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The Beer Circle » Barleywine, Bars, Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg, Cantillon, Cider, Domaine Familial Louis Dupont, Dopplebock, Gueuze, J.W. Lees & Co., Kriek, Monk's Cafe, Port Brewing Co., Quad, Victory Brewing Co. » Event: Monk’s Cafe Beers of the Cellar

Event: Monk’s Cafe Beers of the Cellar

At our Eclipse tasting, Jeff’s friend Matt informed me of a rare “Beers of the Cellar” event at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia, on April 10, 2012. Considering I could only dream of what they sell at the bar, getting a taste of Tom’s cellar was too good to pass up–even at $95 a ticket. The dinner featured beers older than I am, sours of many vintages, and a six-course meal.

The Scorecard

I rolled into Monks a bit early to take in the scene while it wasn’t so mobbed (like it was when we showed up for the Beer Tour) and really study the bottle list. It’s even better than I remember. 14 Cantillons of various styles and vintages stand out, but numerous outstanding offerings grace the pages of the Beer Bible. They also played Led Zeppelin IV, which added a nice touch. Pregaming the beer dinner, I grabbed a Pliny on tap and after an ironic encounter with someone familiar with Tyrone and some overall phenomenal service, I mosied on back to the back bar designated for the night ahead.

Stunning List

Oh what a night it would turn out to be.

I was disappointed that Tom couldn’t hang out for the dinner, but working daddy duty trumps beer! We started off with Cantillon Iris 1996. You’ll noticed I won’t be using the value option to review these beers, as they’d all be the same. I replaced that with “Pairing” so I could talk about how the food added to the experience.

Cantillon Iris 1996
Some of the bottles are really dusty, and the cork isn't the easiest to pull out. Check out the cork leaning up against the bottle, pretty disintegrated. The beer itself pours out a hazy yellow with hints of pink and only a thin white head. It has held up beautifully in this department.
The aroma is really sour, but amazingly balanced with fruit. Musty and funky, the tart but sweet fruitiness is impressive.
This is the definition of an enamel ripper. Just out of this world sour, the rest of the taste is as tad watery, but the fruit is still there, I'm so impressed with how it has held up, but some fresher Lambics I’ve had I think were better.
The body is a little light, but the aftertaste is phenomenal. It just lingers forever. Hardly any carbonation left, but I don't miss it.
This beer was paired with anticipation and introductions as the dinner portion had yet to begin.
A truly amazing experience from popping the cork to the last drops. Can't wait for the rest of this. I enjoyed this one the most of all the sours offered at the dinner.

Beer Stats
Style: Lambic – Unblended
Serving: Bottle
Size: 10oz
ABV: 5.00%
BA Score: 93
RB Score: 99
Cantillon Vigneronne 1995
The cork disintegrated into the bottles a bit and sometimes into the glasses, but oh well! Hazy yellow in color, it pour much lighter than Iris with absolutely no head.
The aroma is one of the strangest I have ever come across. Musty, stinky funk there's something there I can't describe. Malts? This must be the sweaty goat I’ve heard of.
The taste has definitely thinned compared to Iris. I'm going to call this aroma/flavor malty and not quite as enamel rippingly sour. An easy drinking 17-year-old gueuze that's for sure.
Very light body with that similarly lasting aftertaste. No carbonation, which will be a theme this evening I suspect. It coats the palate nicely and goes down quickly and smoothly.
This was so good that I ate grilled octopus with it. Which if you know me, you know this is a huge feat. The salad went nicely with these first two sours. I hope my palate is starting to realize what it's in for tonight.
It stepped down in quality from the Iris for me, but I'm not worried moving forward!

Beer Stats
Style: Lambic – Fruit
Serving: Bottle
Size: 10oz
ABV: 5.00%
BA Score: 93
RB Score: 98
Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie 1999
The pour is a clear yellow without bubbles, head, or anything. It sparkles in this low light.
Wow this is a really funky aroma, my body had better be ready for the funk this evening! Apples, sour, barnyard funk, sweet fruits. A nice conflict of aromas arises.
The overbearing sweetness of this cider is battling the sour characteristics. And I love every second. Cloyingly sweet and nicely tart. The balance is great. A ton of apples and sugar. I did notice some bottle variation, mixing between red and green apples, and even between very sour and very sweet, but I guess that's to be expected.
What is this carbonation you speak of? Sweet, but a crisp, clean finish. It's not even fair how drinkable this is.
It's paired beautifully with the pork loin with foie gras and a warm apple/currant compote. My word what a perfect pairing: Dry, yet very flavorful pork with sweet and tart cider. When I say dry, don’t you dare think it’s negative, the characteristic I got from it was the dryness in a positive light to add to the overall dish. The compote adds another layer of over the top sweetness.
This was the nicest surprise of the evening for me. My knowledge on ciders are scant, but this was wonderful. Very different from the harshness of the Lambics opened before it.

Beer Stats
Style: Cider
Serving: Bottle
Size: 16oz
ABV: 5.00%
BA Score: N/A
RB Score: 96
Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek 2007
I love when krieks pour out this beautiful hazy red pink color with a small pink head. I think it's the most beautiful of all beers. A second pour gave off a much larger frothy pink head, but also much more haziness.
Oaky aromas with a big cherry note. It smells like when I made the Duchesse de Bourgogne cherry pie, but this smells like the final result, not the beer added. Sweet, but tart with a full cherry aspect. The tartness is for balance.
The taste continues the huge, dark and tart cherry theme that I am just crazy for in krieks. Aptly sour, it's completely focused on cherry and oak. So sweet, so balanced, I wish I could find more of this. It's fantastic, dare I say perfect? Again, slight variance across pours. Some are very sweet, others hint more towards acidic. I got the sweeter end (from the top of the bottle) and am quite happy I did. The second pour from the bottom of the bottom was acidic and aggressively sour.
The body is nicely medium with some carbonation. I'll just keep saying it: crazy drinkable.
This was served with a melt in your mouth lamb lollipop (without nuts, thanks Monk's!) the cherry gastrique was simply perfect to pair with such a sweet kriek, and the lamb was delicious.
I had been looking for the various Lou Pepe offerings from Cantillon for a long time, I was pretty excited when I saw it on the list. It lived up to my expectations. Gotta get a few more of these.

Beer Stats
Style: Lambic – Fruit
Serving: Bottle
Size: 10oz
ABV: 5.00%
BA Score: 97
RB Score: 100

And here we go, a beer that predates my birth. Never thought I’d be able to say I drank something that was brewed before I was born.

JW Lees Harvest Ale 1987
It's a beautiful, very deep dark ruby pour that is completely clear and devoid of head.
I was just bombarded by the aroma at first. This is a big change from the sours we had been working on. It smells very roasty and velvety smooth. Caramel, molasses, and a blend I only expect from perfectly aged beers. Is this melted toffee or is it alcoholic?
Guys this is, wow, a completely new experience with beer. I'm just, blown away. Toffee, caramel, butter, slight roast, melted candy-like taste that stands on its own. A 25 year old beer that is just out of this world. I can't believe it.
It feels like velvety chocolate on the palate. Absolutely sweet, drinkable, and delicious. For the first time tonight I'm getting hints of booze.
Paired with a steak culotte, my drinking buddy noted he's getting a balsamic vinegar type taste here, sweet and dark, and I don't disagree. The steak and leeks have a great flavor and pair with the velvety Harvest Ale wonderfully. Apparently steak culotte is a very difficult meat to cook, and I’ve never had it. Still rare in the middle, this cut is really melt in your mouth good. The food has been out of this world do far.
Ladies and gentlemen here you have it, my first and probably only perfect 5. Perfect pairing, setting, look, aroma, taste, and feel. It's like I've reached a plateau. I hope I'm wrong.

Beer Stats
Style: English Barleywine
Serving: Bottle
Size: 10oz
ABV: 11.50%
BA Score: 95
RB Score: 99
Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus 1996
The pour hints towards ruby again. More clear than I expected, and no head. Is beer supposed to have head? I think I've forgotten.
A very sweet and mellowed malt, booze, and molasses blend create a formidable, but interesting aroma.
The taste is very boozy and sweet, for the first time tonight in wondering about whether this beer has peaked or not. It's very alcoholic, bordering on offensive. Malt and molasses are the only other flavors. Just not enough balance.
Full and heavy mouthfeel with a big booze character hitch hurts the drinkability. Very dry finish.
Probably the number one thing learned...I hate cheese. I won't hate on the pairing as I'm sure it was great...I'm just not a fan.
Just not quite on the level as the other beers at this dinner. The booze got to me. I'd say this is on its way down.

Beer Stats
Style: Dopplebock
Serving: Bottle
Size: 10oz
ABV: 14.00%
BA Score: 89
RB Score: 94

Ommegang Three Philosophers 2004 was also brought out during the cheese pairing. I didn’t get to reviewing it, mostly because it was immediately followed by Mother of All Beers, then we were allowed to take Victory Old Horizontal 1998 home, and the random bottles from Tom’s cellar starting getting opened. Seeing Millenium Gueuze and Festine Lente in the crate, I let the Three Philosophers sit for a while and came back to it later. I remember it being quite tasty, but not anything special compared to the other boozier offerings of the evening. I did get a kick out of the label, which was quite old.

Ommegang Three Philosophers 2004

Port Brewing Company Mother Of All Beers 2005
The beer pours a deep hazy red with a slight amount of off white head.
It smells full of very dark fruit, a ton of plums. A very sweet, classic and mellowed quad aroma. Deep and decadent.
The taste is pretty boozy, but a huge mellowed dark fruit taste makes an attempt to overcome it. Musty malts, the taste is definitely on its way downhill. Sort of average.
Light and boozy. Very dry finish. Warming alcoholic finish.
This was the end-all, be-all of desserts. I was told that a new chef (Lauren) was excited to try something new to avoid my nut allergy. The result was a dark chocolate ice cream with a sweet bacon reduction was staggeringly good. Never before has being allergic to nuts been a benefit to me. It's so sweet, rich and bacony. Sinful.
The beer was delicious, but didn't stand out.

Beer Stats
Style: Quad
Serving: Bottle
Size: 10oz
ABV: 11.50%
BA Score: N/A
RB Score: 99

As an added bonus to the tasting (as if there weren’t already enough), we got the option of drinking the Victory Old Horizontal at the bar, or taking it home. Because of the increasingly inebriated state I was in, and the amount of beers I wanted to try afterwards I decided to drink it the next weekend from the comfort of my own home.

Victory Old Horizontal 1998
The cap was difficult to pry off, and had a gunk build up around the top of the bottle and underneath the cap. I cleaned most of it out and used my best pouring skills to save myself from the significant build up at the bottom of the bottle. The beer itself rests in my Golden Monkey Tulip a deep amber color with some bubbles, but no head.
The sweetness and booziness is very strong with this one. A mellowed amount of dark fruits and caramel malts are noted as well. Pretty much what you'd expect from a really old Barleywine. It borders on offensive, but I think still falls on the good side of things.
The taste is really impressive. I'm sure I like it more than when I had it fresh however long ago because I remember disliking its sweetness. It's phenomenally mellow, but still hints towards sweet. Boozy dark fruits and a big malt character come together much more nicely than I was expecting from this 13.5 year old beer. I think it's getting a bit watery, but it doesn't take anything away from it. A bit of a strange caramel-like flavor rests at the back of the throat.
Medium body without carbonation. The beer rests on the palate pretty thick, but goes down smoothly. The booze is certainly noted, but the overall balance of the flavors keeps the drinkability pretty high.
This category gets a huge boost because I was able to take it home with me. I appreciated it much more after the fact, whereas it could have been forgotten amidst the chaos of crazy delicious beers.
I'd say this is a definite example of a beer improving with age...especially with this much age. Exactly what I like to see from a well aged Barleywine. It shines through as one of the better Barleywines I've come across, as it's a style I'm not always a huge fan of.

Beer Stats
Style: American Barleywine
Serving: Bottle
Size: 12oz
ABV: 11.00%
BA Score: 91
RB Score: 100

After dinner, a number of other random beers from Tom’s cellar made their way out. You can check out my reviews on Beeradvocate, but I’ll just list them here.

1999 Drie Fonteinen Millenium Gueuze
1997 Alaskan Smoked Porter
Dogfish Head Festina Lente (First Batch)
Hanssens Oude Kriek (Around 10 years old)
BFM La Dragonne
1991 Vapuer En Folie
Pizza Port 15th Anniversary
1997 Alaskan Smoked Porter
1993 Chimay Blue

Wow, time to decompress. I’ve never been at an event with this number of vintage beers that are pretty hard to come by when fresh. In the end, this even featured at least two beers categorized infamously on Beeradvocate as White Whales. It was very interesting to see the variation between bottles and where in the bottle the pour came from. They left a decent amount at the bottom of the bottles to avoid the sheer amount of crap that builds up in bottles of these ages. The service was phenomenal as I always had a bottle at my spot at the bar to take a picture of. The food was served hot, and the bartenders knew a ton about the beers. When I get back to Monk’s Cafe, I hope to pick up a bottle of Cantillon Monk’s Cafe Cuvee Gueuze, which was blended by Tom, the head beer guy at Monk’s at brouwerij Cantillon especially for the bar.


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Written by Russ Beck

Russ can trace his beginnings in craft beer to sitting in Zeno’s Pub in State College drinking various craft beer options from across Pennsylvania. Since then, he has never faltered in finding new brews, whether they’re rare, delicious, or hopefully both. Russ will be writing on a large variety of subjects, including but not limited to: reviews, homebrewing, and how to take labels off of beer bottles. He’ll drink just about anything, but prefers a nice Stout, IPA, or Weizenbock. Find Russ Beck on Google Plus

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