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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beer pick of the week: Monk's Revenge

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Terrapin Beer Company

Athens, GA

9.8% ABV

Terrapin brewer Spike Buckowski has jumped into the Belgian ale wave with both feet with Volume 5 of the Side Project Series. Monk's Revenge is described as having the hop profile of a double IPA, with the malt and yeast of a Belgian tripel. Six kinds of malt and six hop varieties, dextrose to replicate the Belgian candi sugar, and a yeast copped from one of the 7 Trappist breweries (Spike is mysteriously vague about which brewery) all contribute to a wonderful complexity in both aroma and flavor.

Floral and spicy hops greet the nose, along with a faint resiny note that clues you to the beer's American heritage. Sweet, biscuity malt and the unmistakable ripe fruit of Belgian yeast are also evident. The taste starts with the smooth, mild tropical fruit sweetness of pineapple and banana, followed quickly by a tingly hop bite of grapefruit, white pepper, pine, orange, and mint. The sugary base carries warm buzz of kirsch and amaretto into the strong, drying finish. The banana and clove esters of the Belgian yeast become stronger as it warms, as does some solventy alcohol.

The balance here is fantastic, with all of the malty, fruity, hoppy, and tangy notes getting their chance to shine, but the overall effect seems a bit raw. The bottle-conditioned beer has a dullish carbonation that might lively up itself with a bit more time, and the hot alcohol suggest that this would be a good candidate for cellaring, although the hopheads might object that the fresh hop aromas and flavors would suffer. I'd have a couple fresh, then put a couple away; that way, you get the best of both worlds.

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