Beer Review 0140: 21st Amendment Monk’s Blood

This is the first time I have tried a 21st Amendment beer, and it certainly sounds like it will be a treat. Monk’s Blood is a Belgian-style ale brewed with eight different malts, Belgian candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, dried local black figs, and aged on oak chips. And IT COMES FROM A CAN.

21st Amendment Brewery was started in 2000 by Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullvan. The brewpub is located in San Francisco, California’s historic South Park neighborhood, two blocks from where the Giants play baseball.

Freccia and O’Sullivan met in 1995; both had a passion for beer — O’Sullivan was a paralegal and Freccia was a writer and actor. Both traded their professions, took a class on brewing science at UC Davis, and hashed out a plan to create 21st Amendment.

The name — 21st Amendment — comes from what you might expect: the 21st Amendment of the United States repealed Prohibition, a sad time when glorious drinks that contained alcohol were illegal to produce in this country.

Monk’s Blood is a limited release beer part of a series 21st Amendment calls the “Insurrection Series,” which is a once-in-a-while four-pack special offering. So, not only is this beer limited by that, but also in the fact that after this latest release, Monk’s Blood will be going on hiatus. For how long is not known, but the brewery says they have too much other beer to brew, and it’s time for a break for Monk’s Blood.

As for the name of the beer, it is an homage to the monks of Belgian’s monasteries, who during times of fasting, subsist solely on beer. Liquid bread. Freccia says, “Beer, quite literally, is in their blood.”

Pouring was like sloshing mud in my glass — this beer was reddish-brown and murky, a very cloudy drink featuring some light sediment throughout. The head was large and lasting in terms of how it overall hung around, but it faded from large to small fairly fast. And as soon as the head began to diminish, the excellent lacing started. This is a gorgeous and imposing beer. Monk’s Blood, indeed.

The aromatics were dominated by a component you might not have expected — cinnamon. It’s candy-like and seems to add a bit of heat to the aroma, which also features plenty of dark fruit in the form of figs and prunes, with hints of sweet raisin. There’s a roasted caramel malt component, and a leathery/earthen yeast going on, too. This is a complex nose, even if the cinnamon does dominate.

On the palate, the tastebuds are awakened with a complex tune of vanilla and cinnamon, right from the first sip. The darker fruits come on in the middle of the taste, and are mostly fig and prune, exempting the raisin found in the aroma. This one finishes just a touch hot (8.3% ABV, or alcohol by volume) and the oak chips come alive, mingling with the ever-growing bitter finish like an expert player. For such a muddy looking beer, the mouthfeel here wasn’t anywhere near the thick range, and in fact, this one was more creamy and slick than anything.

Monk’s Blood is a quite tasty brew, and you will be scratching your head just as I was after about half the can, thinking “wow, this flavor came from a can?!” Yes, it did. And despite the cinnamon being a bit much and slightly overplayed, I really enjoyed this beer and was very impressed with my first offering from 21st Amendment. Find it, and sip away with pleasure.

And since it’s going on hiatus, maybe hoard a little of it, too.

21st Amendment Monk’s Blood, 91 points. Price: $2.49 for one twelve ounce can.

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