are certain combinations you’d assume would automatically equate to not
just a winning formula, but a triumphant formula. Complex Belgian style
+ bourbon barrel aging would be an example of what I mean, especially
in the form of North Coast Grand Cru. And while this is a good, somewhat
unique strong Belgian beer, it’s not especially great despite the
barrel aging. Not that it’s bad – it’s good – but this beer should be
I poured a 500ml bottle into a tulip glass. There was no bottling or
vintage date. Thanks for the folks at North Coast Brewing for this
Appearance: Extremely cloudy light orange/copper hue with no visible
carbonation. Pours to a small, white, soapy head which fizzles away
quickly and completely.
Smell: Significant bourbon character as soon as the cork is popped,
though the beer itself is more in line with a traditional Belgian tripel
or any kind of strong golden ale. Plenty of banana and clove esters
with the agave nectar present as well.
Taste: What separates this beer from others of the general style is that
it’s a Belgian strong pale ale brewed with agave nectar. That gives the
beer a significant juicy and fruity flavor akin to tropical fruit juice
concentrate. In fact, it’s one of the sweetest Belgian-style brews I
can recall having. Big banana and tropical fruit flavors up front with
underlying notes of butterscotch (not diacetyl) and vanilla through the
middle and significant bourbon and wood flavors on the finish. The
alcohol is very prominent from start to finish and actually distracts a
bit from the base palette. Still, the banana and clove flavors from the
yeast are a nice counter balance.
Drinkability: Weighing in at 12.9% ABV, North Coast Grand Cru is
definitely a hefty brew. For better or worse, it does not drink like
that, though. The carbonation dies down quickly, leaving a body that is
tepid, calm, and chewy. Oddly enough, there is no cloying sensation and
it leave a rather disappointingly clean aftertaste. The alcohol also
imparts significant heat and lingers in the throat after each swig – not
unlike that from capsaicin (chile peppers). A sipper to be sure.