Redux Review 0020: 21st Amendment Monk’s Blood Belgian Dark Ale

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Here’s a beer that I’ve been looking forward to trying again for a very long time — back in early 2012, I sampled 21st Amendment’s (San Francisco, California) Monk’s Blood, a Belgian Dark Ale brewed with eight different malts, Belgian candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, local figs, and aged on oak chips. AND SERVED FROM A CAN!

I rated it 91 points, and I was so impressed with the beer that I ranked it #15 on my Top 25 Beers of 2012 list.

My initial review:

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Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 13 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 31 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 32 of 35 points

Final Score: 91 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.

What an appropriate time to dig into the basement and pull out this can, dated from 2012 — 21st Amendment recently announced that after a one year hiatus, Monk’s Blood will be returning to bottle shops as a limited release four-pack, and should remain available until the end of May, 2014. They encourage you to enjoy it fresh but to also age some. Let’s take a look and see what some time does to Monk’s Blood, the curious oak-aged beer in a can.

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Pouring spills forth a beautiful beer capped by a large, frothy head that is light tan in color and lasts. The beer is muddy and murky amber-brown out of light, but in light is revealed to be a deep mahogany with red highlights. There is some cloudiness and a light presence of particles and sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving sticky patches of foam in the initial sips.

The nose is very nice and quite complex; big notes of toasted and doughy bread, cinnamon, and dark fruit are the main flavors, followed by more delicate tones of woodsy oak, rum-soaked raisins, and sugary cinnamon. There’s lots of cinnamon here and it serves to enhance the booze in a good way, making this seem like cinnamon bread with a dipping of some thick boozy syrup. It’s awesome and I think age has worked magic here, not only making the aroma more complex, but melding the individual scents into a potent marriage.

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On the palate, the cinnamon is high in the mix, and the vanilla that was once here has taken a backseat to more of a cinnamon/oak flavor and a generous helping of dark fruits — raisin bread, doughy yeast, and toasted/slightly burnt sugar lead the way. The oak tends to come out through the middle, and the flavor pretty much stays the same until the finish, which brings on even more cinnamon and a moderate bitterness along with a delicate sugary edge. It’s interesting if a bit jarring, at first — this beer really comes into its own as it warms, just about to room temperature. The alcohol is completely hidden. Monk’s Blood is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

Overall, I thought the beer gained some in the aroma department but lost a little in the flavor — it tasted somewhat oxidized, or a little less full-flavored, than I remember. That might sound crazy given that it was in the perfect environment, a can — but that’s how my taste buds experienced it. That said, it’s still an outstanding beer, and I highly encourage you to seek out some of the fresh cans and tune in. I bet you’d never guess this came out of a can! Start out cold (45°F or less) and allow to gradually warm, sipping slowly — this brew tells a story.

21st Amendment Monk’s Blood Belgian Dark Ale, 90 points. Price: $2.49 US for one 12 oz. can.

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