Friday, December 19, 2014

Kasteel Winter (2013 vintage)

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 10/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 18/20
Chad9976 (1244) - Albany, New York, USA - DEC 19, 2014
The Belgians aren’t known for adding confectionery flavors and other additives like coffee and chocolate in their beers. That’s what makes Kasteel Winter a very surprising brew since it’s not the kind of beer I’d associate with that entire country. And yet, it works as both a classic Belgian strong dark ale as well as a flavored brew. It’s a win-win.

I split a 750ml bottle with my girlfriend (who graciously purchased it for me for $10.99 [$0.43 per ounce]). I poured it into a Trappist chalice. It was bottled on 10/6/13.

Appearance: Seemingly opaque black, but actually deep ruby red/brown and slightly translucent. Pours to a small, off-white, soapy head which mostly dissipates and leaves little lacing.

Smell: Huge chocolate and coffee aromas, plus rum-like alcohol.

Taste: This is a robust beer if ever there were one. Strong dark chocolate flavors envelope the tongue right away. It’s a delicious, authentic, candy-like flavor. It doesn’t taste like simply cocoa powder or some kind of extract flavoring. There’s a light bitterness through the middle – somewhat dry with a hint of spice. It quickly morphs into a sweet iced coffee flavor (with cream and sugar!). The alcohol lingers in the background; constantly imparting a warmth and a rum-like vanilla flavor. The classic Belgian yeast esters are also noticeable - they create for a mild taste of dark fruits and pepper. Overall, this is one of the most unique Belgian brews I can ever recall having (but not necessarily the best).

Drinkability: When I saw the 11% ABV on the label, I was prepared for an intense, peppery sipper, but Kasteel Winter is amazingly drinkable. The mouthfeel is typical for a strong Belgian brew – highly carbonated, but not thick or chewy. It’s actually quite comfortable and easy to drink in larger gulps. The alcohol is noticeable, but tame – creating for a gentle warmth rather than a brash heat. 
Grade: 10/10

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