Jan 26, 2018

Val-Dieu Grand Cru

Before craft beer, if one wanted to drink something that was full-flavored and different, one often had to look to the import shelves of any beer shop. In those days, Belgian beers were my obsession — aside from a smattering of small micro-brews like Anchor Steam, Pete’s, Saranac or the rare Rogue bottle. Limited quantities of the rich and layered Belgian ales made finding them difficult at times, but when my path crossed with a favorite or new one, there was no denying that I was going to leave with it.

Today, shelf space is even smaller for imports than it was some 18 years ago. Craft beers rule the shops so when a new imported Belgian product is to be found, it’s hard not to pick one up. Such is the case with this bottle of Val-Dieu Grand Cru, a 10.5% ABV quadrupel from Brasserie de l’Abbaye du Val-Dieu. This big, rich and somewhat cloying ale is supposedly “…the only true Belgian Abbey beer 100% brewed in a living Abbey…” according to the company’s website.

Authenticity doesn’t always mean world class. Val-Dieu Grand Cru certainly has a few things going for it, such as the richness of jammy dark fruits, burnt caramel and Belgian yeast. It’s also got a couple of knocks (in my eyes) that keep it from reaching the level of some of my favorites, domestic or imported. For one, the beer is incredibly sweet — like you can already feel tomorrow’s headache after just a couple of sips. When that cloying sweetness is delivered with a thick, low carbonation mouthfeel and warming alcohol it makes the experience a bit of a chore to complete.

There are aspects of Val-Dieu Grand Cru that I thoroughly enjoyed, but this big beer is just far too sweet for my preferences. A bit more carbonation or even a little dryness in the mix would help temper that over-the-top dessert-like trait. Still, I was thrilled to experience a new-to-me Belgian Ale and will continue my hunt on future shopping trips.