Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve (2011)

Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve (2011) by Cody La Bière
Finalement, après 5 ans, j'ai goûté Unibroue 17, especiallement sur la fête Saint-Jean Baptiste! Unibroue's 17 rarity was on my Beer Bucket List since I became a beer geek 5+ years ago, and I remember reading about Unibroue 17 back in 2007 - I thought I'd never get to try the beer, especially with it being such a heavenly rarity of a brew.

The Liquormart got in a bunch of boxes of Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve (which was brewed in 2007) as a one time deal to beer geeks. My pal Pascal at Sleeman notified me that Unibroue 17 was going to eventually, one day, make its way to Manitoba, but we both thought it would be arriving soon - not 9 months later, but alas.. better late than never!

Unibroue 17 is a Belgian dark ale (on lees) with an ABV of 10% that is aged with French Oak. Like most Unibroue beers in Manitoba, it's in a corked 750mL bottle, which gives it a bit of prestige over the macros of this day and age. The labeling isn't the metallic painting of the original Unibroue 17 or Unibroue Terrible, instead it is a fancy ruffled paper label. It has an IBU of 35 and should be served between 12-14C. The great thing about this is that this can be aged for a LONG time. In fact, its potential aging can be up to 8 years! This sold for just under $10 here in Manitoba, so I had to save up a few bottles, seeing as the bottling date was the same date as my birthday.

Appearance: Like most darker Unibroue beers, it's a very thick brown ale. It's more of a muddy, slightly coppery brown. The head is minimal and is a nice creamy beige but slightly darker than that.

Aroma: The aroma is different from most Unibroue beers, in fact - this is what I believe what Raftman should smell like - incredibly oaky ale. So oaky that you almost don't know that it's a Unibroue beer at all! The richness of the oak is very delightful, and for being someone who's tasted many oaky/rye ales over the years, this is one of the better oaky aromas I've seen yet. There's a slight papery smell as well, as well as the typical Unibroue yeast, dark fruits and raisins, and a very slight muskiness. Slight amount of cinnamon and overall - a very cheerful beer on Unibroue's part.

Taste: Et maintenant pour la pièce de résistance - Like a Trois Pistoles, it is quite a complex beer. The first beer that it reminds me of, in fact, is Trois Pistoles as it has a rich sweetness coming from the dark fruits, an alcoholic zing and immediately caresses the palate. The more I taste it, I really notice the oakiness that this beer has been aging in. This reminds me of a whisky barrel aged ale such as Half Pints' Rigamarole Rye Ale. There's something about the oak in this beer that's just.. je ne sais quois.. damn good.. it's finer than some rye ales out there. There's a bit of a vanilla tone coming out in the taste as well. Ah, NOW I know what's making this different for me.. IT'S THE HOPS! The hops in this beer are much more noticeable than the average Unibroue beer, but incredibly subtle and really balances with the oak, nice light bitterness.

Overall Thoughts: At $10, this is a steal - Like every other Unibroue beer, I could drink this every day. It has a great oaky taste that's balanced by a light bitter hoppiness, nice and sweet dark fruity taste, slight amount of cinnamon and vanilla, great oaky aroma. This is a beer that I'd save several years to celebrate New Years Eve, a birthday or a job well done. At 10% ABV, it's not creeping up to me as much as the Rochefort 10 did earlier. I forgot to mention that every bottle is numbered on the top left of the front label, mine is No. 2011-10375!

I still remember saying back in 2004 that Sleeman (and then Sapporo) would ruin Unibroue like Labatt and Molson ruined other micros, but that never did happen - every single one of Unibroue beers is just as great as it always has, the consistency has remained top quality, which is a rarity in the mass produced beer market today.

From the label:
"Inspired by the centuries-old Belgian brewing tradition of Trappist monks, Unibroue 17 was first brewed in 2007 to celebrate our 17th anniversary.

Winner of three consecutive international platinum medals and awarded the title of Best Dark Ale in the World when it was well over three years old, we knew we had to brew more.

This French oak aged, bottle fermented dark ale has a remarkable and complex flavor profile. Its Grande Réserve appellation is a fitting endorsement of its exceptional aging qualities.

Brewed once a year in individually numbered brasseur bottles, Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve promises to be a true delight for the specialty beer enthusiast."

Bonne dégustation mes amis! Et c'est tout pour la fête St-Jean!

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