David Sapsis's picture

Judge's Review: 86 Rating - Belgian Strong Dark by pFriem Family Brewers

February, 2018
Judges Rating: 
21 / 24
5 / 6
35 / 40
8 / 10
Overall Impression: 
17 / 20

Belgian Strong Dark by pFriem Family Brewers was judged as BJCP Category 26D, Belgian Strong Dark Ale.  Served at 50oF.

The beer is served in a large tulip snifter showing a deep brown-mahogany with a light haze. A thick, tan foam of mixed-size bubbles fades fairly quickly even though the beer appears to be well-conditioned. 

The initial nose has a complex nut and spice character that comes off as surprisingly dry. Upon swirling, a menagerie of fruit (banana, figs, raisins) dances with a very distinct spicy clove phenol. A big ethanol sweetness countered by a faint tartness emerges as the beer warms.

The flavor starts with a pungent and spicy malt front with flavors of nuts, light caramel, and candied fruits (green figs, apricots, peaches) rounded  by a firm phenolic spice note.   Bitterness is very reserved and body is surprisingly light despite evident alcohol. The late palate and finish  is on the dry end of the spectrum with a long spice note and some dry-character herbal angles of sage and savory and a distinct alcoholic heat.  

The overall ester/phenol ratio is somewhat reserved and lacks some of the dark fruit/cocoa flavors and toffee-rich residual sweetness that would push that balance upward. Said another way, the beer packs a punch but seems like it might benefit from some more caramel and dark malt richness and maybe a tad less assertive guaiacol/clove profile. But don't mind me, I've always been sensitive to phenols.

Pull yourself up to the hearth, warm yourself by the fire, and sip on this strong, complex ale.  If the circumstance calls for it, a cigar might be a very good idea. OK, got to go... I just got an idea.