There are a few “rock-stars” amongst the Belgian brewers and one of them surely is Pierre Celis, who unfortunately is no longer with us (1925-2011). Pierre Celis was born and lived in Hoegaarden, famous for its white beer. As Pierre saw the his beloved white beer disappear in 1955, he decided in 1966, to remake the white beer under his own name. His uninsured brewery burned down in 1980, after which he reopened his brewery in Austin, Texas, USA.
After he sold his brewery to the Michigan Brewing Company, Pierre returned to Belgium to add a new notch on his stick. He developed a dark Belgian Beer to age in caves. Grottenbier roughly translates into Cave-Beer. Pierre favored caves for their constant temperature in which the beer could mature. At first the caves of Folx-les-Caves were used, but soon the Enterprise was transferred to the marl-caves of Kanne.
Since 2001 the beer is made by the St. Bernardus brewery (in Watou, Belgium). The beer is then cave-aged 42 meters under the ground, at a constant temperature of 11ºC. The bottles are regularly rotated, the same as Champagne.
Nose: Fresh and acidic. Citrussy, yeast and hops. Caramel and some kind spice. But then dish water, with some added lavender. Quite strange if I may say so.
Taste: Vitamin C. Some lemon a pretty acidic. Little hints of burnt Sugar, that makes the beer quite bitter. Leafy. lacks balance. Not soapy on the palate, but it has soapy texture. Leaves quite a sour and stale impression. The warmer the beer gets, the more bitter it grows, and less entertaining it becomes.
It is something in between. It’s quite bitter and it has Lambic like acidity. I feel this beer doesn’t quite know what it is. It has the refreshing acidity, but also some burnt Sugar bitterness and hops. Don’t drink this too cold. 10ºC and up. It gives off more aromatics and shows more character. It ages well (I aged this for an additional 10 months), but this beer just isn’t for me. Still I do recognize this is a beer of quality.