Terrible
Unibroue

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Brewmaster Jerry Veitz Talks Cruise Control

Who was responsible for this beer’s recipe?
This recipe was created back in 2002 by Paul Arnott who was brewmaster for Unibroue between 2000 and 2007.

What sets this beer apart from other examples within the style?
The fruity flavors are much more subtle in Terrible than they are in most Belgian Quadrupels. Caramel malt and spices are much more prominent. These flavors are complemented by rich Madeira wine notes. Terrible presents a silky body with a deep, well-balanced flavor profile that will surprise you by lingering on the palate, reminding the enthusiast of the product’s alcohol strength.

What makes this beer truly world-class?
This beer, which has won 21 international medals, represents the union of many different cultures. It was created by a brewer born in the United Kingdom, who learned the skills of the brewing trade with Belgian Trappists. Wouldn’t you agree that this combination features two of the best brewing traditions in the world? Moreover, it was brewed in a young, dynamic North American brewery for a new generation of  drinkers with different expectations. While it follows the best European breweries’ traditions and know-how, it still offers a modern je ne sais quoi.

What is your favorite aspect of this beer (flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc.)?
Its great drinkability and accessibility versus the terrifying image it projects. In French, the word terrible is used as two completely different adjectives: it can mean awful or dreadful (just as in English); but it also means awesome (terrific, fantastic, impressive). Because of its dark chestnut color and 10.5 percent ABV, people tend to think it’s inaccessible while in reality, it’s quite the opposite.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
While Terrible is a year-round offering in the United States, it is only available as a seasonal product in Canada. It only becomes available every two or three years, for a limited time only. Given these conditions and its notoriety, Unibroue aficionados always welcome the return of Terrible. Since its properties make it the perfect beer for aging, many fans buy a few bottles at a time to age them in their cellars.


Judge’s Second Opinion

The nose presents a forward unsweetened cocoa and light roast coffee front with dark spicy angles: some hints of bitter orange, light pepper and raisin/madeira over that lovely lightly roasty backdrop. As it is swirled, the alcohol lifts the dark fruit and dried herbal spiciness into a superbly balanced presentation where the malt ferment and alcohol foundation form a truly intriguing elixir. The sweetness is so subtle that it allows these other normally more reserved components to shine without being obtrusive. It is simple, yet very inviting for its depth. Possibly this is what is so interesting and puzzling – its complexity wrapped in simplicity. It’s not oxymoronic, I don’t think, just a bit of a mystery. It’s downright beguiling.

The flavor starts with a deeply rich and dark caramel note, a bit molasses-like, with an angle of prune-like dark fruit, a bit of black cherry and a lovely pepper spice that is not overtly phenolic but rather more like licorice root in sweet spiciness. There is a trace of bitterness, and a fairly big shot of acid in the mid-palate, adding balance to the residual malt sweetness. As the profile trails out, the finish is surprisingly dry (and true to the nose), with a nice lingering nutty-roast-coffee and sherry-like character complementing the spice. It’s actually pretty hot in the finish, but that just makes that licorice/sweet spice that much more part of the picture and seems to tone the body down and lighten the overall character.

The flavor profile hits some of the same paradox found in the nose – big and rich, but not overtly sweet at all; the countervailing components of dark malt, dark fruit and sublime spicy character are all mixed into a very straightforward package. In this regard it is both simpler and more overtly herbal/spicy (without being phenolic) than typical Belgian strong dark ales, which are often quite sweet. All of which is to say, it’s exceedingly drinkable for a big beer of impressive strength and character.

Beguiling – to charm by diversion or deception – is one of the coolest words I know. As applied to a beer, it hints at attraction, puzzlement and wonder, which are all words that perfectly describe Unibroue’s Terrible. - David Sapsis

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