Tasting Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 13, a Belgian Quad, on Release Day

Categories: Brew Blog

Divine2.jpg
Photos by Joshua Justice
It's Divine Reserve release day once again and from the looks of traffic on Twitter, the madness is only growing. Lines were forming early at H-E-B locations as trucks began arriving around 8 a.m.

New to Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve bottling this year are large-format bombers -- which will arrive in stores today -- in addition to the traditional six-packs. The choice on formats is up to you. I prefer six-packs because I can let the beer age varying amounts of time as opposed to having a large single bottle. Another thing to consider with a beer this big is that a 12-ounce serving is probably plenty for two people to share.

On the other hand, large-format bottles are a great buy if you plan to BYOB for dinner out one night or in case you want something to bring to a bottle share.

But enough about that; let's talk beer.

Divine Reserve 13 is a Belgian Quadrupel (or "quad") clocking in at 11 percent A.B.V. Playing off the Belgian Dubbel and Trippel styles, the name Quadrupel actually comes from a specific beer, La Trappe Quadrupel from De Koningshoeven Brewery.

In America, however, Quadrupel refers to an entire style of Belgian Strong Dark Ales. Saint Arnold has their work cut out for them here as this style includes some of the very best-regarded beers in the world, including Westvleteren 12 and one of the beers I am most desperate to get a chance to try, Number of the Beast from Lost Abbey. (Seriously, for the love of all that is evil, hook me up.)

I got ahold of a few bottles of DR 13 this morning amidst the madness of morning queues and rush of Twitter hashtags (#DR13 is the official Twitter hashtag in case you are still on the hunt). And while I do not condone drinking before noon, I am a firm believer in the philosophy of "Do as I say, not as I do." With that in mind, I opened a bottle to get some first thoughts on the newest Saint Arnold brew.

The beer pours a thick deep-brownish red with a thick, light tan head. Upon opening, it has a very strong malty nose followed by plum and toffee and a sharp alcohol finish. Another quick reminder on that alcohol note: This beer is every bit an 11 percent beer, so it's advisable to split it with a friend.

The head is slow to fade and while it doesn't stick to the sides of my glass the way I might have expected a big sticky quad to do, it's lingering a bit.

On tasting, I am conflicted.

What we have here is a beer from Saint Arnold that does something I am glad to see the brewery make a consistent habit of right now: walk the style definition line right down the middle. As we continue to experience the heyday of the newest era of American craft beer, one rule is falling to the wayside more often than I'd like to see happen and that is execution of the basics. If you don't know how to sift flour, stop trying to make those Sex and the City cupcakes you saw on Pinterest. If you don't know how to change the bits on your cordless drill, don't promise your wife a custom closet. And if you can't brew a proper Kolsch or Pale Ale, don't try to sell me a whiskey barrel-aged sour Barleywine.

Divine Reserve does a lot of things right in respect to hitting the key points. The beer is composed and brings the aged fruit and strong candied caramel malt notes I wanted to see in this big Belgian beer. The finish is sharp and quick, lending itself to being drinkable and clean -- even fresh -- given its large body. As with Icon Blue (which we discussed last week), this is another beer with a great nose and the aroma does a lot to tell you exactly what you are going to get.

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What I don't like right now is a sharp, slight punch of hop flavor that comes on early and detracts slightly from the fruit and malt as you continue to drink. You get a hint of hop on the nose and it continues through the taste, compromising the body of the beer too much for my taste. This is compounded by the bright carbonation on the finish. The two actively mask those big notes you are hoping for here. As the beer warms, the hops become more apparent, unfortunately, so I recommend this beer at around 50 degrees.

All is not lost, however. While I think Saint Arnold has produced a beer that's perfectly enjoyable today -- and certainly more approachable fresh than the sticky, uncomposed Divine Reserve 9 Pumpkin Stout or the incredibly hot Divine Reserve 12 Old Ale -- I see here a beer that shows the most promise for aging since DR 9. The DR 13 has the strong potential to be remembered as a highlight in the Divine Reserve series. If you can stand to let your bottles sit in the fridge for a while, that hop note [I am probably complaining about too much as it is] should be far more balanced after 12 months, becoming a key benefit rather than a detraction.

See also:
- Cellaring 101: The Basics of Storing Beer
- Cellaring 102: Three Beers to Drink Now and Save for Later

Make no mistake, this is an enjoyable if somewhat civilized quad from Saint Arnold. But then again, Saint Arnold is nothing if not ever civilized, even when they are brewing double digit-strength beers.

But don't listen to me. I'm the guy drinking a beer at 11 in the morning, what do I know? Go buy some Divine Reserve for yourself and tell us all about what you think here in the comments or find us on Twitter at @eatingourwords.



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Location Info

Saint Arnold Brewery

2000 Lyons Ave., Houston, TX

Category: General

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23 comments
Kirk Equality Childress
Kirk Equality Childress

had a glass at The Hay Merchant... thought it was good but perhaps not worth all the fuss.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

OK, I tried it last night.  Overall it was pleasant enough but it lacked character.  Not sure how to describe it, but just when I was expecting the flavor to pop it just sort of gave up. I really expected more from the yeast. It's kind of like comparing an American-style wheat beer to a German one. SA made an American Quad.

Anse
Anse

So...question about aging beer. It sounds like you've covered this topic before, so a link to that would be fine. How do you know if you've got a beer that's suitable for aging? And how long can you age a beer and expect some benefit from it? I once had a pint of bitter ale on a trip to England that had turned very bad, like sour milk. What is the difference between a beer like that, and others suitable for aging? Setting aside the obvious point of how the beer is stored, of course. 

Crazy J's Icehouse
Crazy J's Icehouse

Don't like tap beer? We have it in the Bottle! Crazy J's Ice House...like it on tap we have Icon Blue for you....

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

The fridge is too cold for aging beer, unless you have a beer or wine fridge that stores them at cellar temperature.

I would have guessed that a quad is something that St. Arnold's could do fairly well. I'd argue it's easier to brew a quad than a kolsch. SA has a house character that I would describe as a residual sweetness that works better in some beers than others. I would think it would fit in quite nicely in a quad.

IamError
IamError

"New to Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve bottling this year are large-format bombers -- which will arrive in stores today -- in addition to the traditional six-packs."

This is wrong.  They had bombers for Divine 12's release also.

hhhhhhh
hhhhhhh

this review is further evidence that you can't bring yourself to give Saint Arnold an outright bad review, simply b/c they're local and likely lining your pockets. yet you allude to it in your discussion of the hop – like most Saint Arnold brews, this one again sounds heavy-handed and all up top, with zero subtlety. it's sad when, as a craft brewery, root beer may be your best product.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Anse  http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2012/08/_the_concept_of_a.php

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2012/11/cellaring_102_picking_proper_b.php

In short, lagers, wheat ales and most IPAs age very poorly and should be consumed fresh.  Hops fade and oxidation is very quick in these beers.  Smaller artificially carbonated ales are also best consumed fresh as they aren't going to change except to oxidate.

In seeking a candidate for aging, beers above 8% -- preferably even higher -- are ideal.  Bottle conditioned beers -- beers with active yeast still in the bottle -- will continue to ferment and change in the bottle and are ideal.  

Big imperial stouts, barleywines, Belgian Quads and sours are all generally great choices.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Bruce_Are You are incorrect on that fridge note, it's something I  have discussed at length and tested at home and with other people at bottle shares going back for quite a few years.  Is fridge ideal? No.  But neither is the closet and both offer unique aging characteristics.  The fridge will, generally, see slower aging and less active ongoing fermentation but is perfectly fine for storage for the casual beer nerd.

Even Saint Arnold suggested keeping DR in the fridge at one point.

In fact you went as far as to agree with me on my first cellaring suggestions.

%s

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@hhhhhhh So, you are telling me how I should have reviewed a beer that you haven't tasted?  Oh 3rd rate troll, you are going to have to try harder than that.  

If you think all I've ever have to say about local beer is bright and sunny, you celearly aren't familiar with my twitter feed.  Get back to me when you have any clue what you are talking about.

If you need me, I'll be in my scrooge mcduck vault swimming in my beer review payoff money.

erikvidor
erikvidor

@hhhhhhh Yeah maaaaaaaaaaan. It's a conspiracy to get people drinking good beer maaaaan


Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@hhhhhhh Calling foul on review of a beer you haven't tasted? Come on, now.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editortopcommenter

@hhhhhhh Lining our pockets with what, exactly? I'm going to be hopping mad (GET IT) if I find out Saint Arnold owes us money for this coverage! Is that how news works? Damn. Or do we get free beer instead? LET ME AT THAT $6.99.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@J.A.Justice  

I think we're in agreement. That is, age at cellar temps if you can but the fridge is better than a closet.  But I have something more important to bitch about. That is, Bigfoot is out but it now comes in a four-pack yet it seems to cost the same as a six-pack.  That sucks.

hhhhhhh
hhhhhhh

@Kylejack @hhhhhhh I could care less about the beer. I'm more concerned with the review. Justice clearly wants to give this beer a bad review, but just can't bring himself to do it, b/c his nose is so far up Saint Arnold's azzzzzzzzzzz

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Bruce_Are @J.A.Justice I actually prefer the closet in my case, beause I can keep it at 70 degrees very easily. I get faster aging and I can barely fit my fresh beer in the fridge.  Theres no way all my cellared beer  would fit in my fridge.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@SirRon @J.A.Justice You haven't heard about it?  I am not shocked.  One held in such high esteem as yourself is unlikely to notice the lesser beings, the peons toiling below him in the youtube comments sections bandying about racial slurs.

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