North Coast Brother Thelonious Abbey Ale 355ml

John ShearlockApr 27, '22
I stumbled across an interesting beer article the other day that got me thinking about ABV. It was a list of the highest rated beers in the US by each state. Now, I am sure there were many ways to pore over this data, preferred styles by region etc but the one thing that stood out, head and shoulders above anything else, was the apparent popularity of high strength beers. A measly four out of 50 of the beers were under 7% abv and many were over 10%.

Of course, this isn't a new phenomenon. High strength barrel-aged stouts often win contests or shows where beers are rated but, to a certain extent, this is powered by the induced palate fatigue of a whopping great lineup - the chewy, malty, whisky-fused imperial stout just tastes so good when you've been on a mega hop binge right?

But, many beer rating sites also show the same trend with imperial stouts, quadrupels and double IPAs leading the charge at the top, so, is it a simple case of the higher the ABV the better the beer? Well, possibly. It all comes back to the need for balance, the stalwart of any successful drink, be it whisky wine or beer - and how this plays out.

The high abv needs to balance against something and in what is akin to a flavour arms race, we find the addition of more hops, malt, unfermented sugars and adjuncts - the end result basically being MORE, and our palates like more (in fact, liking more is a basic human instinct, unless you’re a monk, and even some monks make mega ABV beers... so there you go).

I thought we should put this theory to the test and have a look at something big and high in ABV. With a penchant for trying things new, I’ve gone with the North Coast Brother Thelonious Abbey Ale at 9.4%.

The colour is a deep mahogany and, fittingly, the nose is like walking into an antique furniture store and sniffing the air as heavy set pieces of newly varnished cedar, pine and mahogany sit in the sun. It’s rich and woody with esters dancing here and there and oodles of malt. I thought the nose was big but the palate really is; sweet and rich with some lovely caramel and bitter hop interplay on the finish and which balances the alcohol effortlessly to render the whole experience perfectly painless.

So, a strong dark ale indeed. This would make a great finale beer, if you know what I mean, the sort to finish off a Friday in front of Netflix when a palate cleansing riposte to a few too many IPAs is in order. You wouldn’t want to session this beauty, but it certainly seems to prove that more is, well… more.