Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Rochefort 8 & 10

Origin: Belgium | Date: 2011 | ABVs: 9.2% & 11.3% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007

My first foray into the Rochefort section of the stash brings a pair of five-year-olds: numbers 8 and 10 in the series. It's a long time since I've had either of these but once upon a time Rochefort was my top pick of all the trappists, especially the 8.

And it's with the 8 I'm starting. The yeast is quite firmly stuck to the bottom of the bottle so I get a perfectly clear deep brown glassful. The aroma is surprisingly subtle, but a lungful pulls out boozy plums and a coarser nuttiness. Although it fizzed as it poured and formed a short-lived head, the surface is mill-pond still after a moment and the first sip reveals it as remarkably flat. Coupled with the dense texture, this produces the sensation of drinking a red wine to begin with, aided by dark plummy fruit. But, after a moment, it miraculously transforms back into beer and there's a wheaty, cakey Christmas pudding flavour and a coating of milk chocolate. The plums and black grapes which add panache to the malt weight taste incredibly fresh, almost juicy. The beer certainly hasn't been ruined by five years of neglect but I don't think it's been enhanced in any way. You may as well drink your Rochefort 8 fresh: no point in taking a risk with it.

With my face already aglow from that, I turned to the even stronger Rochefort 10. It's darker than the foregoing, though no keener to keep a head. The aroma is very enticing: the pure richness of ripe figs and hot fudge sauce. Its super high density is enough to almost make it difficult to sip, but I persevered, feeling every mouthful slip all the way down and form a warming boozy bolus in the pit of my stomach. For flavour, that cakey effect is there again, as are the dark fruits, though the black grapes have definitely turned to dry, chewy raisins. But above them both is a chocolate seam much more pronounced than in the 8, all sweet and quite syrupy. But not sickly, and not hot, bizarrely. This has a lot of the features of very strong beers that makes them difficult drinking, but I think time has rounded them out so the bugs become features: the problems of high alcohol heat have been smoothed away leaving only the benefits. The brewery managed by men of God has turned out a beer that tastes naughty: something about the alchemy of that intense sweet richness, yet lacking in headachey booze, makes me want to do penance for it. Perhaps the five year wait was suffering enough.

Effects of long-term stashing aside, this pair has reminded me that Rochefort beers are of immense quality. When you have the time, the disposition, and maybe a nice piece of cheese, they're always worth it.

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