Mar 16, 2009

Grotten Brown (Pierre Celis Signature)

It’s amazing what you can learn from just one beer. In a trip to Total Wine last month, I happened across a bottle of Grotten Brown (Pierre Celis Signature). The only thing I knew about it at the time was that it was brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernardus, the same folks that make some of my favorite Belgian brews: St Bernardus Abt 12, St Bernardus Prior 8 and St Bernardus Pater 6. Beyond that, the name Pierre Celis on the label meant nothing to me.

I hadn’t planned on doing much of a background check on this beer, but in the end I’m thankful I did. Pierre Celis, The King of Belgian White Beer and the mastermind behind the famous Hoegaarden recipe, began brewing the Grotten Bruin after a trip to Champagne Caves in France. The first few series of this beer were aged and turned periodically in caves similar to the treatment that Champagne receives in its maturation process.

Sadly, this is no longer the case. In fact, shows that this beer is no longer being brewed, yet there were several bottles on the shelf when I purchased mine. Had I done my research properly I would have paid more attention to the bottle and looked for bottling date on it. Perhaps I have gotten one of the last remaining bottles of it — and perhaps I should head back to see if they have more.

Beer Label: Grotten Brown (Pierre Celis Signature)


I’m not sure what went wrong with my handling of this bottle, but once it had been opened there was a brief 2-3 second delay before foam began pouring out of the top of the bottle like lava. Once the beer finally settled, it poured a deep garnet in color with a large, off-white head.


This one smells wonderful. Dark fruits and raisin mix with a malty sweetness to create the base for the aroma while a light hoppiness and spices linger.


I think this one was a bit too over carbonated for my liking. I’m more used to a tripel or blonde having this level of bubble activity, so it was a bit surprising at first to find the same in a brown. I’m not sure if the beer was chilled to long, but it took a while for the taste to live up to the expectations that the aroma created. The finish is what really made this a great beer for me — it seemed to be where all the flavor resided in each mouthful. Bready malts, dark fruits, light spices and caramels created a well balanced, long lasting flavor. Aside from the more active mouthfeel, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and drinkable beer.


This was definitely a unique brew and, if the reports are correct, probably the only time I’ll experience it. When compared to other browns I’ve had in the past, Grotten Brown is something special. It’s much more complex and layered than others I’ve had in the style. That said, I think it could have been even better had I been patient enough to let it sit in the cellar for an extended length of time. If I can find another bottle, that’s just what I’ll do.

Rating: 4/5

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