Sunday, September 04, 2011

ARTICLE: In Praise of the Rochefort 10

For a day that may have dramatically altered my life, I remember nearly none of it. Though that may be explained by the fact that the day contained beer. A lot of it. Maybe. I can't remember (ed: we established that earlier).

I don't remember why we were there, but we'd gone to the Belgian Beer Cafe in The Rocks with the promise of good beer. That was odd in it's own right because "good beer" around that time was mostly defined by how fresh the keg of Carlton Draught or Tooheys New was.

I think we started light and moved to the dark.

I don't think my preference for dark beers had been found yet.

We might had moved through the list and discovered sensational beers like the Gouden Carolous, the Chimay Blu or the Gouden Draak (which was extremely good because it had a golden dragon on the bottle). But there was a point when the Rochefort 10 was ordered. They didn't have the 6 or the 8, just the 10. It was one of the more expensive beers on the list for reasons which we didn't yet understand. Someone probably got it as a dare; to appear odd. Oh, you got that beer? Crazy. We're young men having the time of our lives. Let us high-five.

You can tell by the smell of it. Like a girl our age back then, wearing Impulse, mildly attractive; we new we wanted it. Even among great beers, the Rochefort 10 stands out when you smell it. It smells thick, caramelised, fruity, rich, complex. You get the hint of the 11.3% alcohol in there, but it's not a strong smell. It's like you're smelling a sultana that has been soaked in good brandy. It's a sultana that has been around and knows a few things.

The taste is borderline unbelievable, especially if you're use to Carlton Draughts and Tooheys News. It transcends beer. Think of the complex fruit and cake flavours of a great fruitcake, but turned to liquid and mellowed out. You're kind of there.

Even if you've never had a sip before, it brings back memories of family christmases; of great sandwiches, where the flavours and textures are in harmony; of chocolate cakes that are rich but not cloying so you feel like you could eat them forever; of your first crush because there is something raw and confusing about it; of your first love because it's familiar but it's your everything and you can't imagine a life without it.

I knew I liked it from the first bottle. But I didn't know how much I liked it. I was without context; I'd only had the most rudimentary of beers at that point. But as I explored beer in all it's shapes and forms, the Rochefort 10 has always been special.

In a word, those monks know their shit (ed: that's five words...).

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